Productivity: It’s amazing what you accomplish when you’re not looking

To-do list book.

It turns out, my last post announcing my 42nd Happiness Experiment was also my 500th post on the site, making this my celebratory 501st post.

Wow, how did I manage 500 posts? Sometimes I’ve struggled to write, other times the posts flow from my fingers as fast as I can type. It’s amazing how accomplishments sneak up and surprise you.

I’ve spent the weekend at a conference in downtown. I won’t bore you with the details as it was an industry conference, but it was an amazing way to spend time and I really learned a lot. I had the chance to put my head together with a lot of smart people, which always leads to some fascinating and educational conversations.

So, at a conference for 8 hours each day, I wouldn’t be surprised if this weekend was a write-off when it comes to productivity, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. It seems that, like my 500th post, being productive this weekend snuck up on me.

I finished off my first weekend of exercise in the 100 push up challenge and the 200 sit up challenge. I’m not going to lie and say they were easy. I’ve been slacking on my muscle-building exercise work, and it unfortunately shows. These challenges are much needed. I haven’t fallen in love with them yet, but I have started to once again embrace a schedule of regular exercise.

I have also managed to do some work on the weekend, getting ahead on my tasks for the week. A bit earlier this evening, I even prepared food for the next few days and cleaned the kitchen.

Essentially, on a weekend where I thought I would get nothing done, I managed to achieve an amazing amount. I got some exercise, learned a number of new things, got some work done, prepared healthy food for the next couple days, cleaned my kitchen and even spent a bit of time relaxing with my wife and catching up on some of our favorite television shows.

I wonder if the fact that I had no expectations left me open to accomplishing more. There’s a fine line between setting goals and setting expectations. I still had a to-do list for my time at home, but rather than expecting a certain number of tasks to be done withing a set time, I decided to just do what I could in the time that was available to me.

It’s very zen as a concept. Think less, have fewer expectations, and just do more.

Now, the question comes, how can I work that realization into my life more?

I think I need to start viewing to-do lists as guidelines, rather than as must-do lists. This prevents me from getting hung up tasks and instead puts me in a position where I can more easily achieve “flow“. I’ve experimented with to-do lists before, and I found that while the did help me be more productive, they prevented me from having the chaotic moments of unexpected growth that can only really happen what you have time open on your schedule.

Perhaps I’ll try to balance that now, so that I can still work hard on goals, but I leave things open enough that fascinating surprises can happen. This will be an interesting theory to experiment with.

3 thoughts on “Productivity: It’s amazing what you accomplish when you’re not looking

  1. Tammy R

    Oh, I love to hear it! I find the same thing to be true – the less I have planned, the more I accomplish. My to-do lists are basically non-existent these days, and I’m thinking that by having unplanned time I have been getting more done. I used to measure my productivity in how many things I could cross off a list and often came away horribly dissatisfied and disappointed. “Things” always took more time than I planned.

    This doesn’t mean I just wake up with no plan at all. I walk first thing every morning and six out of seven days have my writing time, and I always have healthy meals planned (or a healthy-options restaurant on my go-to list for weekends as we don’t cook then!). If I don’t have these habits in place, I do feel out of sorts for the rest of the day. I guess some might consider this rigid, but I am very happy!

    Keep on rocking those push ups and sit ups. I love hearing about challenges like this!
    Tammy R recently posted..Knowing What to Accept in Your RelationshipMy Profile

  2. Simon @ Modest Money

    Wow, congratulations on your 500 post milestone!
    Your experiences over time and the weekend seems to be suporting a growing number of research that to-do lists might not be the best tool for productivity and creativity. Infact, you can read an example here and the ensuing heated debate:
    One things for sure, sometimes having unstructured time might put us into a more natural flow of working that boosts our confidence, unshackles our minds from bondage of the checklist and brings out the best in us.
    Simon @ Modest Money recently posted..EverBank Review – Exclusive Review of EverBank Online BankingMy Profile


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