Yoda’s law of productivity

Like many in my generation (and pretty much everyone on the Internet), I got real excited on Friday with the release of the first teaser trailers for Star Wars: Episode VII. I love Star Wars. I immediately watched the trailer three times in a row, then a few more times spread out over the rest of the weekend. (I just watched it again for good measure.) I forced my husband to watch both The Empire Strikes Back and, in what was retrospectively an amnesiac, nostalgia-driven mistake, Revenge of the Sith

One of my favorite scenes in Empire takes place on Dagobah, with Luke whining to Yoda about not being able to lift his X-Wing out of the swamp. Yoda tells him to get his shit together.

“Do, or do not,” he tells Luke. “There is no try.”

This is one of Yoda’s most famous lines, and is a favorite of motivational speakers, sports coaches, and bumper sticker authors everywhere.

Today I want to apply it to productivity.

I’ve written elsewhere about avoiding the word “try” when you set expectations for your workload at the office. Today I’m going to advocate eradicating “try” from your productivity vocabulary altogether.

It’s not just about workload expectations; it’s about holding yourself accountable to your commitments, goals, and aspirations. Yoda was right: when it comes to getting something done, you either do it or you don’t. “I’ll try” is often code for “ain’t gonna happen.” If you let yourself skate by on the back of “try,” you hand yourself a platter full of excuses for why something didn’t get done. 

“I’ll try to write two blog posts a week” gives you so many outs to put other priorities in front of your blog. Committing to what you want to get done and telling yourself “I’ll do it,” rather than “I’ll try,” has a huge psychological impact.

Try it (or should I say, DO IT) the next time you just can’t get yourself to finish (or start) that project you’ve been delaying. If you really can’t commit, maybe it’s just not that important. There’s only so many hours in a day; save them for things you really want to do, not just try to do. 

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