The Three Types of Productivity

Wednesday May 29, 2024 // Mid-Afternoon

Do you ever have those moments where you know you should be productive so you get to work, but on the completely wrong thing knowing full well it’s not the task you should be doing? That’s what I’m doing right now.

I have a recurring task in my OmniFocus to “Publish for SOM” every week. Each Sunday when I do my review I promptly click the Complete button and it renews the task to open back up for me to complete again on Monday.

If you couldn’t tell, publishing here each week has never and will never be accomplished. Aim big, right??

So now, this very second as my jiu-jitsu fatigued fingers punch the keys, I’m being “productive” by completing this task that will once again pop up on my to-do list in just a few days’ time. I could be prepping for an upcoming trip, working on my side business, or folding one of the four laundry baskets of clean clothes that have taken over the walkable space of our upstairs.

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the different types of productivity. I’ve classified them into three categories. This is a working theory by-the-way and has room for improvement.

First, are the “dotted circle” tasks. These are things you have to do just because the world or biology forces you to. Paying the bills, taking out the trash, brushing your teeth. The things that don’t propel you forward in life but are necessary not to drag you backwards. It’s a circle because it’s a task that just goes around and around, not moving you forwards.

But don’t pay the bills? Bad consequences. Don’t take out the trash or brush your teeth? Again, bad consequences. However if you do them, does anyone notice? Nah. But you have to do them anyway.

The second type of productivity are the “entrenching circles”. These are the tasks that you do repeatedly, can’t tell you’re making an improvement, but slowly and steadily fortify into a new identity.

In James Clear’s Atomic Habits he writes a lot about forging the identity of a person who does X. That’s what these habits do – make you into a person who goes to the gym, reads habitually, meditates, or plays the guitar.

Examples of these tasks would be writing for your website (hey, that’s me!), practicing your instrument, doing your Duolingo lessons, or reading X pages or for X amount of time. The habits that you do that dig into the ground to make you a runner or reader or polyglot.

The last type of productivity are the “arrows”. These are the tasks that you do that purposefully lead somewhere. The tasks that get you to actually publish a book, perform at a show, or talk to others in the new language you are learning.

On a personal note these are the important ones I keep missing out on truly defining and striving for. Can I do pushups everyday for 3,000+ days? Yep. That’s great, man. But where is this leading you?

I’m still working through this thought process on the three types of productivity. I wonder if these few hundred words will actually make a difference and this was “productive”…

– Josh // Wondering

Related Reading: What Are You Putting Off?

Get New Articles Emailed to You

* indicates required

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.