Deciding not to chastise myself

Do you ever feel like productivity systems are designed to chastise you for not being productive? So did I.

Deciding not to chastise myself

Each time I learnt a new productivity system such as Franklin Covey, later GTD and numerous to-do systems on the internet, I think each new method or system is the bee's knees. This is the one! The system that will finally put my life in some form of order. The one where I will be the super productive version of me. It will stick this time and I'll finally be free of stress and overwhelm of not knowing where everything is and what I need to do now.

Through the early setup it's often tough but that's OK because this is the one. It's already making sense. And for a few glorious weeks or even months it runs. Things get done but there are still more tasks. The lists begin to grow faster than they get checked off. Some can move to the Someday list for some relief but the growing list is still a problem.

Eventual overwhelm and the endless chastising myself at the size of my lists gets the better of each system and I am left with the same productivity problem. Everyone seems to be able to run system X, why can't I?

Is it because I see habit tracking as just another form of chastising myself?

Is it that my brain seems to rebel when the system says I should do this and that TODAY?

Or is it that life keeps getting in the way and throwing curve-balls?

The Oxford Learner's Dictionary definition of productive is "doing or achieving a lot" which plays right back into chastising oneself again. Feeling the need to do a lot is the problem. While Cambridge's definition is something we can work with, "producing a good or useful result". Without the addition of a quantity, productivity seems achievable again.

What if I defined productivity as "making good enough progress towards goals and projects I care about while giving space for life and occasional chaos to happen without chastising myself about life and chaos happening"? While its not exactly short and punchy, it works.

Now that I have defined productivity, my next challenge is to design a system that works with it. A system that is flexible, adaptive and encourages me to get things done without guilt for not getting some other things done. A system that keeps pace with my fast paced thinking and flow of ideas.

Watch this space!

Once you accept that life is riddled with chance, coincidence, luck, you’ll see productivity in a new light, with a new purpose. You’ll feel incentivized to build a different system. One with lots of buffers and room to fail. A system that’s optimized for minimum stress instead of maximum effort. — Niklas Göke
The Wheaton Levels of Productivity
Ever felt overwhelmed by your project list and wondered how to get to the next productivity step? Find out your level of mastery and next step.


I’ve been learning self-growth, productivity, online education and various eclectic interests for quite a few years now, picking up incredible, life-long lessons along that way. I have decided to document some of my insights weekly in the form of one short-form article about 2-3 minutes in reading time which is enough time to finish your coffee/tea.

I’d love to have you join us!