Many people, in an effort to be more productive and effective, study different systems to do so. They purchase book after book on the latest productivity concepts. This includes “Getting Things Done”, the most recent productivity phenomenon, as well as other structured programs, such as “Control Your Workday Control With Microsoft Outlook” and less structured programs like “The Personal Efficiency Program”. Millions of dollars are spent by people in the pursuit of being more effective. Hours are invested in studying and implementing these systems. However, a simple concept, taught by the Center for Creative Leadership, explains why many fail, despite so much money and time being invested.
The Center for Creative Leadership says that, although we all aspire to be effective and productive and may study to be better, we are also hard-wired with a preferred operating style. This hard-wired operating style may not be constructive in our productivity. In fact, it may actually be completely disruptive to our it. This hard-wired operating system does not run all the time. Only at key moments does this secondary system kick in and takes over, knocking our new learned systems offline. Think of it this way: We try to program ourselves to be more productive by installing new productivity programs into our psychic RAM. We want to use these new programs, much like starting up a new program on our computer. Yet, sitting on our hard drive, is another program that also relates to productivity. This pre-installed program doesn’t boot up. It just sits there. It may be a helpful program or it may not. As time goes on, the program in RAM runs normally. Then, without notice, this program on our hard drive boots up and runs without our desire for it to do so. This program can completely sabotage our productivity efforts and leaves us in ruins.
The Center for Creative Leadership says the trigger that starts the hard-wired program is simply stress. We can study all the productivity books, tapes, and programs we’d like. However, when the rubber meets the road, they are only as good as our perceived level of control. The minute we begin to feel overwhelmed, the conscious effort to follow the new learned system is short-circuited and the hard-wired program takes over. This results in us not following the new system and our productivity falls apart. For example, someone who is using the GTD model and is becoming very consistent in writing down their next actions will suddenly begin keeping more information in their heads, even though they know it’s wrong, causing items to fall between the cracks. The CCL says they just can’t help themselves.
So, to keep the hard-wired program program under control, we need to deal with the stress of being overwhelmed. Learn stress management strategies and implement them. Also, put procedures in place to shunt conditions that contribute to overwhelm away from you. These strategies include delegation, allowing low priority items to die, rescheduling medium priority items that can wait, and renegotiating deadlines. The result is that your learned systems will remain your primary systems and you remain productive.