“I feel like I’m wasting time if I repeat myself” (Heath Ledger).
Everyone knows the stress of doing something for so long only to find out you had wasted a lot of your time.
Whether it be spending too much time planning and little time executing or even the other way around, your results can sometimes be drastically uneven compared to amount of work put in.
We struggle to find what it is we need to focus on that will help us to eliminate what we don’t need. Being productive, as opposed to being busy, is how we all want to be. So how do we achieve that?
Analyze What Brings Improvement
If you do something repeatedly, you’ll start to see different results.
But, sometimes you’ll work really hard on something and it will end up far out of reach from what you wanted it to be.
Some work that turns out well feels like a stroke of luck, and quite often it can be, but it has more to do with the state of mind you were in at the time.
Noticing the parts of your work that give you new insight and actually challenge your way of thinking, are the parts that open your mind up to see the real picture. Whereas doing something over and over might help you improve in the small details, you are losing the part that makes your something great.
Let’s put it this way with my own example.
I like to write and post on my blog and Medium. Sometimes my posts get some relatively good attention, considering the size of my audience, and sometimes they don’t get any attention.
I can look at it in the way of this part was written bad or this didn’t stick together well and so people didn’t like it. When in actuality, it could be so much more misplaced than that such as a bad title, bad picture, or just bad topic to write about.
Obviously I’m not only on here to talk and bring myself attention and followers, however, when I am trying to make a post that gains attention, I am starting to learn what it is that is drawing people in.
Sure as I write over and over I’m improving my style and flow, which potentially does have some part to play in why I write. Yet if I’m trying to learn SEO or attention grabbing articles, if I write more and more, it won’t make my posts any more attractive or noteworthy to an audience.
The solution isn’t always to do more, or to get more practice in, or to accept that the last thing you had done generated too many flaws.
As I’m starting to understand it, I have to spend time being productive and figuring out what it is that is making my posts receive feedback. Making myself more busy and doing it over and over again because the first couple times didn’t work is just increasing my workload and I am less likely going to understand why a post didn’t do so well.
Follow The 80/20 Rule
If you aren’t familiar with Timothy Ferriss’s The 4-Hour Workweek, I highly recommend giving this book a try.
There is a section in the book that talks about the 80/20 rule which applies in many ways to being productive and being busy. The rule is to learn to categorize the things you are doing into the two different percentiles.
What is the 80% of my work that is the actual work that I do and do not enjoy while gaining no growth. It’s the part that makes me repeat what I have done to build toward possibly different results that may only change from luck or unintentionally changing something in a positive or negative way.
The opposite 20% is the the part of your work that is actually working. The 20% that is the methodology to making your work actually beneficial and important to whoever might consume it.
A different view of the 80/20 rule is that roughly 80% of the effects comes from 20% of the causes.
Essentially in both interpretations, there is a 20% of your work that is quite literally the most effective part of your work.
It’s like selling a service to individuals and also to members. The members might buy the service multiple times and are just one single client. For the company it’s largely possible that 80% of the profits are derived from 20% of the clients. The 20% should be what is focused on.
I am no expert on the 80/20 rule. I’m constantly trying to find what 20% of what I do is causing 80% of the results and it’s hard. But it’s something to consider that a big portion of your work is just filler that holds you back and takes time.
Pay attention to what you are doing that feels meaningless and wasteful and look for the small things that generate the biggest results.
Being productive is hard to find yourself in when you are attempting something that just brings you in a state of being busy. Be willing to learn what it is that you should focus on and should not neglect to do.