Productivity, Accomplishment and Happiness: How to Get More of Each

John Cousins
February 7, 2023
4 min read

Happiness is tied to a sense of accomplishment. Accomplishment is a result of being productive.

Research has also shown that people are most satisfied and motivated in their jobs when those jobs offer the opportunity to experience achievement. And the mechanism underlying a sense of achievement is the sense of making consistent, meaningful progress.

So using tools and systems that help us be productive will ultimately lead to more satisfaction and motivation and ultimately, greater happiness.

Well done is better than well said.

— Benjamin Franklin

Rate Limiter

There is one rate limiter that money and influence cannot alter. We all have the same amount of time. 24 hours in a day, seven days in a week. Why is it that some people seem to get so much more accomplished than others?

Time is our most precious resource. As Seneca points out in his essay The Shortness of Life, there is ample time to do the things we deem important if we use it effectively and do not squander it.

Here is a tool to deal with overwhelm and procrastination and all the other obstacles for getting done what is most important.

Getting Things Done GTD

Getting Things Done (GTD) is a system for getting organized and productive. It is based on the book “Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity” by David Allen.

The goal is to work more effectively and efficiently. Here are some highlights of the approach:

It is based on a simple rule: do it, delegate it, defer it, or drop it. It helps reassess goals and stay focused by creating a prioritized and detailed plan. GTD can help us overcome the anxiety of feeling overwhelmed and the frozen panic that state engenders. It also emphasizes feeling OK about what you’re not doing. This is key to remain guilt free and focused on the tasks at hand.

GTD is an organizational system that focuses on capturing the work you need to do, organizing it, and prioritizing what needs your attention. There are five steps in GTD to getting and staying organized:

Capture everything. all your ideas, to dos and recurring tasks, anything and everything that you need to act on at some point. You can use any way to do this like a notebook or an app. I like to use a notebook, the notes app on my phone, and the calendar on my phone. Use whatever works for you to get organized but it has to be so easy that you don’t wait and forget. Keep something by your bedside so you capture those fleeting thoughts in the middle of the night. It will help you to sleep better and be calmer as you aren’t trying to keep remembering trivial tasks. It will open up your mind for more productive and creative thinking.

Clarify the things you capture. Don’t be general and vague. Break down tasks into actionable steps so there’s no barrier to starting. If there’s anything you can do right away and have time to do, get it done ASAP. If there’s anything you can delegate, off load it. The tasks should be granular enough so when you stop and come back later you know exactly what to do next. You don’t want to waste time trying to figure out what the heck you meant.

Organize those actionable items. Prioritize and categorize them. Assign due dates where you can, and set reminders in you phone calendar to help you follow up. This is planning and scheduling time. Sunday evening is a good time to review your list and get ready for the week ahead.

Reflect on your list to choose what your next action will be. This is where the clarifying step pays off. You should be able to pick something you have the time and focus to do without having to figure out how to do it. If something is vague, break it down. Review your list periodically to see where you’re making progress, where you need to adjust your priorities, and refine the system so it works for you.

Engage and git ‘er done. Choose your action item and dive in. Your system is set up to make choosing easy. Your to-dos are prioritized and organized in categories. You know what to work on and they’re distilled into manageable chunks that are easy to start and have clear endpoints.

GTD provides a way to get everything you need to remember out of your head and into an organized system, and break them down into workable pieces. The next time you look at your to-do list, there should be no confusion over what’s most important and how much time it should take. This way you can spend more time actually working.

Here is another post of my thoughts on Productivity, Creativity, and Focus.

Here is a slide deck of productivity hacks. Take the ones that resonate with you and your work habits and routines and level up!

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John Cousins
Author, Entrepreneur, & Teacher

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