Treat the root cause, not the symptom

When we fall sick, we go to a hospital. Doctors ask questions to understand how we feel and based on our symptoms, they make a judgment and recommend a course of treatment. Doctors never try to treat symptoms though. Instead, they treat the root cause: the disease. If you complain of a persistent headache, the doctor doesn’t give you a painkiller and send you on your way. This is because they understand there are many things that can give you a headache. They try to find out what that thing is so they can cure you.

Tree with deep roots
The true problem might lie deeper than you’re looking

In personal productivity, we face challenges all the time yet how many times do our solutions treat symptoms instead of the root cause. Have you ever:

  1. Opted to put on noise cancelling headphones instead of finding a quiet working space?
  2. Blocked time for deep work but never informed your boss so they can be supportive?
  3. Invested in a new, flashy software that promises to solve all your scheduling and task management issues instead of improving your basic project management techniques?
  4. Lamented the poor productivity and results in your organisation but don’t work on the projects that matter and play to your strengths?

I could go on and on but hopefully, you get the picture by now. Sometimes, we fail to analyse the root causes of poor productivity and try to seek a quick fix. It might work in the short-term but long-term, it’s the equivalent of trying to treat a gunshot wound with a painkiller and a bandage. Eventually, someone has to extract that bullet or you are going to die.

What is your most vexing productivity challenge today? What have you done to solve it? Is your solution addressing the true problem or is it merely a workaround to get you through the next few hours?

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