From Cal Newport
The Age of Productivity began its decline around the time Mann, its Prometheus, turned his back on it. We are now in a new age, one in which the big picture trumps the small.
What matters in this new age is your work philosophy — not your systems.
Over the past few months and years, bloggers like Leo Babauta and Merlin Mann have moved away from the tips and tricks aspects of productivity, causing some to question the importance of focusing on how we get things done. I can’t help but feel that it is more a matter of those writers evolving rather than it is a question of the inherent value of examining how we can do a better job of getting things done1.
“Why” is damn important. And while many approach things backwards, starting out with what they can do and then figuring out what they want, you inevitably need to focus in on your skills. There is little doubt that “why” matters most, but “how” is always the thing that gets you where you want to go.
Just as you can’t will yourself to know what you want in life, the skills you will need to get there are equally unlikely to appear on their own (unless you are one of those naturally gifted people, and if you are, screw you). You can’t just achieve your vision through clarity and will alone. Drive and focus go a long way, but anything even mildly ambitious is going to take a trusted system and a few new skills.
I don’t think guys like Merlin and Leo moving on is an indication of some kind of post-productivity world. It’s just the result of our better thinkers, those who are farther along on the path, helping us to aspire to bigger things (while reminding us not to obsess on the little ones). There will be and there should be a new wave of writers to take their place, those that figure out how to best use the tools at hand to achieve the ambitious.
Sure, some have gotten what they need and their system might even be complete. But I’m still working this all out and while figuring out the bigger picture of what I want to do is key, I’m not going to get much done at all if I don’t pick up a few new tricks (or more accurately, if I don’t get my crap together).
There is no doubt that it is possible (if not probable) to go overboard. There is no doubt that productivity porn exists. And there is no doubt that it is easier to work on how you do things rather than actually doing them. But oftentimes, going through those motions gives you the courage and the structure to aim higher.
It’s easy to get skeptical. It’s easy to look at a space where toothpaste preservation is somehow considered a lifehack and write it off entirely, but I still believe the “how” has as much value as the “why” (as long as it doesn’t keep us from it). Especially when you put yourself in the shoes of someone who is just getting started.
There is a lot of fluff and noise out there, but there are also several tools, tactics and people that can completely change your game.
Then again I could be crap rationalizing… ↩