The Art of Doing: The Real Secret to Being Productive

In Essays, Productivity

As a quick search online reveals, getting organised is big business. There are literally thousands of courses, applications, ebooks and websites dedicated to the “Art of Doing”

On a superficial reading, it all seems so simple. You either do, or don’t do. Take action, or take no action. Go forward, or stay where you are (which is the same as going backwards in my book).

Unfortunately, like many things, it’s not quite so easy, hence the multi-million dollar market for productivity software.

I’ve mentioned GTD (Get Things Done) before, and I still believe that it’s a great system, but today I want to approach the whole subject matter in a more holistic fashion.

After all, we all have dreams, ambitions and aspirations. Why aren’t we fulfilling our capabilities and getting to where we want to be?

I believe it’s a matter of will-power and lack of urgency.

Don’t let anyone lie to you: You don’t have much time.

Understanding this is the real secret to productivity. Once you realise you don’t have much time you won’t want to waste any of the time you have left!

Older people know this, but find it hard to communicate with us lot, the younger generation. I’ve just about managed to convince myself lately that I don’t have much time after a hell of a lot of thinking.

“To achieve great things, two things are needed: a plan and not quite enough time.”

~ Leonard Bernstein

In the past people instinctively knew that they didn’t have much time and also did not take the time they had for granted. Death was much more common and in-your-face. Most people had siblings that perished at birth or at a young age.

Think about this one: They used to hang executed criminals in Marble Arch, London for a few days to serve as a warning to others!

Nowadays it’s common for someone to live their entire life without seeing someone die. While that’s probably a good thing, it does have some negative consequences. Death appears to be this thing that happens to other people. We end up feeling divorced from reality and so we end up living in this bubble. A bubble in which we have all the time in the world.

Of course, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Humans are fragile creatures, and it doesn’t take much for something fatal to happen.

So what’s my point? My point is that the best time for action is now. And I mean right now. Not this evening, not tomorrow, not the weekend or next week.

Tomorrow: a mystical land where 99% of all human productivity, motivation and achievement is stored.

Of course, you can’t do everything at the same time. That’s where having a system comes into place. A good system will break long-term goals down into actions you can do everyday. After all, we are only the sum of our daily habits and actions.

“Your beliefs become your thoughts, your thoughts become your words,your words become your actions, your actions become your habits, your habits become your values, your values become your destiny”

~ Gandhi

Something that I like to imagine every so often is some variation of this:

“If I died today, would I be happy/proud with what I have accomplished so far?”

I haven’t yet been able to answer this with a yes, which is probably a good thing at this stage in the my life. I’m still in my 20s, so hopefully I have still got plenty of time to do amazing things. I feel that I am still using my time at the moment to create a good foundation on which to build on.

But your age is irrelevant, ask yourself this question once every so often and analyse what you have done with your life so far.

So the Art of Doing boils down to this:


There has been a lot of effort in the last twenty years to understand why many (perhaps most?!) people lack the willpower to effectively do what they need to do. Every year millions of people create new year’s resolutions and 95% of these resolutions are in tatters by February.

**Why is that?

You hear the word procrastination banded around a lot and I think that’s linked with the above point of not understanding that you are in a rush.

I think that it’s to do with a lack of concentration, which we can call will-power for the sake of this argument. I do think that when people say they lack the willpower to do something they are mostly talking rubbish. Unless you have something seriously wrong with you, you have enough willpower to accomplish things that you haven’t even dreamt about.

That’s why when I cycle I like to get as far away from home as possibl, after that I know have to come back and so I will magically find the willpower to cycle another 50km.

So what’s the cause of this lack of concentration? It’s the availability of distractions in our modern lifestyle. I have mentioned before what an incredible waste of time television is, but our mobile phones, computers and gaming consoles are just as bad.

If you want to be productive and have a high level of concentration then do the following:

  • Unhook your landline
  • Turn off or silence your mobile phone and put it away.
  • Turn of the TV.
  • Go to a quiet calm place. This can be your own room or perhaps a common study area.
  • If you are using a computer to work, turn off the internet or if that’s not an option then block yourself from sites such as Facebook and Youtube.
  • Stick it out! Work for 45 minutes straight and see what happens, then take a 15 minute break. Yes, you may end up a little bored, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing! I spoke about this very subject in my essay How to Educate Yourself Everyday.

The idea is simple: Get rid of all distractions and allow yourself to concentrate. While this may take some time, the rewards are well worth the effort.

After a while, you may find you can work really well in suboptimal environments. You will be able to concentrate in a noisy room full other people watching television or at a busy café.

So, stop reading and do something right now.