You need to know your own productivity style because there is no one-size-fits all approach to any tool, strategy, or framework that helps you magically be at peak productivity all of the time.
Instead, productivity is always an ongoing progress. If you understand what works for you or not, then making adjustments is easier.
There is a sense of self-frustration around productivity. Have you ever experienced this: a new productivity tool claiming to be “The One” comes out and you go through what I like to call “New Tool Honeymoon”. In other words, for the first 1-2 weeks everything is well and you finally feel like you have your life together.
And then suddenly you don’t.
The novelty wears off and you start dragging yourself to use the thing and eventually you stop using it and you’re back to square one.
You feel me?
Do this enough times over the course of a lifetime and you’ll start to think, “No wonder I’m frustrated.”
And it’s not your fault. Popular articles attempting to give productivity advice always misses this key aspect:
Context. Is. Key.
Here’s the problem with most content dissecting “successful people’s” productivity systems and routines: there’s a complete lack of context.
And so, we try to filter and apply these techniques thinking that it will help you. We try our best to fit ourselves into this mold. But what doesn’t get talked about is the importance of how we fit ourselves into that mold.
In focus group discussions, or even in coaching sessions I have with clients, there is a struggle conform to a specific definition of productivity. Unfortunately, it’s the outdated notion that productivity = more output.
But as knowledge workers, entrepreneurs who have control of more than 60% of their time, productivity should not be about doing more without being purposeful about it.
But people don’t know how. And that’s because we like to talk about the trophy of having output to show off, but rarely do we see the trials before the trophy.
Productivity is dependent on lot of factors. Culture, environment (physical AND digital), responsibilities, finances are just a tiny fraction of it. This is our personal productivity context.
When we try to copy someone else’s routine, we don’t see how that person lives.
Have you ever read those articles about you know, billionaire habits, or the perfect morning routine, et cetera, et cetera? And while those are really good models, to see, to do research, to try and emulate what we lack the information that we lack, when we try to apply these sorts of things for our own lives is the fact that we don't know the context surrounding these routines.
And so we try to wake up at 5am we try to do yoga, we reflect, we drink bulletproof coffee, we do time blocking task, batching etc without really knowing how does this person live? Like what are their negotiables and non negotiables in life? Do they work alone? Are they a student? Do they have kids? How many businesses do they have and how many people are they able to delegate life to because without understanding the context, which is everything I've mentioned, then we will try to fit ourselves into their mold without understanding the difference between our lives and theirs.
You can try doing Benjamin Franklin’s morning routine, attempt to be part of The 5AM Club, or take a bulletproof coffee for improved brain performance all you want…
But if you keep trying new routines alone, you will never get it right.
The key is understanding your context, and thinking about it as a system.
Your context is different from mine. How we usually deal with it is by asking people who are in a similar situation (e.g. fellow parents asking parents, graphic designers asking fellow designers, and so on). I get it, this is why we ask each other for tips on how they get things done.
The issue is, if we stop there and try to do what they do without looking inward and examining our own lives, we will inevitably fail.
Do this enough times and it starts to feel like we’re either lazy or hopeless.
The truth is that YOU are not the problem, the systems you have in place are. Perhaps they don’t work. Or maybe, they just need a bit of tweaking.
But you won’t know unless you understand the context of what someone does and why someone does it. AKA, the background details.
Always view things in context. And you can’t view the entire context of what you see online.
You can only see your own.
You are always free to use someone else’s tips, and do what works for them. AND THEN, develop your own filter. Use it to tinker with your own productivity system and types of tasks you deal with regularly.
There’s always an itch to search for that one thing that will that will help you fix your productivity, thinking that it will change your life (”I’ll be unstoppable — if only I can get the laundry done on time)
There is no one fix. It is an ever changing, ever progressing journey.
I have a guess. You categorize yourself as either a logical, analytical person, or as a creative, emotional person.
