Clarity trumps Effectiveness

Effectiveness trumps Productivity

When I first started out studying self-help methods I spent about a year using The Pomodoro Technique. The goal of The Pomodoro Technique is to sharpen your focus in order to become more productive. But the goal is also its weakness which took me way too long to realize. I learned to focus and handle interruptions in a positive manner and as my focus increased I became more productive. The only problem was that you can be very good at focusing and very productive without adding value at all. If you don’t spend your time on the right things at the right time the effect of what you are doing will be negligible. Reflecting upon a longer period of time made me realize that I produced more than before, thanks to my increased focus, but for what? I didn’t feel much more motivated and happier than before so how could that be?

Instead of focusing on productivity I began to focus on being effective. How can I with minimal effort add as much value for myself and my surroundings as possible? This requires a much broader view of what you are doing because it is about taking the right descicions at the right time and ensuring that what you are doing right now is the most important thing in the world. This requires clarity of your whole life and all activities you have going on both at work as well as in your private life.

Clarity trumps Effectiveness

Clarity should give you a calming feeling of being on top of things and being in control of your own your life and decisions. Clarity is the ability to predict your own future because you’ve realized that what the future brings depends on the actions from the past. Most of us knows about the first day at work after a vacation where you have to spent most of the day handling your inbox. Why do you think that is? People are not writing to you without a reason. It is usually a reaction to some kind of initiative you’ve started yourself.

I use to say that clarity is a snapshot of all activities you want to do within the next two weeks combined with your predictions of inevitable activities that automatically will come to you and as mentioned early the best indicator of the future is a clear picture of the recent past. If you are able to establish a snapshot like this and make it easy to comprehend you are in possession of the context needed to be in control and take good decisions. Without enough context your decisions will be based on false assumptions and you’ll start to do not important activities and initiate more than your capacity allows.

Trying to be effective without having clarity is a waste of time. In Lean Manufacturing we talk about decision filters that should guide us at a high level ensuring we are focusing on the most valuable improvements:

  • Value trumps flow
  • Ffow trumps waste elimination

If I should sum up what I’ve been talking about it can be narrowed down to my personal lean decision filters that guides my life at a high level:

  • Effectiveness trumps Productivity
  • Clarity trumps Effectiveness

2 thoughts on “Clarity trumps Effectiveness

  1. This post made me think deeply about these 3 components : purpose of life ( may be what you call clarity) , effectiveness (doing the right things, the most important things, those in harmony with your purpose, values) and productivity.
    I heard a coach saying: the great achievers are really skillfull at getting what they don’t want ! and you expressed it that way in your post : being more productive didn’t make me feel more happy.
    so, it’s crucial to think about the meaning of happiness, the life itself: that’s the core of clarity.
    in the same time, resolving productivity problems is valuable , it’s that who make you thinking beyond productivity , and at least you reckognize what you don’t want.
    Attaining clarity , being more effective and productive is a long process requiring action and meditation, and the relations between those 3 components are complex.
    Best wishes

  2. Spot on! I think once you have clarity then tools like the Pomodoro technique will fit on nicely for selective tasks… At the very least. Pomodoro has had a huge impact in my life over the last year, but not in the way that most would assume. For most it is a tool to focus (which is handy)… But in my case it is a tool for moderation… In other words, I have learned the meaning of the phrase, “Slow and steady wins the race.” If one takes any task or activity that they normally spend way too much time on and sets a limit of, say, 25 minutes a day… One can read, for example, the GTD book in about 2 weeks, without overloading yourself and sacrificing any other area of your life. For me, Pomodoro is not so much about the focus, but about purposefully taking a step back after a time-boxed period and deciding on what direction to go in next… Whether one is in fact working on the most valuable item or priority. A mandatory break often gives me enough insight to “call it a day” on a certain task, whether work related or personal. Otherwise, when it comes to plain productivity, it’s like Steven Covey illustrates: you could very easily be climbing a ladder effectively… Only to reach the top and discover it was leaning against the wrong wall.

    I enjoyed your post! Thanks!

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