Productivity Tips Are Killing My Productivity & Blogging Tips Are Killing My Blog

Posted by on Aug 13, 2009 in Featured, New Media, Productivity | 20 Comments

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Don’t get me wrong. I LOVE Twitter. I enjoy Facebook. And my RSS Reader is full of blogs that I read every day.

But they’re taking over my life. I’m using them as a crutch to avoid DOING anything productive.

Checking statuses, tweets, and blog posts have turned into a form of procrastination where I trick myself into thinking that I’m learning new things or keeping up on current events, when in fact, most of the stuff I’m clicking on and reading  are ‘how to’ posts and strategy articles about things that I already know about and should be actively be DOING and not passively READING about.

I’m not trying to trash ANYONE’s posts, but with the amount of time I spend working on and thinking about digital media in my job, I don’t think I really need to read any more thoughts about ‘How To Write Killer Headlines,’ ’30 Tips For Creating Great Content,’ ‘5 Steps To Better Photos,‘ or ‘Insider Facebook Tips.’ And yet I STILL keep clicking on and reading these damn things. WHY? For the love of all that is good and holy… WHY?

Because it’s easier to read about it than to do it. ‘Doing it’ takes time.  And thought.  And commitment.  And originality – not repeating the same thing everyone else is putting out there.   It requires creating REAL value and that’s actually pretty hard!

I know that I should be writing more on this blog and putting more raw thinking time into new strategies for CBC’s digital music strategies and loads of other cool projects that would CREATE something instead reconfirming ideas and techniques that I’m already familiar with.

But taking action is really often really, really difficult. I had coffee today with someone who wanted to know how tough it was to start a WordPress blog – my answer was that making the blog and setting is up is a piece of cake. Keeping it updated and having quality, thoughtful, valuable content on it takes a LOT of time and a strong commitment to regular work. That’s why most people who start blogs have 5 or 6 rapid posts in the first week or two and then there’s nothing for six months.

And my gut is that I’m not the only one out there who’s wasting time reading about tips and tricks instead of implementing them. Why else does it seem like the only bloggers making money are the ones writing about ‘How To Make Money With Your Blog?’

I think there’s a legion of passive consumers who, like me, devour how-tos, tips & tricks, lifehacks, etc, and we all THINK we’re learning cool stuff about productivity or social media. But I’d be willing to make a healthy bet that most of us are wasting more time reading about productivity tips than the amount of time that implementing the productivity tips would actually save (how’s that for Irony 2.0?).

Maybe it’s social media A.D.D., but whenever I have a minute or two of downtime, instead of focusing and getting onto something new, I pop open a browser or my phone and check twitter to see if there’s anything new going on. Ten minutes later, I’ve gone down a wormhole into about 30 different tweets and links.  And then I retweet the stuff that I think is cool.

Every time someone asks me about how to get into social media or twitter or what-have-you, I instantly say, “The only way to learn what it’s all about and to truly UNDERSTAND it is to DO IT. You have to actively participate to ‘get it’.” I also tell them that you have to commit and make participation a regular, ongoing habit and part of your daily life.

Well this is my official public confession that I’m spending too much time consuming and not enough time playing, doing, experimenting, and getting my hands dirty. I’ve been lazy. I’m on the verge of becoming social media’s equivalent of the armchair quarterback – someone who observes passionately but doesn’t play in the game.

You want to know how insane it is? I’m a big GTD fan – Getting Things Done is a huge productivity movement based on a book by David Allen – and I use the excuse of READING about GTD tips and tricks all over the place to PREVENT me from actually doing GTD!!!

I come to the WordPress CMS to write a blog post and end up spending 20 minutes updating all my plugins and checking stats, referrals, organic search, and god knows what else I can do TO AVOID ACTUALLY WRITING!

Well I say, “NO MORE HYPOCRISY!” (Sorry all the ALL CAPS screaming in this post – who am I, Burton Cummings?)

Tim Ferriss’ book, The 4-Hour Work Week , has some smart suggestions about eliminating multi-tasking, not checking or answering email more than a couple times a day, and relentlessly focusing on your key tasks that will make a difference. Remove the distractions and make stuff happen.

I’ve got to do a better job at that. Discpiline, discipline, discipline!  I’m going to try to schedule blocks of time for DOING and shut out all distractions, including social media, while I’m doing my doing stuff.

And I’m off to a good start.  I used Write Room to block out all distractions in order to write this post!

I’ll let you know how it goes, but first… got to go check what’s happening on Twitter.

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How about you? Are you caught up in reading about productivity more than doing it?

Reading about Twitter more than posting and having real interactions on it?

Reading blogs about making money online instead of actually trying to do it?

If so, what are you going to do to change it?

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20 Comments

  1. hummingbird604
    August 13, 2009

    Do you really buy into Ferriss' stuff? 🙂

    Reply
  2. nikkireimer
    August 13, 2009

    Thanks for posting this Steve. I thought I was the only person fooling myself into thinking I was being productive whilst being whisked down the wormhole / rabbithole a la Alice in Twitterland.

    Yes, I am guilty of all of the above, however I've recently stumbled onto two tips that I intend to use to get myself 'back on track.'

    1) I just returned from a 2 week vacation during which I had rare access to the internets, and I've noticed that I am now very focused about where I go and what I do online. i.e., I am being productive and not allowing myself to follow links aimlessly, or to do that for very long. So perhaps self-imposed blackout times are key?