But that is false. Logical thinking and creativity are not opposites, the same way that you do more emotional thinking but can also be analytical.
These are not discrete, separate choices where you’re either one or the other. Instead, it falls on a spectrum. We label ourselves based on which end we lean towards.
You’re not logical or creative, you’re logical leaning or creative-leaning
It’s like mixing colors. Imagine mixing blue and yellow together. You’re not all blue nor all yellow but more like are you a bluish-green like the seafoam by the shore, or are you yellow-green like a crisp, bright apple in fall? That’s how it’s like.
The trick is knowing where you lean, and then balancing it out with the other type. This makes your productivity fluid and flexible.
And we like flexible, because life is unpredictable. that you don't have time to play around and be more creative because creativity is sparked in moments where you have a lot of time to think for yourself and that usually means having time that is not scheduled with any meetings or other commitments at same time.
Creative-leaning types can definitely benefit from structure. It’s been scientifically proven that constraints make us more creative. This is why prompts are so effective, and having the freedom to do anything we want on a blank page gives us writer’s block.
At the same time, Logical-leaning types need to add in a factor of the unknown — a buffer of some sort without any structure. This helps the brain relax, tapping into your creativity.
This is (part of) the reason why we have so many great ideas in the shower.
Let’s say you forced yourself to do time-blocking and really strict scheduling (because scheduling and time-blocking are not the same) — that is going to result in frustration instead of freedom. You’re not supposed to force yourself on anything. Sure, it’s worth a try, but when you’ve persevered and it’s not working, it’s either one of two things:
And both are okay.
It’s okay if at this moment you think it’s not your style. Natural inclination plays a big role in the kind of productivity strategies you’ll want to explore. After that, identify blockers and be self-aware of your own life and it’s system while trying to incorporate a routine. While an unhealthy habitual pattern is hard to break, it’s possible by being more purposeful.
Your energy level plays a big part in this balancing act as well. Action plans need to be tempered by energy management. Truth be told, I like to talk about energy management more than time management because I believe the latter doesn’t exist :)
And lastly, maximum productivity looks different to everyone. What’s important is knowing what good looks like for you, and knowing your natural productivity style.
Think of productivity as a very big part of self discovery and personal development. Because you cannot try to be more productive without uncovering some other aspects of your life because productivity is a result of whatever systems that we have.
Whether that's personal or business, you cannot isolate productivity from who you are, what you do, and where you operate, whether digitally or your analog environment. It’s not just about task management. Even aspects we think have nothing to do with productivity, like sleep patternss can affect it!
You know, you don't have to do time blocks. You don't have to prioritize your To-Do lists. If it works for you, and you're being as productive as you want to be, then why bother?
You don’t have to do more.
Weird, I know, coming from a productivity consultant.
But if you're able to do everything you want, then why force yourself to do more? To “realize your potential”? To “change the world”?
Love, when the opportunity is there to realize your potential and to change the world, it will come as naturally as breathing to you. You don’t have to force it if it’s not there yet.
I give you permission to not do time management the way you see Youtubers do it. I give you permission to do productivity the way that it works for you. There’s no single productivity framework that covers every person.
I give you permission, hoping one day you give yourself permission too.
And at the same time if you feel like if you don't plan, everything, you feel like your life is going out of control. I also give you permission to let go.
Whether you have a task list or not, I need you to know that your worth is not determined by what you do or don’t do.
Because often times I find that the things we don't schedule gives way to a lot of breakthroughs that we otherwise wouldn't have gotten if we just really stuck to by the book, like by the schedule.
Super structured or structured kind of thinking and there is freedom in realizing and being okay with the fact that we are not God and that we do not have control over everything. And it is very freeing to know that it's okay.
A one-size-fits-all approach is overrated, make your own productivity system.
Because productivity is for humans, not robots.
Do you agree? As a productivity expert my approach to productivity has always been human-first. If that’s your kind of jam, stick around and subscribe to my newsletter.