The Concept of “Efforting”

When I first started writing about productivity, I was writing it from a position of parody. That’s where Effing The Dog – which later became Eventualism – came from. It was this idea that FTD was a parody of David Allen’s Getting Things Done, or GTD.

But people misunderstood what the “f” in FTD stood for.

Now, I definitely played on that acronyms a little bit. I knew what people thought the F would stand for. But it wasn’t spelled FTD. It was spelled EffTD.

You see, I decided that the “Eff” in EffTD stood for “efforting.”

What is Efforting?

Efforting is the act of making an effort.

Now, I’m not sure if this is a word or not, but back then I didn’t care. I still don’t. If anything, I relish in the fact that it doesn’t exist as a word but probably should.

I believe that we get so hung up in checking off boxes and allocating time to certain things that we miss the ingredient of effort along the way. An effort doesn’t just come from nowhere. It takes time, attention, and energy — and only one of those things happens without us. (Time.)

Energy flows and our body clock definitely plays a role in that. But we recognize when we have high or low energy and when we do – we have a greater command over it than we do of time.

The same goes for attention. While it can be argued – and rightly so – that our attention is constantly under siege, we do have the capability of focusing it more than we do our time. Because in one moment it is one period of time and that period disappears as quickly as it arrived.

When we combine the effort — the ingredients or elements of time, as well as energy and attention, we can release the effort that we are giving to something. And that’s why you’ve heard the phrase ‘A for effort’.

You may not necessarily be good at something. But if you give it your best effort then that’s something to celebrate.

Agency and its Effect on Effort

As you get older, you get to decide more about what you are willing to do and what you are not willing to do. You recognize things that you’re good at. And you see things that you’re not good at no matter how much effort you give them.

I will give you an example from my own life.

Back when I was a teenager, I went on a ski trip with my school. I went skiing on a small slope in Milton, Ontario, Canada. I’m not much of an athlete. It’s not that I don’t enjoy watching sports but participating in them is not my strongest suit.

So, when we went skiing it really came as no surprise to me that I didn’t do so well with it. I tried – putting in enough effort to see what I could do with it (although I will admit that because I didn’t really want to be there my effort wasn’t as strong as it could’ve been) and I did not do so well.

Fast forward to my 47th year. My family wanted to go skiing on Mount Washington. My wife and my daughter were able to ski. However, my son had never skied before but he definitely had a bit more of the athletic elements to him than I did. So we went skiing. We took a lesson and every single member of my family was able to progress through the lessons quite quickly. Except for me.

It wasn’t that I wasn’t great at skiing. There had been very little improvement over my abilities since that school skiing trip.

Here’s the difference: I tried harder. And I tried harder because I wanted to be part of something with my family. I didn’t care as much about whether or not I would enjoy the process more than I did but I wanted them to enjoy it with me. But try as I might – putting in more effort than I did when I was younger – I couldn’t figure it out.

And in the moment where I fell for the umpteenth time going down the training slope, I decided that I didn’t want to put any more effort into skiing. So, I went up the hill final time, took off the skis and returned all the equipment and sat patiently waiting for my family to finish up their lesson. Renew the writings on the wall and they were fine with it. I think they were just happy that I gave it a try.

But in that moment and on that day I decided that I would not put a single iota of effort into skiing again.

No more time. The same for attention… and energy.

Efforting IS a word

And I think it’s a word that is directly related to productivity. Getting things done isn’t the pier measurement of productivity as far as I’m concerned. And giving an effort to everything that you do so that you can ultimately be who you want to be and do more of what you want is important. You can illuminate what you have no interest in pursuing. You can figure out what you are really good at and devote more attention to those things instead of splitting your attention and time and energy across too many things.

Committing your time to something isn’t enough. Neither is committing your energy – at least not on its own. When you commit your attention to something, you’re getting closer but it’s when you combine all three of those things – resulting in a committed effort that you ultimately are committing at the highest possible level.

Without effort, you’re closer to just doing productive instead of being productive. With effort, you’re in a much better place.

Want to explore some of my earlier productivity parody work? Check out this piece on the EffTD version of outsourcing.