Mondays are productivity days at SimpleProductivity blog.
I was listening to a podcast a few weeks ago and the question that was being discussed was the idea of authentic versus valid. The discussion was in relation to a religious tradition, and as my mind wandered away from the theological arguments, I found myself thinking that this is often the debate in productivity circles, though few would label it as such.
What Is Authentic?
Authentic is the label we give to something that has a history. For instance, the methods laid out in Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity, or Do It Tomorrow and Other Secrets of Time Management. These methodologies have a history, and things are laid out for a reason.
Purists believe that authentic is the only way, and it should be followed exactly. For if things deviate, it is no longer the authentic exact system.
What Is Valid?
On the other hand, validity answers the question, “yes, but does it work?”
Valid is the label we give to something that works, even if it is not an established way of doing things.
They Start Out The Same
When any system — no matter what type — starts out, it is valid. A system is adopted because it works.
As time goes on, and more people use the system as it was intended, it becomes authentic. That is not to say it is any less valid at that point.
Validity becomes questionable when the system no longer works, or no longer works well, but people continue to follow it.
The Story Of The Roast
A young woman, recently out on her own, was making dinner for a friend. The friend, not knowing much about cooking, watched her slice both ends of the roast off and throw them out before putting the roast in the oven.
“Why do you cut the ends off?”
The young woman shrugged. “My mother always did it this way.”
Her friend laughed at her. “I don’t know much about cooking, but that seems strange that you would pay for a roast and then throw part of it away.”
The young woman asked her mother why she cut the ends of the roast off. “Your grandmother always did it that way.”
So the young woman approached her grandmother. “Why do we cut the ends of the roast off?”
Her grandmother looked at and said, “because I didn’t have a pan big enough to hold the roast.”
So the young woman and her mother continued a tradition because it was authentic, but it was no longer valid.
Applying To What You Do
So how does this apply to productivity?
Ask yourself if there is anything you do simply because you have done it that way for a long time, but may seem clunky.
It could be putting appointments into Outlook and then hand-entering them into another calendar. It could be context lists that you assign tasks to, but never use. It could be sticking with a piece of software that is years old and rather difficult to use because you have used it forever.
Think about it. I am sure you can come up with at least one.
Questions To Ask Yourself
Once you have discovered possible points where you are using a system, but knowing it isn’t working really well for you, there are some questions to ask yourself to find solutions.
- Is this a systematic issue? Are you using an electronic planner when it would be better to use paper or vice versa?
- Is this a process issue? Do you have to repeat work? Can be automated?
- Is this a software issue? Do you have to work around the software to get things done?
- Does the method fit the way you think and work? Are you a circular thinker and this is linear? Or the opposite?
- Does what you are doing support you and make things easier? Or is it a burden?
When you have asked these questions, you have a starting point to move away from the authentic system into something valid for you.
What do you think? Are you a purist? Or do you go for what works? Or are you one of the lucky ones who have both? Please share below.
Photo by StockMonkeys.com