May 182005

43Folders has a very good article out titled Because buying new running shoes is more fun than actually running . It discusses what I am (and obviously many others are) guilty of doing. I have always called it “Aggressively Getting Ready” since instead of doing what needs to be done you plan and you play with new toys that are supposed to make you more productive. As he points out, a synonym for this is Productivity pr0n.

The article discusses how fortunate we are to have so many great tools available to help us get things done. Here are a couple of paragraphs from the article.

Products like 37 SignalsBackpack and TaDaList are beautifully constructed, entirely usable, and have an amazingly high sense of fit and finish. It doesn’t go without saying that these products are also very fun to use. At the same time, a clever little app like GTDTiddlyWiki comes along that’s lightweight, portable, and is also very fun to use. And, although I haven’t played with Trumba or Sproutliner much yet, I understand they’re both turning a lot of heads and are—you guessed it—very fun to use.

My concern is that there’s a big difference between buying new running shoes and actually hitting the road every morning. Big difference. One is really fun and relaxing while the other requires a lot of hard work, diligence, and sacrifice.

Understand: this is coming from the world’s biggest fan of productivity pr0n, and, as ever, I make no apology for my love of anything that pretends to make me more effective (or involves buying a new notebook, or course). But I think it’s critical to understand the difference between using something because it’s fun and pretty versus understanding what behaviors and habits it can help you to improve. These above-mentioned products all have huge amounts of potential for each of us, but without personal insight into what they’re meant to improve, they’re just distracting toys.

No tool can save you from your own crap behavior, so as you approach these great new apps—and I hope you’ll at least check them out if you haven’t—please try to do it with a bit of perspective about how or why the old tools were not working for you. Consider the patterns that you can observe about how you do your best work and which tasks have benefited from a certain tool or approach in the past.

Guilty. I wish I could find the little cartoon I used to have on my desk. It had a little bird with a propeller hat spinning, wings flapping, and legs dancing. But he was not moving. “Aggressively Getting Ready”

  One Response to “Productivity pr0n”

  1. Bingo. This makes me think of Walker Percy’s The Moviegoer. As one might expect, the protagonist is an avid moviegoer, but the point is not that he likes movies. Rather, it’s that he lives life from the outside of it. This is punched home very late in the book where he rides on a bus with someone else whom he describes as “a moviegoer, although of course he did not go to movies.”

    I think a great many of us are like that, on a great deal of levels. We are better at being consumers of the goods that will help us, rather than actually employing them. Because we’re really living life “from the outside.”

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