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A magic wand for productivity!

by Cat Moon

Just kidding!

There is no magic wand. (Sorry.)

Not to say that I haven’t looked for one. Who hasn’t?

To wit, the first question asked in a Start Here Office Hour Webinar: How do you stick with a productivity system? (Because we all adopt them and start off gung-ho and ready for mind-bending results. And then … )

I answered the question as best I could in the moment. (To find out how, you can watch here.)

But I’ve been thinking about it a lot since because it’s a question that comes up often in conversations with lawyers when we start talking about designing workflows, processes, and systems.

It all starts with how an individual designs her workflow — how she gets work done.

There are a lot of ways to do this. Some ways work better for some people. You likely will have to try some different ways to figure out what works best for you.

If your issue truly is sticking with a productivity method long enough to figure out if it’s even working, I offer a few suggestions. Maybe one will help, even if it’s not a magic wand?

JUST STICK WITH IT.

Commit to doing whatever it is you’re trying to do to be more productive for at least 30 days. Consistently. So spend a little time on the front end figuring out what consistent means relative to the method you're using, and then just f*cking do it. For 30 days. No excuses. Use Jerry Seinfeld’s method and put a big X on your calendar for every day you do it. And if you hit 30 in a row, then treat yourself to a thing or experience you enjoy.

And afer you've rewarded yourself, spend a few minutes assessing your work over the past 30 days to figure out if you really were more productive. Ask yourself, "Is this working?"

GET A BUDDY.

John pointed out in our webinar that having to be accountable to someone else often helps us stick with whatever it is we’re trying to stick with. In this case, it’s uber-helpful if you can find someone who is already using the method you want to use and ask them to help hold you accountable. Bonus: they can also share wisdom based on their experience.

FIND THE (MOST) RIGHT METHOD (OR SYSTEM OR WHATEVER IT IS YOU’RE USING TO BE PRODUCTIVE) FOR YOU.

I say (most) right because pretty much every system that was designed by someone else won’t be perfect for you. Well, except maybe time-blocking (because it’s so simple). My point is that you should consider spending some time on the front end to figure out if what you’re going to try will be a good fit for you. This is especially so with tech tools (productivity apps). If you’re going to use an app to help you be productive, it should have an interface that is intuitive and pleasant for you to use, for instance. And without a steep learning curve, unless you want to invest a lot of time in learning how to use the tool ...

 

Bottom line: if it’s a place you don’t enjoy being, you won’t go there. (This is often how I feel about Trello, even though I love the idea of it. Aesthetically? It does not please me.)

 

This also applies to systems. If you’re going to jump straight into Steven Covey’s method of time management, you should spend a little time and self-awareness to figure out if you want to actually do what is required. My observation: the #1 reason people don’t stick with a productivity system is that it’s simply a bad fit for them.

 

PUT PROCESS BEFORE TECHNOLOGY.

I’m a big advocate of starting small. For instance, if you’re not managing your time well (or at all, because you’re always in reactive mode) and/or you don’t have any method for prioritizing, I don’t recommend you jump right into using Kanban. First, you need to get control over your time. Then, you need to understand what prioritizing looks like, for you. And then you can try Kanban. (Simply MHO, and based on using Kanban and teaching it to others for almost 10 years.)

 

And you definitely shouldn’t adopt technology to manage your productivity before doing the fundamental process work first. The bottom line: deciding to use Asana (or any other platform) and dumping all of your tasks into it isn’t going to help you at all if you aren’t managing your time or prioritizing those tasks. Because the technology can’t do either of those things for you.

 

(I love Asana, by the way, and use it to manage my workflow. But that’s only after I actually created and adopted a workflow.)

 

For me, productivity is about doing small, intentional things to create space for meaningful work in your day. And protecting that space. And then not letting work creep into the other things that are even more important in life.

 

So maybe the magic happens when we align productive work time with the more important things in life? Hmmm ...

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