how i eliminated fake work | the bookish athlete

I was that kid who couldn’t wait to get a new planner at the beginning of the school year. I don’t even know if that’s a thing anymore – is it all digital now? Are paper planners obsolete? Don’t tell me if they are.

But seriously, I know paper planners still exist. I have two sitting next to me right now. Paper’s making a comeback; I can feel it.

Paper will always be an option for me. But so will digital. You’d think with all these paper and digital options that I’d be the most productive person on the planet.

And I am! When I’m working toward a goal, like writing, I’m good at being productive. At least I thought I was. Until I figured something out. I’m quite good at being fake productive and doing “busywork.”

Instead of doing a specific task, I work around it. Like, rather than writing blog posts, I search for tools, mostly apps, that will help me write blog posts. I do this for a lot of my goals and tasks. If you look through my list of apps that are “Not on this iPhone” you’d have some serious scrolling ahead of you.

apps and tools that create “fake” work

The apps I have a problem with are the ones that require me to add information myself. Things like scheduling, idea captures, workouts, books to read, the stuff I want to keep track of, etc. But rather than recording these ideas and moving on with the actual work (like, writing), I keep tracking information and then moving it to a better app or tool. And sometimes moving it to yet another app or tool.

I find a thing to solve a problem. It opens the door to get shit done. And then I get procrastinate-y and never do anything. So I look for a new tool. This shiny new tool also gets the job done. Probably similar to the one I already found. And then I transfer all the data to the new tool. Because that’s what makes me feel like I’m productive. And once that transfer is complete, it’s time to get to work? Right? Nope. Because then it’s time for more searching!

I used to believe this whole mess counted as work. And surprisingly, nothing ever got done. My blog and book ideas would eventually fade away until they disappeared. I did that for several years until I finally called bullshit on this fake productivity pattern (aka procrastination).

I knew what I was doing. And writing about this particular kind of procrastination only highlights how ridiculous it was. I decided to stop, which was not easy. It meant changing a well-established habit. A bad habit. The bad ones are always harder to change, right? Sheesh.

I needed a really good reason that motivated me to change. Being sick of staying stuck in the same place was my reason. Always staying in the same place and never getting anything done or doing anything with my ideas doesn’t feel good. It’s frustrating. And I was disappointed in myself.

here’s how to eliminate fake work:

If you also find yourself creating “fake” work, here are the steps I used to eliminate it.

step 1

I went through my phone and laptop and made a list of the apps that were supposed to help me get stuff done. Even if I only used it rarely, the app or software tool went on the list.

step 2

Next, I went through my list and asked, “Does this spark joy?” No, not really. But kind of. I went through my list, examined each app, and asked, “How am I using this?” I wrote down the purpose of each app. If I couldn’t come up with a purpose, I got rid of the app.

step 3

Then, I went through my list of apps that had a purpose and looked for duplicates. If the purpose of an app overlapped with another, then one of them got cut from the team. Lots of apps got cut.

step 4

Finally, I made a list of the remaining tools and redefined each purpose. I wanted to get down to one tool for each category. Here are the apps and tools that stuck around:

Google Drive – for productivity
– blog post drafts
– long-term working documents
– long-term project planning
– archive (coaching files, book recaps/journals, published blog posts)

Notes – a place to collect ideas
– short-term working documents (grocery lists, blog ideas, quick/random thought capture)
– Notes for books I’m currently reading

Day One – a digital journal
– daily (ish) streams of consciousness

Scrivener – a writing tool for books
– writing tool for future books

Trello – TBR and goal tracking
books to be read
– long-term goal planning

Training Peaks – for workout tracking and planning
– workout log
– workout planning

does the new system work?

Well, it had been a while since I wrote my last blog post. And now you’re reading these words. So I’d call that a win!

Next challenge? Sticking to the system and catching myself when I open the App store to find a shiny new app.

Stick to the plan. Use the system. Give it a chance. Then make tweaks. Minor tweaks. No more huge overhauls. (Unless an app is no longer available or stops getting updated.)

Organization is a personal preference. Like anything, be intentional with what you use. There is no best solution. In fact, there are too many solutions. So, keep it simple and get stuff done.

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