September 12, 2020

An Experiment In Productivity

As I wrote in Setting Minimum Daily Requirements to Relieve Productivity Stress, I have been setting daily minimum requirements for myself. I have been making a pact with myself that when I accomplish what is on my minimum daily requirements (MDR) list I will accept that I have accomplished enough for that day, at least enough to not trigger any sense of stress due to lack of productivity, which happened in the past far too often.

So, I have been doing the MDR approach to getting things done and accomplishing what I want in life for a while and it seems to be working. However, self-doubt being something with which many of us struggle, myself included, lately I wondered if my MDR approach was a bit to regimented, rigid and otherwise not enough of a “go with the flow” strategy.

I decided to try an experiment. I believe in conducting personal experiments now and then and honestly assessing the results. How can we get better at this thing called life if we do not experiment and try out new things to see how well they fit?

Night before last I did my usual evening reflection on my day and set my intention for the list of MDR objectives and tasks to accomplish the next day. It was an aggressive list with a couple more hours of work time blocked out than usual.

The next day I stuck to my MDR plan and got it all done. As I had come to expect, I did not feel my day lacked productivity at all. I was content. To be clear, productivity does not mean just hardcore work but might include exercising or spending time learning or developing a new skill. Anyway, all was good. I got my MDR list done. I was able to crawl into bed that night feeling accomplished.

That night I decided to undertake the experiment of not creating my MDR list for the next day (today). I wanted to see if I simply went with the flow of the day would I accomplish enough to feel satisfied, or would I accomplish anything at all?

Today unfolded as planned. I went with the flow. I woke up. Checked my phone (yes, I know that is often problematic, and I do it anyway). Got breakfast. Was part of an awesome online panel for a European event which was the highlight of the day. I got a workout in. I read a little bit, but otherwise I mostly puttered and wasted time.

Results of the experiment? Right now I am feeling unaccomplished. I feel as if I wasted much of the day. Before your brain goes to “but sometimes down time is good” I am fully aware of that and entirely agree. Today was not intended as a downtime day. I wanted to get things done. It just did not happen.

Experiments should typically be replicated to be sure of results. Perhaps I will undertake this experiment again. In the meantime, as the old saying goes, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Until the results of my experiment are proven otherwise, I plan to continue with my MDR strategy.

If you have thoughts on this post, I would love to see them in the comments.

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