May 6

Oliver Burkeman spent years researching every productivity tool avail- able. He tried them all. Some of them even helped, for a while. However, many of these methods just made him more efficient at doing largely meaningless things. Burkeman told me that he calls this the “efficiency trap.” You tweak, improve, and expend a ton of energy to get more done, but more priorities just get piled on top of the things you’re already doing. There’s never an end to it. So you strive to become more efficient at doing those things too, but you only clear room for even more things…and the cycle continues.

Burkeman’s point really strikes home. I’ve found myself in that very predicament before. I’m getting a lot done, but does any of it really matter? I mean,reallymatter?

The only key that I’ve discovered to overcoming this efficiency trap is to focus on effectiveness. Effective use of your time and resources might mean investing thirty minutes now to do something that won’t pay off for days or weeks but is valuable nonetheless. When you begin to think about your time more like a financial portfolio, in which you make both safe and risky investments, you begin to think differently about how to spend it.

Don’t fall into the efficiency trap. Focus on effectiveness.


What can you invest time in today that may not pay off for weeks or months?

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