The app won’t get s#@$ done for you!

You may think it would, but we know… it won’t. Regardless of what’s written on the features and benefits page of this app (whatever you’re using right now) or that friend who swears by the coolest app in the town. And here’s what’s ridiculous — people have made a fortune writing about how to use such apps!

That’s like telling a super-busy person how to drive that new car that will get him to the destination he’s been wanting to reach. But is the end goal really about the car? It’s not. It’s about the person and his willingness to make the effort and drive over to his destination. And for that purpose, any damn car would do.

Likewise, in a culture that’s obsessed with shortcuts, productivity and video streaming (read: YouTube, Netflix, Hulu, Prime or your favorite content creator) the apps are not going to buy us more time! If that’s the expectation we’re missing the point. And mind you, it’s not the app’s fault. It’s yours. The app doesn’t do the heavy lifting for you. That’s your job.

My biggest apprehension is that instead of mastering these tools we’re becoming slaves to them.

I get weird looks when people see me jotting down my to-dos in a notebook. It’s so analog! But guess, what… it’s up to me when to toss that notebook out or scratch out the stuff that I don’t feel like doing that day. Liberating? Hell, yeah! Efficient? To some extent. I still using a dedicated app is a much quicker way to get things done. But it’s also the fastest route to overwhelm and discouragement. At least that’s how it’s been for me. (Think of the reminders, popups and the red-alerts that you get if you missed a deadline or one of your to-dos. The app sure does its job well… but doesn’t give a damn if you’re on the verge of burning out!)

The number one goal of productivity is this — total control. You can’t be productive without any control. You can’t feel in control unless you get stuff done. And that’s precisely the zone where most people are stuck at… unable to get things done.

How do you get over this hurdle?

It’s pretty simple. Here’s how — block your fu#$%%^ time! And do the work! That’s it! And while I don’t expect you to power through your entire to-do list during this time, it makes sense to dedicate your energy and focus on the most important task of the day. For example, I do two 90 minute blocks for the most important things followed by several 45 minute blocks for the other important things during work days. Weekends are not as structured. Why? I have a life.

If you’re smart, you’ll see a pattern here. I have to sit my butt down and actually do stuff in those blocked hours so that I could strike off items from my to-do list. That’s the only way I know that will help you achieve your goals. Anything less is just wishful thinking. We might as well accept that.

So, a simple routine would look like this:

  1. Make a list of 5-6 items you want to achieve that day (ensure that you’re not including the obvious in your list, like workout/training, reading, checking out a website or webpage or watching the first episode of the new season of your favorite show on Netflix).
  2. Identify the top 2 items that are the most important to you that day. So much so that if you were to just these two things, your day would be good (and you can sleep in peace… whatever metric works for you… [wait a second, is that even a metric?]).
  3. Block out time for the top 2 items. First in, first out. Always remember that. Focus on #1, finish it off before tackling #2. I know it’s obvious but you never know this post could be interpreted wrongly by some genius.
  4. Block out time for the other items on your list.
  5. During the “focused time” your job is simple — do the work. That’s it! No emails, no chats, no internet, no just-a-minute meetings! You work.

And that is it! Simple, isn’t it? I know. And I also know that if you’ve read this far, you’re a little disappointed with your app. I can understand how that feels. I’ve been through that myself. But it’s not the app’s fault. It’s yours. For some silly reason, you thought technology is the answer to your laziness. Apparently, it’s not.

Gary Vaynerchuk said it the best, “technology doesn’t change us, it exposes us.

Need more inspiration. Check out yesterday’s post on the inspiring and massive to-do lists of Leonardo Da Vinci and Thomas Edison. You’ll be blown away, I promise!