From Michael Schrage:
Instead of better tools for better organizing, people want their organization done for them. Organizing is wasteful; getting its benefits is productivity. […]
The essential takeaway is that the new economics of personal productivity mean that the better organized we try to become, the more wasteful and inefficient we become. We’ll likely get more done better if we give less time and thought to organization and greater reflection and care to desired outcomes. Our job today and tomorrow isn’t to organize ourselves better; it’s to get the right technologies that respond to our personal productivity needs. It’s not that we’re becoming too dependent on our technologies to organize us; it’s that we haven’t become dependent enough.
This post from the Harvard Business Review is one of worst conclusions drawn from one of the best ideas that I’ve read in a long time. There is little doubt that Schrage’s thoughts on leveraging technology are spot on, but the “takeaway” that “the better organized we try to become, the more wasteful and inefficient we become” is only true if you’re doing productivity rather than being productive1.
Persistent organizing will lead you astray; constantly seeking new ways to avoid procrastination becomes a sort of procrastination itself2. But Schrage either overlooks or ignores the benefits of time spent choosing the right tools upfront (or as I call it, organizing) and occasionally (OCCASIONALLY) taking a step back to see how we can improve our system.
Schrage suggests above that, “Our job today and tomorrow isn’t to organize ourselves better; it’s to get the right technologies that respond to our personal productivity needs.” But as I said to Ben Brooks in response to this quote3, “Isn’t finding the right technologies that respond to our personal productivity needs the definition of organizing ourselves better?”
The very reason we haven’t become “dependent enough” on the right technologies is that most people don’t ever really bother to consider what they use. They take what they are given and go, no matter how misaligned the tools might be with their tasks or even their lifestyle. They forgo organizing themselves with the naive hope that any tool will do the trick.
The takeaway should have been, “Define your desired outcomes, find the technologies that empower you to achieve them faster and more efficiently. Quit fiddling and go about actually doing your work”4. I spent years counting on technology and it got me nowhere. It wasn’t until I took an essential step back and got organized that I was able to discover and leverage the right technology.