Productivity Hacks Why they Rarely Stick, and Why they Matter Anyway

Any project or system that involves people, no matter how well-intentioned, eventually loses luster once the initial excitement and momentum wears off. Everything becomes a job after long enough, no matter how infatuated you were in the beginning.

It’s easy to run fast at the beginning of the marathon, when your adrenaline is pumping and your legs are fresh. The real challenge is maintaining pace when through the long middle, and especially after you hit the wall.

Take productivity systems, for example. We all commit to different systems and apps with the best intentions, like new year’s resolutions. Find the perfect to-do list or latest pomodoro technique or calendaring solution and you might feel like you’ve finally uncovered the secret to perfect productivity. Of course, even the most hopeful systems can’t keep you sprinting the entire marathon.

So, what do we do? Do we give up on trying to be more productive? Do we forget about fancy to-do lists, productivity journaling, SMART goals and everything else we’ve tacked on over the years?

No, I actually think this constant search for productivity hacks is helpful over the long run, even when we don’t always stick with things. Every time you re-engage with your work because of some new approach, you get a boost of enthusiasm and effort. These boosts matter, even if they are short-lived.

And in the long run, through all the searching and failed systems and apps, we eventually do find some things that stick. The things that stick raise our baseline.

Our progress looks something like this:

Baseline Productivity Over Time

All this is to say, there is no perfect productivity system or breakthrough hack. There is only YOUR system, and the journey of subtly improving it over time.

If you’ve noticed I tend to share a decent number of links about productivity and motivation, this is why. Just like you, I struggle with both from time to time, and I’m constantly trying to tweak my own system to stay engaged with my work and raise my baseline. Over the past decade of entrepreneurship, I am happy to say I’ve become much more consistent in my productivity, and much more comfortable with how much does (or doesn’t) get done each week.

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Hi, I’m Corbett Barr. I’ve been writing here since 2009. Join my email list for new articles about supporting yourself doing something you love: