Do you feel, at this particular moment, that you are producing things in your life at the level at which you want to? Do you wish that you could do the things that you’re doing a little bit better and with a little less stress?
I’ll admit I’m obsessed with productivity, but I still feel this way. I’m still on the quest for ways to do things better and with less stress. I’m always on the hunt for something to figure out how to improve something.
One of the most important things I’ve learned is that thinking about productivity in the space of getting more things done does a disservice to what is possible for your life. It’s the tip of the iceberg in a way. When we’re focused on the quantity of things that we’re doing, we’re not paying attention to if we’re doing the right things in the first place. Yes, we want to produce, but are we producing the right things?
Okay, so what the heck is a productivity system? Let’s break it down.
What is a system? The dictionary definition is “A set of connected things or parts forming a complex whole, in particular.”
Let’s pay special attention to two words, connected things. Things is intentionally vague, but it means more than one thing. And by being connected, they work together.
You may not feel like you have much of a system for productivity, but you do. If it’s not through planners or digital tools, it may just all be in your head. Either way, you have a current set of things you use to do some things.
Here’s the dictionary definition of productivity “The state or quality of producing something, especially crops.”
Okay, you’re not producing crops, but you’re producing things. And this production comes in many forms as we have several roles in our lives – as a business owner, a parent, a spouse, and maybe even an employee still, too.
Let’s put special emphasis on how vague both of these definitions are. Connected things and producing something are not very specific.
Now that we’re a little more clear on about how much a productivity system is up for interpretation, let’s dig into what this all means for your productivity. I think that’s what you’re here for, after all. 🙂
Productivity is about living intentionally rather than living by default
It’s easy to talk about productivity hacks, tips and tricks. They’re pretty sexy. What’s unsexy but even more beneficial is talking about the stuff that lies underneath. Asking the tough questions like “why is this important to me”.
What’s underneath the iceberg is the tough work of identifying what’s truly important and worth our attention. Here we go with the vague things again, but this is absolutely different for every single person.
This is the first way your productivity system is likely broken.
Mistake 1: You don’t know what the purpose of productivity is for you
Is the purpose really to get more done? What would it actually mean for you to get more done? If you’re anything like me, getting more done means adding even more to your to-do list. How is that going to help me be a better wife, mother or business owner? It really won’t because it’s taking attention away from these relationships. If I think about it, I want to do the right things in less time so that I can be present with them and not worried about my ever-growing to-do list.
How to fix it: Define your why for productivity. Answer the question: Why do I want to be more productive?
Define exactly what productivity gives you in life. Think about it as if your productivity system is fixed. This gives you a why and bigger purpose to what you’re doing. What would it really mean to be as productive as you can possibly be? Think outside of yourself too, whose life would you impact by being the best you can be?What would it really mean to be as productive as you can possibly be?
You know how you’re excited to start something new (and basically on top of the world?) It seems like this new goal is going to be crazy easy to tackle. Well, at the time of publishing, it’s June. A few of my goals for the year have already changed and been dropped. It’s totally okay.
I am notorious for falling off the workout wagon. I’m on a search for that why that is strong enough to carry me through.
The goals that I’m still pursuing are the ones that have a compelling why. They’ve forced me to think outside myself and helped me through when the work was frankly tough.
For me, productivity is only a small piece. It’s a tool to enable me to do the important things and let go of everything else so that I can enjoy my life.
Mistake 2: Your productivity system doesn’t incorporate you
There are things that you are good at and come easy to you. There are other things that make your head spin.
I can’t tell you what these things are, because, well, I’m not you. Only you know if the thought of a schedule terrifies you or energizes you.
You should do the things that give you energy and make things easier. If a miles long task list that includes things like “take a shower” and “brush your teeth” because you can cross more things off, DO IT. This used to be me and it worked really well. Especially when my babies were newborn. Taking a shower was a big deal.
I don’t do that anymore because it doesn’t fit my season of life. I don’t want to be bothered by adding those trivial, routine items to my task list.
You need to do what works for you and ignore everything else. Don’t give it the mental clutter.
Again, this is important because making things easy for you will give you a sense of momentum. When you have momentum on your side it makes it even easier in the future to keep on going.
Okay, so there’s you. And then there’s the current season of life that you’re in. I highly recommend diving into this productivity personality quiz to help you get a handle on exactly where you’re at along with some easy actions you can take based on where you’re at.
How to fix: Find your productivity personality quiz
Mistake 3: Your productivity system exists entirely in your head
Okay, we’re women. If we could measure it, I’m pretty sure our thoughts are running at a million miles an hour. The thing is, you can clear some room by getting things out of your head and stored in a trusty system.
Now, don’t let the word system trick you into thinking this is complicated, because a system can be as simple as a single digital tool or a notebook.
There are different tools that are appropriate for the different things you want to get out of your head.
“Your mind is for having ideas, not holding them.” – David Allen
And in our case, our mind has a TON of them.
How to fix: Use a tool to get things out of your head and stored somewhere else. Don’t overthink this.
Mistake 4: You expect productivity hacks to fix everything
Here’s the thing. Productivity hacks are great on the surface, but they ignore something that’s infinitely more important. The part about making sure that you’re working on the right things in the first place.
There is a lot of deeper work that will better leverage your time in the long-haul to give you productivity peace.
Productivity hacks only scratch the tip of the iceberg.
“If the ladder is not leaning against the right wall, every step we take just gets us to the wrong place faster.” – Steven R. Covey
There was a time in my life where I stayed in the office until 2am working on big deadlines for big clients. My oldest son was 3 at the time.
I just figured I should work hard so that I can continue to make some money and not get fired, so that I could provide for him.
The thing was, I didn’t HAVE to give work those precious hours. I barely saw my son during that time. It was brutal and I was exhausted.
I knew I couldn’t go on like that forever. If I did? It would have been the wrong ladder.
I still have natural workaholic tendencies, but I’m aware of it. I can catch myself and keep my ladder leaning against the right wall. I make sure that its a quick season. If I don’t, I burn out, and it’s not pretty.
Productivity hacks ignore the different roles in your life and ignore where those roles fit.
Generally, productivity hacks are all about doing more of all types of things. What happens when those things are “equally” urgent and important? How do you make a decision about which one to go with?
There are seasons where certain things are more important than others. I recently shared with my email subscribers that I tossed my plans to the side. I decided to make a major shift in how I was running my business, and then my grandma passed away.
Know where your business fits in the bigger picture of your life. It’s a tool to help you live the life you want, a life where you can give back to the world. The thing is, you can’t give to the world if you don’t fill your own cup up first.Know where your business fits in the bigger picture of your life. It’s a tool to help you live the life you want, a life where you can give back to the world.
How to fix: Write out all of the major roles you have in your life. Wife, mom, business owner, employee, etc. Place them in order of importance.
This doesn’t mean you’ll ALWAYS make decisions in this way, but it does mean that you have a framework with which to make decisions easier. Depending on the circumstance, something that is normally “lower” may rise to the top for a season.
Mistake 5: Your productivity system is too rigid or too fluid
What’s your first reaction when you hear “make a schedule and stick to it”? I totally go back and forth between loving schedules and hating schedules, sometimes in the same day!
You might feel the same way when you hear “make a plan and stick to it.” Notice what you think about this. Are you naturally repulsed by it, or do you think you’d thrive on it?
You’re probably in one of two buckets:
- You struggle to make that plan or schedule in the first place, so then you’re lost because you have nothing to follow even though you know it’s exactly what moves the needle for you.
- You have no problem making a plan but following through and sticking to it is an issue because let’s face it, sometimes more exciting things come up and you are naturally a bit of a rebel.
Which do you relate to more?
How to fix: Do what works for you and ignore everything else. Different seasons in life may call for different needs. Only you know you.
Exactly how to make this happen
This will NOT happen overnight. But here’s how to make it happen.
- Be brutally honest with where you are.
- Be crystal clear about where you want to go.
- Your next step should be small and still in your comfort zone.
How to decide your next step
You’re experiencing a gap. You have made so much progress. I mean, look at you, you’re running a business! But you know that there could be more. And there’s a gajillion ideas jam-packed right in this blog post about how to improve.
Here’s exactly how to take action on what you’ve learned.
1. Get it all out
Get it all out of your head and onto paper.
2. Decide your needs – what are your biggest areas of frustration?
Weigh the things against each other. Create yourself a scorecard to help make these decisions.
- Goals vs tasks
- Organization vs finding things
- Daily/weekly planning
- Tools and their purpose
- Keep things in one place
- Create a process for something (quick checklist that you can use over and over)
3. Chart your course
What will help you streamline?
I’m telling you this now, you already have everything you need. We often think about being intentional about what we’re doing with our time, but why not take it a step further and be intentional with our system?
Alyssa Smith is a wife and a working momma to 3. She helps other high-achieving mommas do the right things today that make life easier tomorrow. She wants them to be able to do real life guilt-free and without all the stress of raising their tiny humans. She teaches imperfect but consistent action, easy planning and flexible goal setting.