Puff your chest out and strike a superhero pose. You’re Super Productivity Person! Sigh, that’s not very catchy is it?
Also, to be fair, probably neither you nor your consulting firm are achieving legendary productivity day in and day out. You could, though, using the approach outlined below.
Productivity isn’t as sexy a superpower as x-ray vision*, stretchy skin, or spidey senses.*
On the other hand, sky-high productivity feels pretty darn good and rewards you and your consulting firm with high profits, meaningful work, and enviable work/life balance.
So, how do you step up to the Mt. Olympus of productivity?
If you run a quick search on time management and productivity techniques, you’ll surface dozens of approaches. (Hover your mouse here to see some examples.)
It turns out that virtually all of the many, many productivity approaches and systems are built to help you answer a handful of basic questions:
The Basic Productivity Questions
- Are you focused on the right stuff?
- If you’re focused on the right stuff, are you sure you need to do it?
- No, seriously, do YOU need to do it? (Probably not.)
- What on that list of right stuff that you, personally, need to do should you be doing now?
- How are you going to get yourself to do the right stuff now instead of, say, checking your email again, looking up the net worth of Coco Channel in 1969, or playing Hexcell?
Every approach and system that helps you answer those five questions can work. Which prompts a couple of new, more important questions for you and your consulting firm:
The More Important Productivity Questions
- Why are there so many productivity systems?
- Why doesn’t your system work at a superhero level for you or your consulting firm?
Of course, you suspect that the reason there are so many productivity systems is that none of the systems you try actually work consistently and sustainably. And you deserve to know why.
Look, I love you. You read my articles, you forgive my puns, and you occasionally write a comment. So, I’m going to tell you straight. Friend to friend. Writer to reader.
My friend, you don’t always live up to your promises. You’re occasionally unreliable. You say you’re going to consistently implement a productivity program, but after a few weeks or months, you let it slide.
That’s not really your fault, though, because you weren’t pushed to answer the most important, game-changing productivity question of all:
The Superhero Productivity Question
Hey sidekick, where are my strength-boosting tights and bullet-proof onesie?
To become Super Productivity Person, you need a sidekick!
You need to make someone else responsible for your superpowers.
This is the idea I call “Walking the dog backwards.”
Empower multiple helpers to run your productivity system. Assistants, colleagues, automated reminders, phone calls and other external prompts that hold you accountable, encourage you, cajole you and keep you on track.
Once and for all, you and your consulting firm can become paragons of productivity by following two steps:
Step #1: Choose a system. Any system.
Step #2: Appoint a “sidekick” for yourself, personally, and for your consulting firm. Make other people responsible for your discipline. For running your productivity system. For ensuring you’re doing the right, urgent stuff now.
Boom! You’re a superhero before you even count to three.
What time management system do you use, and do you enlist help to be productive?
Text and images are © 2023 David A. Fields, all rights reserved.
Hi David, I use Things to keep track of tasks, and Harvest for time. Love the idea! Any thoughts on how much “sidekick” time one typically needs and/or what sort of person to look for to do this?
Things and Harvest sounds like a good combination. The amount of sidekick time depends on the size of your firm and how much discipline you’re willing to delegate. In five hours a week (one hour a day), your sidekick can create almost unimaginable gains in your productivity.
I, personally, use considerably more sidekick time–I try to delegate virtually every piece of discipline and time management I can. There are multiple systems in place all pushing me to do the right stuff now.
Thanks for your excellent question, Belden!
Hi David, I use the “Peak Productivity Planner” developed by Jari Roomer with Personal Growth Lab. It works well for me on the days I use it… Not so well on the days I don’t… lol
I will be joining a Founders Group through Startups.Com and a part of that is helping each other stay accountable for the key items we need to focus on – using my productivity planner everyday is definitely one of those!
Terrific, Kevin. You’ve making the Founders Group your sidekick. You’ve also provided the perfect illustration of the point of this article: the problem isn’t that your system doesn’t work, it’s that you don’t work your system. Counting on yourself to work the system is an exercise in futility.
I’d suggest you supplement your sidekick. a Founders Group is unlikely to be a strong enough, tactical enough or ubiquitous enough support. Just a thought.
Thank you for providing the excellent case study.
Hey David, this is a fun article. I have tried dozens of systems and yep, none of them worked for me. So I created my own, merging the best of everything I’ve studied. As a productivity and accountability coach, I disagree with turning over my superpowers to someone else or making others responsible for my discipline. I would not want a client who abdicates her discipline to me. That’s way too much responsibility for an outsider. Better to learn what works for you. And have realistic expectations of a productivity sidekick, whether app or human. Cheerio.
Good on you for creating your own system, Judy. That’s exactly in the spirit of choosing any system rather than advocating a specific one.
Yes, since you’re a productivity coach, I’d guess your clients are hoping that your superpower is productivity. It’s a natural superpower for you and turning it over to someone else is a waste of your talents. For your clients, though, any tools and techniques and supports you can give them in their efforts to be more productive (all of which, collectively, are their sidekick) will be much appreciated!
I’m glad you shared your valuable experience, Judy. It’s very helpful.
Like the sidekick idea. I call it accountability partner, but same thing. The problem with too many productivity systems and always being ‘system’ focused is that it spurs the, ‘always saddling up but never riding’ syndrome… you tinker and tinker with your system but wind up only with a pretty system, and not moving the MIT (most important thing) forward.
Whatever you think you can get done in a day, cut it in half.. then cut that in half and you’re probably closer to right. And lastly, you have to really decide whether being more productive means that you have just gotten more stuff done by the end of the day or is your goal to take less time to accomplish the important stuff, leaving time to do some ‘fun’ stuff. I would argue that the first option will lead to more getting done a the high cost of productivity burnout…. choose to allow for some fun, otherwise what are we really accomplishing if we’re miserable at the end.
Great points, Bill. You’re quite right that many people enjoy tinkering with their productivity systems far more than actually being productive. Often, working on your anti-procrastination approach is just another form of procrastination.
To be fair, identifying the most important thing is the the goal of many of the extant approaches, and more than one strive to prevent burnout.
An accountability partner is often the centerpiece of a sidekick. I encourage folks to equip their sidekick with tools and toys, just like a superhero’s sidekick. Timers, devices, prods, exercises–all the little things that help you get more done. And, to your point, your sidekick can tell you when to take a break to go visit a chocolate factory.
Thanks for sharing your insights, Bill.
Thanks for this David. Your blog, in part, motivated me to start using my habit tracker app once again (Habitify is my habit tracker of choice). This time around, I’m actually using the reminders within the app to keep me on track with my daily habits.
Outstanding, Orin. An app can be a great part of your sidekick system. The combination of an app and a human being seems to work best for most people.
Thank you for providing the example and the specific tool, Orin. I’m sure a lot of other readers will be interested in your suggestion.