Why you should STOP listening to all that Productivity advice!
Have you ever felt confused by conflicting advice from productivity experts?
I read one article that talks about how Richard Branson recommends getting up at 5:00 AM to exercise and organize the day. I also read that Tesla CEO and billionaire Elon Musk reportedly pulls all-nighters and sleeps on the floor in front of his desk to maximize productivity. Then, I read that Apple’s Tim Cook proudly claims that he gets up at 3:45 AM to get on top of his email, but the world’s wealthiest man, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, advocates a good night’s sleep and a leisurely start to the morning doing what he calls, “puttering” until he’s fully up to speed around 10:00 AM. Do you wonder what works best?
In his Getting Things Done© (GTD) system, David Allen professes the need for organizing your to-dos by context, or the environment where you will execute them. It makes perfect, logical sense, right?! So, you follow his steps and implement his system, and at first you’re inspired! But after weeks of struggle and good intentions, it falls apart. You feel like you’re back to square one.
Overwhelmed by the growing volume of unfinished projects and incomplete to-dos, and another system you can’t seem to maintain.
So, you search YouTube© for productivity help and stumble upon a great video that explains how to use a bullet journal. It’s creative, it’s flexible, and it looks like the answer to your prayers! But a month later, and that perfect bullet journal your created is MIA and you’re not back at square one, but even further behind than you were to start! (Is there such a thing as negative square one? I say that there is, because I know I’ve been there!)
So the solution must be to go electronic. Surely that will be the ticket! You take a trip to your favorite office supply store and stock up on desk organizers to control the paper clutter, a new scanner, and maybe drop a chunk of money (and time and energy) on an electronic system with Evernote© and a Digital Calendar (or some other apps) at the center.
At first, that new system is exciting and interesting and you’re all in! You’re committed to making this one work. You really, truly believe that things are going to be different his time! Your commitment and your enthusiasm and your intentions are unwavering. This is it! This is “THE ONE”! You’re finally getting “it” together once and for all. You’re finally going to take control of your calendar, manage your time effectively, and make your to-do list your servant like you know you can.
But I know how this movie ends. I’ve seen it before, and it’s a tearjerker. Heart-breaking, really!
One thing is for sure… You’re definitely not alone in your quest for the “best” system, tools and strategies! For more than a decade, I’ve helped professionals who struggle with procrastination, disorganization and poor time-management learn to accomplish what they intend and take control of their time so that they can consistently perform at the level of the abilities and have even more time, energy and money for what’s most important to them.
They don’t get there by plugging themselves into someone else’s system. They don’t get there by watching YouTube videos or reading productivity articles by experts. Yes, some people make it look easy. Some people find that “out-of-the-box” system, plug themselves into it, and they’re good to go indefinitely.
Other people seem to get lucky and stumble into something that works for them. (You know that expression, “Even a blind squirrel gets a nut once in a while”?)
But so far, you feel like a nutless, blind squirrel!
The truth is that very few of us are consistently successful by simply plugging ourselves into someone else’s system or way of doing things. Yes, we may find something that works for a little while, but not for the long haul.
So what do we do?
We blame ourselves. We call ourselves undisciplined. We believe we lack the willpower and determination it takes to be consistent, and we feel ashamed.
But here’s the cold, hard truth…
It’s not you. It’s the system!
If your productivity and performance at work or at home isn’t at the level of your abilities, it’s because you haven’t created YOUR system. You haven’t created a system that works with your natural strengths, your natural tendencies, your natural rhythms of focus and energy, how you process and organize information and the things around you naturally. You haven’t created a system that falls in your “sweet spot” of structure—enough structure to support you, but not so much that it stifles your or makes you feel resentful. These are the things I call your Unique Operating System, your “UOS”.
Trying to make someone else’s system work for you is like trying to run a program that’s designed for an Apple Mac© on a Windows PC. It doesn’t work!
You were born with what you need to be successful. Deep down, you know it. You know your potential far exceeds the way you show up every day, and what you do (and don’t do). When you’re in tune with your natural strengths and tendencies, when you’re in tune with how you work best and not focused on how you or other people think you should work best, it all gets easier.
You really can become the master of your time, accomplish what you intend, perform according to your abilities AND have a life with the time and energy for you value most. Your family. Your friends. Your community. Your faith. Your interests. Yourself.
It really doesn’t have to be so hard!
So, look around and take an objective look at what’s working and what’s not. What’s working is the key to overcoming what’s not.
Food for thought…
Share your favorite productivity tools, systems and strategies below!
As always, thanks for reading!
Lynne Edris, ACG
Productivity Coach for Professionals
This sounds good in theory, but how do I go about designing my “UOS”?
Hey, Ted! As you know, that’s what we do in coaching. It starts with fostering self-awareness: really getting clear on your strengths and what’s already working for you (or the client), how you process information, your character strengths, etc. I have different exercises and assessments that I do with my clients, as I would assume you do with yours and, of course, a well-trained coach is expert at asking the right questions, too! Understanding your “UOS” (essential what are our unique strengths) and looking at your challenges from a strength-based perspective is the essence. When you design your systems, tools and ways of doing things around your “UOS” (or what comes most naturally and most easily to you), they’re more sustainable and it’s easier to be consistent. Make sense?
I seem to come to life about 7:00 pm, 1.5 hours after I get home from work. However, I end up going to bed late because I’m scampering around trying to get something done, which result in my oversleeping (constantly hitting the snooze button), because I’m NOT a morning person.
I feel defeated at times.
Hang in there, Monica! I know it’s hard. It can be a vicious cycle, can’t it? Do you have good routines/systems in place to make your evenings more productive (earlier) and your mornings easier for you?
What I’ve learned over the past two years is the importance of practice. There is no magic tool that does the work for me. 20 years ago I got a calendar because I was always missing appointments. I was still missing appointments. I started putting appointments in the calendar. I was still missing appointments. Finally, as a last resort, I started looking at the calendar several times a day. That’s when the calendar started working for me.
It’s as much about developing new habits as it is about discovering the right tools.
You are spot-on, Bert! There’s no such thing as a magic tool. Once you get those behaviors down, specifically what tool you choose is just a matter of convenience.