Not Getting Things Done is Also Productive

A while ago, I read (and really enjoyed) a book called “Busy” by Tony Crabbe.  So when I had the opportunity to hear him speak at the GTDSummit (Getting Things Done Summit) recently, I was absolutely delighted.  Tony is a business psychologist and author who have worked with many household name brands over the years.

This is my summary of his talk in Amsterdam at the Getting Things Done Summit.

Strategically Not Getting Things Done

Tony’s talk reframes ‘high performance’ for the digital age. The true spirit of ‘Getting Things Done’ is not about execution, but rather about impact. In an exponentially changing world, impact requires a massive acceleration of insight and innovation. This only happens when we create space for strategic unproductiveness. The paradox here is that to get things done in the future, will increasingly require us to practice the art of not getting things done, strategically.

Tony shared a story:

The king at the time wanted to reward the inventor of the game of chess. The inventor asked for grains of rice equal to the amount of squares on the chessboard but doubling the amount of grains with each square. The king agreed. The value of this amount of rice today would be around 200 trillion Euros which is 3x the worth of the global economy. 

This illustrates the problem we have today: We mostly think about the world as linear while there are in fact exponential factors at play. 

We also think that this should automatically mean that productivity goes up but to the contrary it has actually flat-lined. The cause is the way we think about productivity and conceptualise it.

In a linear world increasing efficiency improves productivity. But in a digital world “adaptation” is the biggest problem. Therefore, we need to broaden our view of productivity. As an analogy to the digital world: the 0s are just as important as the 1s. Doing something is just as important as not doing something. Consequently, we might be adding more value when we are staring out the window. 

Strategically not doing things will help us to get more things done.