I have been involved in team productivity for many years, agile business processes, and more recently with personal productivity as it became my desire to go solo, to be my own boss, to create my own business. And these businesses centered primarily around helping others. Online education and motivation for the most part.
And it hasn’t been easy. When I was part of something bigger, with lots of people and teams, organizing people into productive units had a formula, and the number one ingredient in that formula had little to do with the system, it had more to do with what made a good team. At the foundation of that team formula was trust, developing trust and confidence in each other.
So, when on my own, there was no team, who was I going to trust? I certainly believed I could do it, but how would I manage all there is to do without others to delegate work to. So I turned to time management and personal productivity systems. I’ve gotten things done, mind-mapped, eaten frogs, and Kanban carded myself silly.
I really thought the Kanban cards would work, because it was right up my alley, being the basis for all team-oriented productivity systems in which I was expert…I heard about personal Kanban, which sounded perfect…
So, what do I have to show for all that? A heightened awareness of just how difficult it was to get things done and sticking to a method. Focusing on a method and becoming productive seemed to be two different paths.
What I found was that there’s no system or morning routine that would keep me there, and stay productive over a period of time. Eventually the system would fall apart, or more accurately my dedication to the system started to drift, and I’d fall into a slow period, things would pile up until I needed to restart again, and again and again.
You see, the systems are just tools, and they will definitely help you get more things done, just apply the tool and it works, but the system won’t stop you from losing focus, losing momentum and eventually grind to a halt.
I believe I have found the answer, and it has three ingredients that when they come together, will defeat this cycle: they are confidence, caring and faith.
If you ever hope to make any personal productivity system work for you, and to stick to it and grow with it, you need to develop the confidence through seeing tangible results and consistent wins. And just like anything you choose to take on, that doesn’t happen until you’ve developed some skill through habitual and repetitive action.
Confidence comes from a knowing what to expect, and in the beginning a productivity system might promise all kinds of good things, but until you develop the habits that make that system work, that confidence won’t be there to drive you through those tired periods, where momentum starts to drag.
If you understand the nature of building habits, and understand which habits are the ones you need to concentrate on to make the system go, then you have a plan. You know that if you develop these habits, and start seeing positive results build then happen more consistently, then you’ll develop confidence that the system will produce the results you want.
The three ingredients; habits, caring, and faith are not stand alone, they build on each other…so stick with me here.
Creating great habits is absolutely necessary, but you also have to care about what this system has to offer you…the benefits of getting things done, getting your life in order, developing the success you desire. You also have to care about the system itself, and all its parts, as it’s all integral to achieving your goals.
You have to care enough to want to check on your list of to-do’s, care to review your projects, care that developing the habit of certain routines will help clear your desk. You have to want to dedicate the time and effort to become skilled at every part of your productivity system and make it yours.
Let me emphasize how important it is to care about the whole systems, because if you don’t, it won’t work for you. My experience with team productivity has shown this. One area that is often overlooked is the periodic review of your system. In agile methods they call this a retrospective, in GTD it’s called the weekly Review.
This is where you close the loop and find real value in the system, this is where you are focused on making the system better by objectively analyzing what you’ve done and figuring out ways to do it better…continuous improvement. Is there really any other reason to do this?
The loop of productivity goes like this… we plan, we act, and we learn. If we don’t learn, or care about learning, then it all goes to waste.
The learning part is so critical to our success it’s a wonder why so many people completely skip this important phase of their system, usually with the excuse that there wasn’t enough time to do the review, or they simply don’t put the effort into it to get any real tangible results.
You’ve got to care, and so you make the time, you put it in your schedule as important, if not more important than any high priority item in your to-do list. You’ve got to care about all parts of your system and why you are doing it.
And this brings me to the final ingredient, and that’s faith.
So often I’ve looked back and wondered why I didn’t care enough about the projects I was working on, or care to do my retrospective or my morning routine. Why was it that I didn’t keep giving these important parts my best effort, why didn’t I devote the time to it or let myself get distracted?
The reason was because I didn’t have the faith in myself or the system. I didn’t believe that I could sustain the effort needed to get these things done. I didn’t believe that I would follow through, maybe because I have developed a habit of not doing, and getting exactly the result I brought onto myself. But I should have.
So what was the reason, why didn’t I have faith in myself? Why didn’t I have the motivation to see it through?
I believe it was’t my lack of faith, it was that I was putting the faith in the wrong place. I was hoping that the system would save me. I thought it was the to-do list, or their system. Just follow this program and I would simply start getting things done, and everything would be peachy, on my way to the dream.
But that didn’t happen. It had to be me. I had to develop the confidence in myself, I had to believe in myself. This is why I said each of these ingredients build on each other…the habits build confidence, the confidence gives me faith in myself.
So, it shouldn’t matter what system I’m using, so long as I have faith that I can do it. I call it faith because it doesn’t require evidence when you know you can do something, that all I need to do, is do it…and it all starts from devoting a little time to develop a habit.