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I read GTD, ZTD, and, a ton of web articles about productivity.But, the problem is always the same - how do I start?

That's always the same problem with new habits or life changes, determining the first step and remaining motivated by showing improvement.

  1. Is productivity a mindset, a set of habits or a set of automation/tools? Maybe it's simply the combination of all of them?

  2. Should we track the activity (which we want to improve) to check its evolution? As a life dashboard, and check it every morning. The thought being "If you can't control it, you can't improve it."

  3. Should we share our goals with someone else? The thought being that telling someone that you'll do X, forces you to do it and not procrastinate.

How does one move forward, take action, and start to build their own productivity system/environment? It looks the same in many others fields: start-ups, fitness, etc. Are there methods for these fields that might apply on a personal level?

Could there be an element of fear that prevents me from starting? I'm not afraid of productivity itself. However, I may feel apprehensive about life changes that are brought on by changes in productivity.

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1) you are partly correct. It is a mindset to commit to a set of habits. The tools are artifacts. The instance of tool is not what is important. What is important is that you use the tools you pick and that gets back to a commitment to the habits.

2) Since you are concerned with getting started, I wouldn't about tracking activities. If you were an old hand at practicing productivity and were looking for an added edge then maybe I'd consider it. Tracking sounds like work that is derivative and there is the danger that you would get stuck in a busy trap. You will know from reviewing your progress whether you are getting it wrong or right.

3) Don't worry about pleasing anyone else. This is for you. Procrastination is not about agreements you break with others. Procrastination is about agreements that you break with yourself. Plus, I can tell you from experience that peoples eyes glaze over when I talk about productivity. Unless they are already motivated, people just don't care. They are worried about their own problems.

The best way to get started is to commit to the five habits laid out in "Getting Things Done".

  1. Collect
  2. Clarify
  3. Organize
  4. Reflect
  5. Engage

The habits are discussed more in depth in David Allen's "Making it all Work". It's worthwhile read if you enjoy geeking out on GTD. Try them and be willing to get them wrong. You are a lifelong student at this and you will eventually get it right.

The fear. Or as Seth Godin calls it "The Resistance" strikes in many ways. It can represent a fear of failure ("not being good enough" "fear of being exposed as a fraud" etc.) It can also represent a fear of success ("If I try it and I succeed, I'll have to work harder, or change my life, or leave others behind" etc)

"The resistance" is afraid of change more than anything else. It's that reflexive part of your brain that wants to protect you and keep things as they are. The thing is that not changing means not making things better and your life becomes an exercise in atrophy.

Don't succumb to the resistance. Welcome failure as a chance to learn what needs to happen in order to make things right. Dare to achieve!

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I wonder if the root issue is a personal lack of purpose.

  • If you have a sense of purpose, GTD (for example) is a necessary tool and you will start moving.
  • If you lack it, there aren't any methods or tools that will work for you.

If this is your case, you must search for purpose. I myself had a lot of stress and adventure, moving from purposeless-ness to purposeful-ness. It comes from God. Some people think that's not true. But even they will agree: you're going to need it. They may also agree that the world doesn't make it an easy quest. It's almost like the world is against you.

Some will despise this answer as useless, not utilitarian enough. I have a hard time bothering with any other answer. The asker has raised a serious issue. He or she has to start by "thinking outside the toolbox."

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I already know GTD but maybe I didn't practice it enough or as seriously as I should do. But I don't feel confortable with this system/process. That's why I read ZTD, to check if something more flexible exists and has been approuved by "successful peoples". Maybe, I don't know me as well or my workflow isn't that clear for me to define what's could be good for me... That's why a visual tracking system about productivity could help me: yesterday's night your inbox was at 0 ; today it's at 7: "you've been unproductive today, shame on you". What do you think about that? – Ray Apr 23 '14 at 9:21

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