There are a lot of blogs on productivity. So why start another one?
This comes down to the question of the angle this blog will take. There are a lot of great productivity blogs out there. Lifehacker hits productivity from the technological angle, Merlin Mann at 43 Folders writes about how to find the time and attention to do your best creative work, and Timothy Ferris writes about experiments in lifestyle design. So what’s my angle?
The most basic answer is that I am looking at productivity through the lens of decision-making. Being productive and effective is about making good decisions. Your calendar and projects list, if you have them, are ultimately decision-making tools.
The angle of this blog is also unique in the way it will try to tie together some divergent themes that nonetheless need to go together. Here are the things I want to tie together in this blog:
- Personal productivity and organizational productivity.
- The runway and the 50,000 foot level.
- Sound thinking and helpful action.
- The past and the future.
Tying Together Personal Productivity and Organizational Productivity
This is what I talked about in part 1 of this article and in my post “Broadening the Concept of Productivity.” In sum, I think productivity is not just about making ourselves more effective, but about knowing what will make our organizations and communities and society more effective. So I’m going to talk about not only how we can be more productive as individuals, but also how our organizations and communities can be more effective as well.
Tying Together the Runway and the 50,000 Foot Level
Here’s my productivity journey in a nutshell: David Allen’s Getting Things Done opens up a whole new world. Yet there are a few “snags” that I think the system has (which can be overcome). One of the snags is that GTD is great at the runway and 10,000 foot level (projects), but is less developed at the 20,000 foot and above level (roles, goals, and mission).
Stephen Covey’s books The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and First Things First, on the other hand, are superb at the 20,000 foot and above level. Yet they are weak in laying out a workable system for translating those plans into action at the project and next action levels.
What is needed is a productivity approach that synthesizes the best of Allen and Covey. I think I’ve done this for my own productivity system that I’ve built for managing my own life, and will be blogging a lot on how these two perspectives fit together. The result is a system of thinking that successfully ties the big picture (20,000 foot and above) to the every day (the runway of next actions and 10,000 foot level of projects).
Tying Together Sound Thinking and Helpful Action
In one sense it’s a bit odd that I’ve named this blog What’s Best Next, because that sounds almost like all I care about is what we do, when in reality I am a firmly believer of the primacy of thought. Not as a replacement for action, but as the director and leader of what we actually do. I think we make the best decisions on what to do when we understand the guiding principles of an area.
This is in now way, in no way, to say that thought alone is sufficient. It is to say that the most effective actions stem ultimately from the way we think, and if you approach anything piecemeal, you are unlikely to get good results. I love this quote from Roger Martin’s book The Opposable Mind: “Instead of attempting to learn from observing the actions of leaders, I prefer to swim upstream to the antecedent of doing: thinking. My critical question is not what various leaders did, but how their cognitive processes produced their actions” (The Opposable Mind, p. 19). Great thinking is the seedbed of great actions. This blog is about what’s best next, not just what’s next.
Tying Together the Past and the Future
And of course this blog is not only about what’s best next, but also what’s best next. We are looking ahead—both far off to what are the most productive actions for the long-term, as well as how to make the best decision about what to literally do next.
I love how Jim Collins relates that when he would ask Peter Drucker what the favorite book he wrote was, Drucker would always say “the next one.” That’s how I think: the best things are always to come. And knowing what’s best next requires knowing what came before. We have a ton to learn from the past. I want to think of what’s best, next, in the context of the whole.