I don’t typically spend a lot of time making resolutions, intentions or even major goals as I transition into a new year. Instead, I prefer to look back at the prior year and take stock. In part, this means reviewing my projects and determine whether they should be continued, paused, or deleted. I also try to think about areas in which I struggled in the prior year and how I might be able to address these challenges in the new year. Finally, I try to take a stock back and look at my work life holistically. In general, how are things working?
One thing I’ve been mulling over the last few days is my personal productivity. In some ways, it’s been a really productive year. I’ve generally done a good deal of “shipping” this year – journal articles, workshops, and even my first book, And Action: Directing Documentaries in the Social Studies Classroom. I’ve met my deadlines and moved my projects forward. This is mostly thanks to my task/project management system. Over the last couple of years, I’ve really perfected my system of capture, organization, and execution using my software of choice – Todoist. I can generally crank through my tasks on the way to meeting the next deadline. I had a nagging feeling of discontent, though, as I reflected back on 2013.
I was listening to the latest episode of the Mikes on Mics podcast, and hosts Mike Vardy and Michael Schechter were discussing the meaning of productivity. Mike Vardy was arguing that the key to productivity is balancing efficiency and effectiveness.
This resonated with me, because I think I had a really efficient year last year, but I don’t know how effective it was. For me, effectiveness boils down to a question – am I working on the right things? When I look back, I don’t see a grand plan or overarching vision to my projects, publications, etc. I think I’ve been working hard, but I don’t know how much time I’ve spent being deliberate about my choices for what to work on. I think that for me, as things come at me, I just want to say yes. And with a high level of efficiency, I can usually manage to get things done. What’s missing for me is attending to the question of what I should be working on.
So, here’s my focus for the year. It doesn’t matter how efficient you are if you’re working on the wrong projects. Likewise, even if you have a great sense of the right work for you this year, if you aren’t able to organize and manage your projects it’s likely that you either won’t get things done, or you’ll miss deadlines. So, I guess that if I were going to make a resolution, intention, etc., for 2014, it would be to find a proper balance between efficiency and effectiveness in terms of my work.