I have been struggling with lack of focus, slow productivity and procrastination for the longest time. Of course I am not the only one and, over time, I talked to many people, read books, took time management classes and listed to podcasts, all in the hope that I will one day find the “cure” to my problems and become a super-performer.
The more I learned about how to be productive, the less productive I felt I was being. My head was trying to implement all the new tools, my heart was taking on new projects (because I would be so efficient with my new tools that I could juggle everything, right?), but the reality would always hit hard: an overwhelming pool of tasks that I do not know how to tackle.
The cost of context switching
And then I came across Gerald Weinberg’s theory on the cost of context switching.
What Weinberg is saying is that when involved in one project, your focus is 100% in that project, but when you are involved in more projects, you loose time by changing focus between them. This loss can add up to 80% of your productivity, depending on the number of projects you are involved in.
At leat now I know where my time goes and that is NOWHERE! Multi-tasking and starting several things simultaneously is not the way of being more productive. It is true that sometimes we cannot avoid it and, in that case, having tools, processes and/or procedures is essential to complete them all successfully and in the less time possible.
Trust the system
Tools and systems have been developed to make it easier for us to keep track of what we need to do and work more efficiently, and yet, so many of us think they can do it (at least) just as well without them.
Here is how I (used to) go about it:
- Using this and that tool takes too long to learn and it costs money.
- Applying this and that model takes too much time, so much administration, what’s the point?
- This process leads me to the same results, why spend time on following the steps?
If you think the same, you might want to keep reading and find out why that is not a sustainable way of working.
Using the tools available out there, like calendars, task management apps etc., it might feel like time consuming and uncomfortable at first. Taking advantage of the technology available today will only help you in the long run because:
- It save you time.
- Allows you to integrate them in different aspects of your life.
- Are shareable.
- Often they provide you with insights.
Finding the right tools for you will require some time and trial and error since it is very personal. Luckily, there are many platforms out there that you can choose from.
I am using To-do by Microsoft (now that Wunderlist will be discontinued) and Google Calendar for my schedule. We have a system at home with synchronized lists and calendars so we can always have a shared overview and speed up decision making.
Learning to apply a model (like the one I taught you in my previous post – Idea Rating Method) and respecting that process from beginning to end can be challenging. It is tempting to think that some steps are not applicable to your situation or take too much time and you have a better method.
I do this A LOT. Freestyling is a way of being creative so it is very much part of my problem solving strategy. While this could save you time and provide you with fast results, it is recommended you use it only when you don’t have an alternative, like in an unforeseen situation. Learn to use models and processes because:
- You will have a more structured workflow.
- You can trace your steps and correct your actions if needed.
- In time, you can improve the processes, making them better for you.
- You will learn to use a common language and communicate better with other professionals.
You might argue that freestyling and processes will lead you to the same point regardless and this might be true (up to a certain point) especially in smaller projects. The biggest difference is that processes can lead you to similar results every time, while freestyling operate highly on chance. Invest the time and learn the right methodology so you can:
- Create a workflow that allows you to replicate successful results.
- Lean on a system that will deliver results regardless of the size of the project or of your disposition in the moment.
- Learn from your performance and improve as you go along.
- Record in a structured way your progress and results.
Creating a system for yourself rooted in methodology and TRUSTING that system, will allow you to take things off your head because you won’t need to keep all the balls in the air alone. It will also provide you with structure, insights and more time to spend on actual work.
The trap of perfectionism
I simply must touch upon perfectionism in this article about productivity because, often times, one (I mean me) hides behind constantly improving and learning before moving on. For example, I pushed myself to work on the We are Entrepreneurs project before I was comfortable in front of the camera, before I had content lined up and certainly before the platforms (YouTube, Facebook and Instagram) were ready. I also push myself to get the videos out without them being perfect as an exercise for me to learn how to move forward before something is up to my standard.
Perfectionism is a productivity killer because:
- Often, only you can tell the difference between your perfect result and the imperfect one.
- It eats up valuable time that you can spend moving forward.
- It does not provide you with new information or skills.
- It builds up your expectations for the impact of the results, often leading to disappointment when the results are not appreciated according to the effort invested.
So far, I have shared with you two methods: the WHY + HOW = WHAT formula and the Idea Rating. Trust the system and follow their steps and you are guaranteed results every time!
Follow Diana at We are Entrepreneurs DK on Facebook or YouTube and you will have access to all the content of my video series regarding the Hackathon and also to other content regarding entrepreneurship, motivation, structure and networking, among others.