“Tackle a week’s worth of work in just three days!”
“Prioritizing my work with this app freed up tons of time to spend with my kids!”
“My closet is a dream thanks to this simple organization hack!”
Scrolling through blogs and social media, it always seems that other people get more done. And apparently, they don’t even have to break a sweat!
While it’s helpful to learn from other approaches used successes, the trouble starts when we try to BE that other person and ignore our own reality.
There’s no ONE way to be productive. Anyone who tells you otherwise is trying to sell you something.
Many of my clients have bought multiple productivity and time management books. They read productivity blogs, download scheduling apps, and have even enrolled in courses to improve their organization. When they can’t perfectly implement the advice these products offer, they feel frustrated and guilty for wasting time and money.
The problem is, learning more productivity tips and hacks won’t help unless you can identify what works for you.
I’ve written before on why it's a good idea to be selective about new ideas you attempt. This is absolutely the case when it comes to your productivity strategies.
You are unique. That means you need to keep an individual set of factors in mind to set up successful productivity strategies.
Your productivity practices will be far more successful if you choose approaches that match your individual personality, needs, strengths, and weaknesses. Instead of trying to adapt to someone else’s preferences, here are a few common factors to consider:
Your time horizon is the typical time interval you are able to clearly plan. It varies considerably from person to person, ranging from a few days to a few months.
Some people can visualize time in great detail, efficiently planning months in advance. Others have difficulty planning that far ahead, but excel at flexibility and rapidly adapting plans as needed.
Understanding how you think of time and how much detail you visualize about upcoming events is helpful for customizing your own planning tools. Draw inspiration from those who think differently than you do, but don’t fall into the trap of thinking they’re somehow doing things better.
In fact, there are strategies that cater to both “long range” and “short range” time horizons.
Have you ever read one of those budgeting blogs where they recommend you purchase a year’s worth of household paper goods in January? Or plan meal prep 3 months in advance to take advantage of grocery sales? These are fantastic examples of strategies for those with long-range time horizons.
On the flip side, many large software companies use the agile methodology, a technique that caters to short-range time horizons. This method avoids planning out the entire project in advance, because the plan would have to be completely redone in case of delays.
Both long-range and short-range time horizon strategies can yield great results. But if you choose a strategy that doesn’t match the way you think about time, you’re setting yourself up for needless stress and frustration.
Not every brain is wired the same. If you've found it difficult to organize tasks and time for a while, you may be carrying a lot of negative messages around with you.
For example, people with ADHD frequently hear admonishments and good advice. They are told that "if they just" took some simple step, everything would be easier. This message is unhelpful and damaging.
If all you hear is advice designed for those who think differently from you, it’s going to be a real struggle to implement a system of your own. You’ll feel as though you’ve failed, when in fact it was the advice that was flawed!
Lacking the kind of organizational and productivity ability discussed in self-help books doesn't mean that you are somehow deficient. Those books are typically written by and for people who enjoy thinking in grids and linear concepts and have never experienced anxiety about getting things done. Their advice does wonders for people who think exactly like the authors, but isn’t so helpful for the rest of us.
Before you can move into an organizational structure that works for you, you have to abandon the judgment that there is only one approach that is "right".
Our environment contributes significantly to our productivity as it can cue productive or unproductive habits.
Everyone responds to different cues. For example, a written note on your desk may be a better reminder than an audio alarm on your phone. You may find it easier to complete tasks when you move around, while others prefer to sit at a desk with no distractions.
A client of mine recently discovered she responds better to simple, handwritten notes than the expensive electronic system she set up but rarely used. She felt obligated to use the digital system - after all, it was modern and professional. Wasn’t that what she wanted to be?
Unfortunately, she found herself spending so much time fighting with (and even avoiding!) her digital system that her overall organization declined.
When we discussed this issue in coaching, she realized the fancy system was a distraction and barrier to productivity rather than a useful tool. She went back to her paper note system, but modified it slightly based on what she had learned from experimenting with the digital system to get the best of both worlds.
Exploring what works and feels right for YOUR scheduling and organizing is an important step to arrive at a system that fits.
So here’s the secret to getting more done: stop taking productivity secrets so seriously!
There is no one-size-fits-all approach. Don’t blindly take the recommendations of others. Experiment with and learn from the approaches that work for others to create a system that works for you.
If this is a struggle (and it is for many people!), consider booking a few sessions with a coach to help you sort through your unique set of productivity factors. You’ll be surprised how much difference an outside, supportive presence can be when assembling your systems.
Want to start digging into your ideal organization system? Schedule a FREE 30-minute informational coaching session now.