Three things that feel like productivity 'hacks'...but aren't

Taking action is rarely, if ever, a thing that can be hacked.

Save for 'to kill two birds with one stone'—which is really more of a statement about the fact that occasionally, we're lucky enough to have one action accomplish multiple objectives—our best and most reliable action-taking isn't particularly sexy or clever.

In fact, it's usually pretty banal.

It's a matter of doing the thing now as opposed to later (or never).

It's heroic only in the sense that choosing to do anything (e.g. bathing) is heroic.

Someone who takes action consistently is no more special than someone who struggles to take action consistently; the difference between them is that the action-taker isn't stopped by her feelings on the matter of the undone thing.

However, there are folks who buy into the belief that the action-taker knows something that the rest of humanity doesn't; these folks further complicate things by attempting to 'hack' productivity...only, they do so in some pretty self-defeating ways.

Here are the top three faulty 'shortcuts' that seem to show up regularly:

1. Multitasking.

Successful multitasking isn't possible, so I beg you to please stop trying for it.

So many of us are absolutely convinced that we're the exception to the rule here. "But I'm actually really good at multitasking!" No, you're not. You believe you are, but what's actually happening here is, you're not giving anything your full presence.

While you might be doing multiple things at once, maybe even finishing them and checking them off your list, 1. it's obvious to anyone with whom you're interfacing that she doesn't have your complete attention, 2. you're very likely doing one or more of these things sloppily, in a way that would probably embarrass you if you were aware of it, and 3. your concept of time is getting more and more screwed by the minute.

Full presence is a time bender; you know this from your own life: how time seems to slow and actually, oddly, expands when you're all in (whereas when you scramble around and rush and give only half of yourself to a thing, the clock's hands seem to mock you by moving twice as fast).

Slow down to speed up.

2. Operating on a wide-open timeframe.

Ever wondered why an easy-breezy thing like writing a three-line bio for an article takes all damn day?

Psst: It's because you gave it all damn day.

Tasks take as much time as you have available for them. I'm telling you, this is so much a thing that there's even a name for it: Parkinson's Law (anyone who's been with me from the beginning will remember my writing about it here and here).

When you swing to the opposite of multitasking by giving yourself unlimited time to accomplish something, you're actually slowing yourself down to the point of inefficiency. Even if it seems like a good idea not to schedule anything for the day you write your weekly blog post ("I think most clearly when I don't have any commitments on the calendar!"), unless you truly want to kill an entire afternoon on that one task, consider scheduling it for a decisive pocket of time.

In other words, tell the task how long you have for it—don't allow it to decide for you.

3. Forgoing your humanness.

Skipping dinner, and, instead, wolfing down tortilla chips while editing client photos? Staying up into the wee hours after everyone in the house has gone to bed to reply to the eleventy-bajillion emails in your inbox? Not leaving the house for two or more days to create that email series for your new online offering?

Nuh uh, not good. ("But I only do it once a month, before deadlines! No big deal!") We've all been there—remember pulling all-nighters in high school or college?—so we all know this isn't a sustainable method for taking action consistently.

Sure, in the moment, this absolutely presents itself as The Remedy to The Not-Enough-Hours-in-the-Day Phenomenon. I'll give you that.

But—and this is a big 'but'—it feeds into an insidious belief system that's very dangerous to foster: that your basic human needs for adequate nutrition, sleep, and exercise are negotiable. (And once your requirements for living well become negotiable, you can pretty much kiss efficient action-taking goodbye.)

Draw a line in the sand and decide, once and for all, that your basic needs aren't called 'basic wants' for a reason. Honor your humanness instead of looking for loopholes and ways around it.

Are there any proposed 'hacks' or 'shortcuts' out there that trigger your goggles of skepticism? Hit 'reply' to share them with me, and let's see if we can bust through them together.

Love,
Helen