What is the relationship between efficiency and productivity? If you work efficiently, does that mean you were productive? If you were productive with your time, but does that mean you were efficient with what you were doing?
That is probably getting too philosophical, but I really don’t know.
Today on Wired.com they ran a story about David Allen called Getting Things Done: Guru David Allen and his Cult of hyperefficiency. He is all about self organization to accomplish stuff (finishing emails, groceries, thank you notes, getting married, and so on). His methodology centers on the details. He wants to avoid thought provoking searches for meaning – he just wants to clear out his “to do”. His methods primarily are based on priority and the type of action. He wants those that follow his advice to be as specific as possible.
I see value in doing things this way. For every item you get to cross off the list, you feel more self worth and that becomes addicting. However, by focusing on all the details, do you become too routine? Do you miss the big picture? Do you read the emails but not realize your cousin had a baby?
An opposite feeling happened in 1969. That is when Apollo 11 came back to earth successfully. Here is an entry in a Time magazine article about the launch of Sputnik called Space Brains:
In that most American of plays, Death of a Salesman, Willy Loman,
father of two layabout sons, is stunned to find that his neighbor’s boy
is arguing a case before the Supreme Court and hasn’t mentioned it. “He
don’t have to,” his neighbor answers. “He’s gonna do it.” A coda to
that idea is offered in the elegiac new documentary In the Shadow of
the Moon. One of the scenes shows the men of Mission Control lighting
cigars after the 1969 splashdown of Apollo 11. Behind them, on a
control room viewing screen, two words are projected: TASK
ACCOMPLISHED. That may be a less triumphal phrasing than “mission,” but
whatever you call it, Americans knew enough not to boast about a thing
until we had done it.
“TASK ACCOMPLISHED” certainly means much more in this context than clearing out the inbox of email. My concern about David Allen’s approach is if it is used for high risk, high important jobs. At what point does someone write “TASK ACCOMPLISHED” under his advice?