Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Productivity and "Self-Help": Admiral Ackbar and Merlin Mann say it's a trap

If you have been reading productivity, personal finance, and self-help blogs for long enough, you know there used to be a very active and cool site called 43folders, where people like myself used to go for tips on GTD (Getting Things Done) and Productivity Pron (cool aps, neat tips, etc.). It was/is run by a guy called Merlin Mann who awhile back changed everything about that blog. Instead of frequent updates it meant to occasional rants; these rants became increasingly about giving up exactly what the blog used to be all about--reading about productivity.

The latest rant is a bit hard to follow at times (and has language which may offend some readers) but it ends with an intriguing image of a recent tweet Merlin wrote: "Joining a Facebook group about creative productivity is like buying a chair about jogging."

This (and some of the other bits of the rant) struck home to me. You'll know from reading my blog that I have questioned the wisdom of getting too caught up in changing my system and making to do lists, charting my progress, etc. I've been guilty of letting the self-help get in the way of the very work I'm supposed to be doing. I've also been guilty of enjoying my RSS feed too much, even to the detriment of the novel I am supposed to be writing.

I know I am not the only one out there with this problem. I also know that the simple "just do it" statements of people like Mann don't actually motivate very well. Sure, I find myself nodding and feeling like "yes, I should turn myself around" but really I feel this way after many a "self-help" article about productivity and motivation.

There is no easy answer for this trap. Each person will find her way out of it (or not) based on the goals that drive her. I know that my journey for this year has been all about me seeking my path to being able to get work done consistently and to find work which makes me want to keep doing it.

I don't have the answers, and neither does Mann (for me at least), but we both know that reading more self-help blogs doesn't get me there. As Admiral Ackbar (and Mann) would say "It's a trap!"

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