Dean McPherson

@dean_mcpherson

Use your head, not your muscles

I love productivity. I love being productive. I love moving fast and breaking things™. But more than anything, I love feeling productive. In-fact, the reason I’m writing this right now is to scratch that “I should be doing something” itch. For me, there is one thing that I find genuinely makes me more productive than anything else: being intentional with every task. The following questions help me make that happen:

  1. Is there a way this process could be automated, at least in part? 
    Do it once and then never again.
  2. Do I have to do this task? Can it be outsourced? After all, the most efficient task is the one that I don’t have to do. 
    Outsource everything that can be outsourced.
  3. Does the task need to be done in the best way possible, or does it just need to get done? 
    Appropriately optimise for speed vs quality.

As much as I’d like to though, I don’t always do this. Just this morning, after a few hours of programming, I hit a wall. This happens sometimes, so I like to leave mundane processes in place so that I can fill these pieces of my day with “muscle” work. I think of muscle work as thoughtless, repetitive tasks that you can chew through, one after the other. You know the kind, like sharing social posts across multiple platforms, checking analytics again, or resizing a batch of images one at a time. Things that feel productive (and kind of are, but not as efficient as they could be!).

I think the problem is that I love feeling productive more than I love being productive. Nothing feels better than having a stack of work and getting through it all.

Really though, I should give up this vice of procrasti-work and automate/outsource as much as possible. Afterall, I’m paying for that feeling with real time — meaningful work that’s not being done, time not spent with family, or half an hour out of the daily netflix binge.

It really can be easy to get sh@# done, the hard part is getting the right things done. For that though, you’re going to have to decide what you’re working towards, and how you’re going to get there. That’s much harder than the easy stuff you know and do every day.

What about when the ‘muscle’ work gives you insights you otherwise wouldn’t have? What are the hidden benefits of muscle work?

I’m Dean, co-founder of Paperform — helping people make beautiful forms online. I work with my beautiful and talented wife Diony, in Sydney, Australia.

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