Productivity

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Read: Busy

I may have read just too much of similar themed texts recently. Crabbe’s Busy seem utterly un-original. There is the usual mix of second hand research reporting and personal anecdotes to fill the gaps in support of an argument.

The list of references is impressive, admitted. Yet, mixing articles from highly respected authors in highly respected academic journals with pop-science books is less than inspiring confidence. The reliance on personal anecdotes adds to that impression.

On the other hand, the book’s thesis seems to be pretty much common wisdom nowadays. Many of the cited articles are ten or twenty years old. And thus, the gaps in the support of an argument may be not important at all. The conclusions are all accepted, there is nothing controversial.

This still leaves the entertainment value of the book. It reads quite nicely.

Read: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up

The desire to improve one’s productivity also entails improving one’s (work) environment. I noticed, e. g., that for some tasks I would move out of my home office and use the free, uncluttered living room table. Hence, the challenge for this year is to unclutter. Finally moving in together showed that there is just too much stuff.

Marie Kondo’s advice is simple: Everything must go.

Ok, it’s not that extreme. Kondo’s “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” is fascinating, insightful, I cannot take it (all) serious, and annoying at the same time.

The book is fascinating and insightful as her approach to tidying up, to unclutter is refreshingly different. Instead of choosing what to throw out she recommends choosing what to keep. This change of perspective quite radically changes the default and thus the amount of stuff that has to leave. The less stuff, the less clutter. The guiding question “Does it spark joy?” is also quite simple and easy to apply. Though I am not quite ready for that kind of radical uncluttering.

Due to this radical approach, it’s philosophy of extreme minimalism I also cannot take it all serious. There are things that do not spark joy but are necessary. And, I just do not want to throw anything into the trash that maybe someone else may still find useful. Therefore, the radical one-time weeding out of stuff seems just not feasible. Selling and giving away takes a surprisingly large amount of time. Further, thanking (earlier) possessions for a job well done and for fulfilling a purpose seems just plain silly. Finally, the continuous references to her, Kondo’s, youth (that is actually not that far in the past) and her early interest in tidying up and “better living” magazines do not necessarily spark confidence in her expertise.

Lastly, the book is annoying as Kondo is quite sexist, assuming only women would like to tidy up and unclutter their living and work environments. It is targeted specifically at women, thus reinforcing a stereotype that should not exist in an enlightened society.

Read: The 5 Choices: The Path to Extraordinary Productivity

While “5 Choices” is instructive it is not overly original as it mostly rehashes well established advice. Some of the references are just (well known) pop-sciences books by journalists instead of the research articles that were summarized in these. Hence the material in “5 Choices” could be labelled 3rd hand wisdom.

Many lengthy fictional examples invite to skip large portions of the book and head immediately to the brief summaries at the end of the chapters.

Read: The Power of Less

Recommended by Tim Harford in the context of another recommendation on the general theme “there is too much stuff, we need to simplify”, I picked up a copy of The Power of Less by Babauta.

The main message is: Don’t multitask. Focus one the few important things, do them first.

The book, however, is not for everyone. While the advice is (generally) sound it does not apply to everyone in all the different context that Babauta discusses. Though, this is not really a blemish. What I did not like was the rather repetitive nature of the various chapters.

Read: Maximize Your Potential

While each individual chapter of Maximize Your Potential reads rather nicely the whole compilation does not add much. The articles do not build on each other so there is no logical progression, when they are based on research it’s not the author’s and more often than not it’s just one single older study that has been refuted since.

Bottom line: it would have been more reasonable just reading u99’s blog than buying this little book. I consider it a donation.

Read: Manage your day-to-day

I don’t know whether “Manage your day-to-day” is a best-of of the relevant articles on 99u but it certainly could be. So here is a small collection of articles by various authors on three productivity topics: finding focus, the use of tools, become productively creative.

If you have ever read a productivity blog there will be nothing new. Still, the little book was rather entertaining and a very quick read. Most of the advice is or should be common sense. Nevertheless, I had the feeling that there are also some inconsistencies. Of course, if you have several authors independently writing up some material on related topics and they start talking about their own personal experiences and try to come up with some general advice based on these they will contradict each other in some points. There is no one-size-fits all.