Do you regularly find yourself wondering what you actually accomplished at the end of the day? Try this simple solution for getting what matters most done first.
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Pam: [00:06] You’re listening to Not Bad Advice where our goal is to offer perspective that helps you improve one aspect of your life at a time.
[00:12] I’m Pamela Lund…
CK: [00:20] And I’m CK Chung.
Pam: [00:22] And we hope that after listening you’ll think, “hey, that’s not bad advice!”
[00:26]You can’t be 100% on all the time. Productivity ebbs and flows like everything in life. But if you’ve been feeling like you haven’t been flowing lately, we’ve got some tips to help you get back on track.
[00:50] The first thing I do when I feel like I haven’t been as productive as I like to be, is to shop for a new planner. For some reason, I’m convinced that if I just get the right planner, I will stay on top of everything and get so much done in so little time.
[01:07] I’m wrong, but this is a pretty common reaction to feeling like you’re falling behind. We want to believe that there’s something external that can solve our problems.
[01:17] And of course, having a good system is important if you’re juggling a lot of projects, but you probably already have something that works for you and you just stopped using it. So instead of looking for something new, when you start feeling disorganized and scattered, think about times you felt you were really on top of things.
[01:36] What was different about how you approached your workflow and the structure of your day, then? Think about what you did differently and start doing that again. That’s it. Just get back to what worked before, if you’ve stopped doing things that you know work for you.
[01:52] But if you don’t have a system that worked in the past, you can try it mine.
[01:57] For me, I know when I get out of my flow, it means that I haven’t been prioritizing my tasks into a to-do list. I’m super productive when I know what to do and when to do it. But if what I need to do, isn’t really defined, or I don’t know what my priority is, I tend to jump around from task to task, never really finishing anything.
[02:18] Or, I work on things that are easy or routine instead of the things that will really move the needle. Then, at the end of the day, I’m like, “what did I even do today?” Because I have nothing to show for the hours that I spent at my computer.
[02:35] So to stay productive. I start each day by looking at everything that needs to be done and picking out my priorities.
[02:41] These are the things that absolutely have to happen today. Or if there’s nothing urgent, it’s the things that will make me feel accomplished at the end of the day. So you can use this system with just pen and paper, or you can use a planner or a project management system. It really doesn’t matter.
[02:58] Whatever works for you is fine. You just need to pick a maximum of three priorities for the day and focus on those first. Three seems to be the magic number of important things that most people can get done in a day.
[03:11] After you’ve got your three priorities identified, put everything else that you’d like to get done on your task list so you don’t worry that you’ll forget something. But don’t get distracted by this stuff. Focus on your priorities first, and don’t let what you could do derail you from what you should do.
[03:30] If you have time left after you finish your priorities, you can tackle the rest of the list, if you want. Or you can use the time for whatever fills your cup so that you can tackle new priorities tomorrow.
[03:40] And if you don’t have time left, you’ve still got your priorities done. And that is what is important.
[03:45] Remember that there will always be more you could do no matter how much you do do. You literally cannot get everything done, ever. You have to decide how much is enough for you, so you make progress, but don’t burn out.
CK: [04:00] Mmmhmm… I like to think about the momentum of productivity along the lines of waves. So as a huge enthusiast of quantum physics, as well as electronic music production, I like to think about things like vibrational motion and sound waves a lot. But, for simplicity sake, let’s use surfers in the ocean, for example.
[04:21] So, obviously, surfers surf in the waves and there’s peaks and valleys. So if you’re in the valley, that’s the low point of the wave. And there’s not much that you can do there as a surfer. You have to wait for the waves to catch up to you.
[04:37] And at the top of the wave is where you can do tricks. And a lot of surfers want to get to the top of the wave.
[04:43] But the thing is at the peaks and the valleys of the waves, there’s no momentum.
[04:48] So obviously at the bottom, there’s not much you can do. You have to wait for the wave to catch up to you. And at the top, while you may want to get there and do tricks, after that, there’s not much that you can do.
[05:02] There’s no momentum. So at the top, there’s no progress. It’s just the peak and you have your trick, and you fall off the wave or come back down.
[05:13] So the most momentum is in the middle of the wave. So. Obviously surfers ride waves and they ride the wave in the middle. Again, if you’re at the bottom, there’s not much movement, if at all. And once you’re at the top, you either fall off or come back down. So you want to stay in the middle of the wave, which is a sweet spot where there’s the most momentum.
[05:38] And you actually kind of want to bring the peaks and valleys closer together towards the middle so that you don’t get knocked out of your momentum too much. Obviously you can hit peaks and valleys at acute instances because variation does help you produce growth.
[05:58] But in terms of momentum, you want to stay in that sweet spot in the middle of the wave.
Pam: [06:05] Yeah, I like that analogy. I definitely fell off the wave when I started shopping for a new planner.
[06:10] And you’re right. You can’t expect to stay at the peak. The peak, by definition, is the point at which you can only go back down or crash down, like you said.
[06:19] So, you have to find the middle of that wave. Which in this case is the realistic amount of work that you can do in the amount of time that you have, with the energy that you have, the resources available to you, and all things taken into consideration.
[06:34] Some days you’ll be able to do more than others. And some days you may not get anything meaningful done. But if overall you’re making progress on your priorities, you’ll stay in the middle of that wave and feel like you’re in a productive flow.
[06:47] And if you fall off of the wave, you can just hop back on. Don’t beat yourself up or go looking for a shiny new system. Just get back to focusing on your priorities and what you need to accomplish to feel good about your progress.
[06:59] Your Oracle card representation of today’s message is the Caiman from the Nocturna deck. A Caiman is basically a crocodile. So they’ve got those big, powerful jaws and sharp teeth, and they can kill just about anything they want.
[07:58] But you don’t see crocodiles thrashing around in the water, attacking everything around them. You see them calmly and patiently waiting to attack, barely moving until the right pray comes near them.
[08:11] If they were frantically attacking every little fish that swam by, they would scare off the bigger prey that they really want. They would waste all of their energy chasing little snacks and never get a full meal.
[08:23] And that’s what you’re doing if you spend your day on low value tasks, that don’t get you closer to your big goals. But with a bit of planning and patience, you can focus your energy on your priorities and get the big kill.
CK: [08:37] That makes so much sense.
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[08:59] If there’s something you need advice about, visit ForcesOfEqual.com/Advice to send us your question, and we may feature it on the show.