What to do when “Working Smarter” Doesn’t Work

NBC shows the stark change in technology use in the last seven years.

Are you a productivity junkie? I am, or at least I was. Since college I’ve been obsessed by finding the best life hacks, web apps and productivity tools to automate my life, be effective and efficient and simply get more done in less time. I love learning about this stuff, but I’ve lost interest lately. Let me tell you why.

I’m experiencing the law of diminishing returns. When you start learning how to be more productive, you can shave hours off of your work day. After years and years of research, though, the improvements keep getting smaller and smaller. Because I know that the likelihood of discovering a technique that will have a huge impact on my productivity has been dropping steadily, the hope and excitement have started to wane.

The truth is, “working smarter” just doesn’t work anymore. In the early 2000s, most of us weren’t on Facebook or Twitter, Pinterest didn’t exist, we didn’t know what SEO was and you probably got ten times less email than you do now. We were really busy then, but now things are getting insane. For me, at least, working smarter isn’t enough anymore.

What now?

It may not seem like it, but this is actually a good thing. The fact that things aren’t working forces us to look for something new. I have a formula to stay happy, healthy and successful for the post-productivity era: bliss + strategy.

Bliss. To me, this is a reminder to bring myself fully into the present. I let go of regret (from the past) and anxiety or worry (from the future). Whatever I’m doing, whether it’s having sex, getting yelled at or waiting in line at Home Depot, I (try to) enjoy the hell out of that moment or at least stay present to it. Bliss is a state of perpetual effortlessness and deep joy that comes from a profound sense of gratitude and focusing as much of my energy as possible on the precise moment I am in. (It’s also a killer way to beat procrastination and stay focused.)

Strategy. This has a couple of components for me: setting boundaries and having a powerful plan. I schedule self-care and make it a habit. I also power off the iPhone and go for a walk with the wife and pugs. I let clients know that I will respond in a timely fashion, but never at the cost of my own well-being. These are examples of setting boundaries and keeping them. Having a powerful plan means that it is based on my life/business mission, it’s aligned with my values and it is dead-simple. The simplest plans are the best because they keep us from getting distracted and then discouraged. And aligning it with our mission and values first means we will never wake up and ask, “why the heck did I just spend the last ten years doing that?”

Does “Working Smarter” still work for you? Could you use a little Bliss + Strategy instead?

 

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