    2) A commenter to a cbc.ca story about online procrastination mentioned the Pomodoro technique http://www.pomodorotechnique.com/ which involves 25 minute periods of focus on one task only. Great online timer here http://mytomatoes.com/ Good tools! Of course, I only stumbled onto them through random reading and clicking…

    Nikki

    Reply
  3. stevepratt
    August 13, 2009

    I do like some of the concepts – avoiding email overkill and focusing on the things that deliver the biggest results – but a lot of it is over-the-top for me. The one part of the book that really turned me off was the 'cheating' on rapid weight loss in order to win a wrestling competition. Maybe technically not cheating, but morally weak for sure!

    Reply
  4. stevepratt
    August 13, 2009

    I totally agree about the focused 'chunks' of time on a certain task with no interruptions and pure focus – bang on. I've had to go so far as to go into my Outlook preferences to turn off the 'dings' and auto-preview bubbles when new emails come in – even when I'm trying to be in a 'focus zone', those little things pull me out and tempt me horribly to check the NEW and EXCITING emails that arrived in my inbox! Same with Tweetdeck – no more noises announcing new Tweets… 🙂
    I'll give pomodorotechnique.com a try – thanks!
    Steve

    Reply
  5. Scott Muc
    August 13, 2009

    I find balancing the learning vs practicing a tough thing to do. The indicator for me that I'm reading too much is when I don't question what I'm reading. The more practice and actions under your belt the better at being analytical of the content you're soaking in.

    The indicator of not having learned enough is when I attempt to practice something and I get the feeling of being on a treadmill. Work is exerted but no forward motion is taking place. That signals to me that I don't know enough of what I'm doing.

    Just did a major GTD Collection on all my stuff home. Sure felt great to deal with that.

    Oh and take a look at the applications Darkroom the Windows equivalent of Writeroom (http://they.misled.us/dark-room)

    Reply
  6. Scott Muc
    August 13, 2009

    I too have heard great things about the Pomodoro technique. Uncle Bob Martin (where I got my green bracelet) swears by it.

    I've also made sure I have no applications interrupt me. I never have twitter make a sound, nor Outlook. I'm actually getting to the point where I'm going to turn off messenger now and if people really need me, they can simply get up and see me at my desk. If you make it slightly harder for people to communicate with you, it makes them think twice before interrupting your flow.

    Reply
  7. stevepratt
    August 13, 2009

    I installed Dark Room on my work computer yesterday 🙂 (Spent 1/2 hour searching for productive writing tools and installed it, but haven't yet spent 1/2 hour writing anything on it. I'm an idiot… 🙂 )

    Reply
  8. stevepratt
    August 13, 2009

    We should start a support group and share ideas! These are all great suggestions. (Maybe we should write blog posts and tweet about them as miracle productivity tips! 🙂 )

    Reply
  9. Scott Muc
    August 13, 2009

    I just noticed that soproductiveithurts.com is not taken 😉

    Reply
  10. todmaffin
    August 14, 2009

    Here here!

    Reply
  11. tb3
    August 14, 2009

    I am finding Twitter feels less like information and more like a task these days. And it reminds me of a theory of a friend was telling me about — for the life of me I can't remember the name of it, or the precise details. But, it has to do with the number of people you can follow before you've reached critical mass and can't absorb anything. It was something like 135… If you remember that would be a great help. But don't tweet it cause lord knows I'll miss it 😉

    Reply
  12. poppedculture
    August 22, 2009

    The irony being that I took the time to read this instead of updating my own blog. But your point is well taken and I am as guilty as you are in this regard. Being “in the know” is a vicious circle and my RSS feed/Twitter/Facebook has just replaced channel surfing in my life.
    Help me, Steve, help me!

    Reply
  13. stevepratt
    August 22, 2009

    There is strength in numbers. We need a 'productivity tip' support group!

    Reply
  14. Nick Black
    October 18, 2009

    Great post Steve, can definitely relate to the points you made. In-fact, I posted some similar thoughts a little while ago: http://nickblackonblack.blogspot.com/2009/06/so

    Reply
  15. ericporcher
    October 30, 2009

    Excellent. So true for me too. I get SO much from twitter, but it's taking too much time. I'm trying to reduce the people I read, yet keep adding more.

    Reply
  16. ericporcher
    October 30, 2009

    Excellent. So true for me too. I get SO much from twitter, but it's taking too much time. I'm trying to reduce the people I read, yet keep adding more.

    Reply
  17. dmisener
    August 10, 2010

    cf. http://www.merlinmann.com/better

    Reply
  18. Doug
    August 19, 2010

    I've been blogging for more than 7 years now. I'm pretty regular at it, but there are gaps of 3 or 4 days here or a week there. I try to write interesting and sometimes inspiring stuff. But often the only thing I can write about is something that interests only me — and who wants to read that?

    You know what I mean: “I got up. I bought a coffee and some Timbits. I wrote for a while. I had a beer. I went to bed.”

    BORING!

    However, as I wind up yet another gig with the CBC and prepare to work on several internet-based projects from the new home office of San Cristobal de las Casas, Mexico, I'm hoping for a treasure trove of fresh new content:

    “I got up. I bought a coffee and some tortillas. I wrote for a while. I had a beer. I went to bed…”

    Cheers!

    Doug
    http://roadspill.org

    Reply
  19. Grant
    September 22, 2010

    I’ve got to agree. I’m just now becoming a full-time social media ’employee’ of sorts, and the difficult part is bridging the gap between learning new things and DOING. It’s a pretty tall hurdle, but I think your post is helping me towards the right direction.

    Reply
  20. Sara
    June 19, 2012

    yep thanks I am so glad that I am not alone I keep thinking NIKE – just DO IT for goodness sake girl!

    Reply

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