Written by: Nicole Dupuis, Executive Contributor
Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.
One common question I get asked as a Productivity and Leadership Coach is, “Do you have any recommendations for a (system/app/program) that can help me with my productivity?”
Now the short answer could be “Sure!” There are plenty of programs out there: Asana, Monday.com, MindMeister, Evernote, and Notion. However, my answer to this question is typically, “No.”
When we struggle with time management, organization, and efficiency, adding another program to check or learn, another app to remember to update, another system to mentally process, just adds to the overwhelm, distraction, and lack of focus. When someone needs help, prioritizing for example, it is more beneficial to subtract, not add. Supplementing with another app to check daily on his/her phone is not the answer, but rather finding what can be removed from his/her daily system so that the priorities are clear and streamlined.
The idea of downloading a new app or program to help with productivity is not unlike the theory of buying a whole new workout outfit to motivate a person to hit the gym. The idea is we will be excited about wearing the new outfit; about how we will look, feel, and what it represents. That will be enough for us to get out of bed in the morning and drive to the gym.
And it works! It works... temporarily. Eventually, that workout outfit looks (and smells, I might add) much like all our other fitness gear. It doesn’t have that new and shiny energy radiating off of it. So then what? We need something else more sustainable when those new running shoes don’t give us the boost they used to.
Same with productivity systems and platforms. We need processes that work with or without the new and exciting app so when we no longer see that new platform as a fun way to engage with our productivity, our routines and habits persevere.
Here are some suggestions for overcoming common time management roadblocks that you can try before investing time and energy (and money perhaps) in a new application or program:
If you procrastinate
Defining the smaller steps that make up the task. Usually, we procrastinate on things that appear very time-consuming, difficult, and an energy suck. And a lot of times we aren’t wrong. But to stop pushing it off, leading to feeling pressed for time when the looming deadline arrives, breaking up a large task into its components can help us focus on the pieces rather than the whole overwhelming pie.
If you have a presentation coming up in two weeks and you don’t want to procrastinate, define all the steps you need to take to prepare for that presentation (i.e. draft up slides, write up an outline of talking points, share draft with your boss, practice presentation, etc). Then decide on a shorter deadline for only one component. Write up a tentative outline by the end of day tomorrow as an example. Moving through each step on its own helps you feel accomplished and helps you focus enough to make progress on those overwhelming tasks.
If things don’t get done each day
Pause and find out why. If certain things are not getting checked off the To-Do list, there are numerous reasons why they might not be getting done. And the answer isn’t, “I must be bad at time management.” There is a deeper reason why things don’t get completed and it is important to get to the root of that problem.
Is it that you have too much on your plate and need to delegate? Is it that you set unrealistic expectations each day and need to drill down on a shorter To-Do list? Is it because you are avoiding certain tasks and procrastinating (see above)? Or is it because you don’t have a plan of attack for certain items (don’t know when you will get to it or what you need to complete it)?
Once you identify what is getting in the way, you can start to problem-solve. And another shocking reason that something might not be getting accomplished on your To-Do list could be.
...it just doesn’t need to get done. That’s right. Sometimes the thing we set out to do, might not actually need to get done or need to get done by us. Perhaps this task is not important until next quarter, or one of your team members is better equipped to tackle it, or you just don’t see the value in doing it. It is not laziness or avoidance in this case, it is being clear on purpose and determining (and eliminating) what does not align with that purpose.
If you feel unorganized, try
Creating a beginning-of-day and end-of-day routine. Routines can literally be minutes, maybe even seconds long, but they are things you do each day at the start and end of a work day.
At the end of the day, it can be really helpful to review the day and acknowledge wins, as well as notice what didn’t get done and find time the following day or days to address those tasks. This incorporates affirmations (acknowledging wins) and planning (prepping for the next day).
At the beginning of your day, it can help to set your priorities for the day, set some small goals (these can be personal or professional), or do something like a gratitude list or read a chapter of a book. Putting yourself first gets you in your “best self” headspace before all the emails and Slack messages and updates take over.
If stress takes over, try
Stepping into action. Stress can be very useful. It is energy that we create and it can either fester in our bodies, causing physical and mental symptoms, OR it is energy we can use to fuel our actions.
If stress tends to move you into a state of freeze (inaction) or flight (avoidance), it could be time to use the energy generated from the stress to fight! And by fight, of course, I don’t mean asking your boss to step outside (although... ), but rather moving into an actionable state.
Stressed about a deadline? Try creating a timeline for your prep work to meet the deadline. Stressed about a meeting? Ask for an agenda so you can be prepared or gather some updates on your team’s projects. Stressed about your next house project and how much it will cost?
Reach out to people who have done a similar project or ask for referrals and get quotes.
Stress has less wiggle room if you are already using it to move forward. Suddenly the unknown outcomes where stress likes to linger are more known because you have pieced together what needs to be done and are already in the process of doing, rather than ruminating.
At the end of the day, if an application or program is still on your radar, there is absolutely nothing wrong with using the advanced tools that exist to support time management and productivity. The goal is to feel empowered to find solutions within you first, so you can be more strategic with the resources you may need.
Let’s connect! Check out my website, or connect with me on Instagram or LinkedIn.
Nicole Dupuis, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine
Nicole Dupuis' coaching background started in the financial industry where she first discovered the art of tackling topics such as confidence, communication, goal setting, and time management. Nicole's coaching encourages clients in self discovery and exploration, guiding them to the most impactful action. Nicole coaches leaders in Fortune 100 companies, and small business owners in industries such as finance, tech and marketing. She has clients in over 5 countries and her company, Find Clarity Here, prioritizes finding clarity above all else.