Hi, this is Garry, welcome to today’s video.

Well, I don’t know about you but I’m busy. I’m always busy. Every time I turn around I’ve got somebody there saying Garry can you do this for me, Garry can you do this. I sit down at my desk and there’s a whole lot of emails saying Garry can you do this.  

It’s frustrating, isn’t it? You feel it as you’re going through the day. You’re getting more tired. You’re getting more frustrated. It seems like all you’re doing is spinning the wheel and you’re getting nowhere.  

You think, well where can I get advice from, you look on the internet. Wow isn’t there an awful lot of sites there that tell you what to do to solve all your problems! You tried them, they don’t help. 

You look at courses. Yes, courses can be good. When I looked at them the nearest course to me was on the other side of the country. A six-hour plane ride, and then it was a week-long course. So I’ve got my flight, I’ve got hotels I’ve got this expensive course. I came out with the course thinking “wow they’ve taught me so much.” I get back home, what do I find, I’ve lost a week whilst I was on the course so I’m even further behind with my work. In the course, we only looked at case studies. I came out of there with no concrete plans. It ended up being a waste of money. I didn’t have the time and I didn’t have the skills and knowledge to make the big changes they were saying that I should do. It was frustrating. 

What we’re going to do in this video is take a quick look at what I’m going to call a system. It’s not a system, it’s a collection of things that you can try to improve your productivity.

So here we’re talking about productivity. But what does productivity mean? 

Let’s go look on the internet. There are loads of different variations. It seems everywhere you go it’s got something different. How I define productivity

“making my life easier by getting the right things done at the right time”

That’s it. Nothing else. Nothing to do with savings. Nothing to do with systems. It’s all about making my life better by doing the right things.  

How do we do that? I know that’s the age-old question, isn’t it? I can’t tell you. I can tell you what works for me. I can tell you about things that haven’t worked for me but may work for you. This to me it’s one of the key things with personal productivity, it’s personal. What works for one person doesn’t work for another.

Prime example, I love lists. Everything I do I make a list so I can tick things off. My wife hates them, she likes to keep everything in her head. That’s fine, it works for her, it doesn’t work for me. My lists work for me, don’t work for her. We have to tune and pick the bits that will work for us and then start to use them. 

What can we do to make our lives easier? There are four things we can either 

  • simplify things 
  • automate them 
  • come up with some checklists for things we do, and, 
  • make sure we’re not reinventing the wheel. This means to find what’s worked for other people and adapt it to our needs. Don’t try and come up with it from scratch.

The key to all this is finding things that work for you. I cannot stress this enough, no one solution will meet everybody’s needs. There are lots of solutions, they’ll tell you the only way this work is you’ve got to go all in. In part this is correct, yes you’ve got to start using a solution. But can you go all in? It’s so different from the way you’re working that you’re not going to get anything done. You’re going to spend ages moving to the new system and find it doesn’t help.  

What I say to people is do not go for these big all-in solutions, you’ll find they don’t work. Yes for a few people they will, but the vast majority of us don’t.

What you need to be doing is looking at making lots of small changes. A small change is easy to do. Plus they soon add up. If you change one thing every day, at the end of the month you’re going to have changed 30 things. That’s 30 opportunities for improvement. It’s easy to make all these changes, it’s hard to keep them up. That’s where I want to help you. I’ve come up with what I’m going to call a system. It’s not it’s a set of processes that will help. The beauty of this is the top-level, that’s the same for everybody. How you do each step you tailor that to your own specific needs.

In these areas, the first one is [[Collect]]. This is where you get things into your system. It doesn’t matter where they come from. It could be on your phone. To me one of the best tools for productivity Sticky Notes. The large ones for big thoughts, the small ones if it’s a single word iIwant to record. If I’m out and about I always carry with me a notebook and pen, so wherever I am I can very jot down any thoughts.

These are not the only place where things come up. Take a look at your everyday life. You’ve got messages. You’ve got messenger apps. You’ve got emails. You’ve got social media posts that may pique your interest. You’ve got various web pages. You’ve got your task management tools.

You’ve got things coming in from all over the place. If you are like I used to be that would soon add up and you’d end up with a pile of unprocessed things. The first step it’s about collecting.

Step number two, I call this [[Think]]. This is where you go through all those items that you’ve collected and think about them.

For most items, the thinking process might take a couple of seconds. For some things, it may be a bit more involved. In this step, you make sure that you understand the item and then start to break it down into things that you need.

So say you’re going to be doing a building project, as part of Think you’re going to then look at it and say “right what do I need for this project to be successful?”. If you’re going to build a door, you need to have wood, you need to have hinges, you need to have screws. It’s pointless starting to build the door until you’ve got everything that you need. This is where you think, so you’re spending that little bit of time to understand what it is you’re doing.  

From this, we move to [[Plan]]. You now understand what it is you want to do. You’re going to break these down into discrete steps that you can achieve.

A good simple example for this is if you’re going to make a cup of tea. I know that everybody knows what to do but if you think about it there’s a whole load of steps that you need to achieve. First, you need to put water into your kettle. You need to put the kettle on to boil. You need to get a cup. Put your teabag in the cup, or tea bag in the pot or even tea leaves, depending on your personal preference. When the kettles boiled pour the water in. You need to leave it to steep. There’s a whole load of steps you need to take and this is where Plan comes in.  

Plan what you need to do. Work out the steps to take and then put them into the order you need to do them.  

It’s pointless putting the water into your teapot before you boil the kettle.

Now we’ve got a plan, [[Action]] is the next step. This is doing the work. Action should be one of the simplest steps. You’ve already done all the thinking, all the planning. Action is using your skills to do the work.

When you finished Action we then [[Review]]. This is a step that a lot of people miss out.

Think about what you’ve done. What went well? What went bad? What can you do differently?

By reviewing what you’ve done then you record it and then you pass the results of that into Collect. You want to capture any changes that you need to make when you do this again in the future.

In the middle of all this, and to me it’s one of the key pieces, is [[Accountability]]. This should be using somebody independent of you.

The idea with Accountability is you’ve got somebody asking you:

  • “Why are you doing it that way?”
  • “Is that the best way to do it?”
  • “Why don’t you try this?”
  • “Why did you miss that deadline?” 

They’re challenging what’s going on to help you to focus and to achieve the result.  

I’ve only very touched on each of these steps. What we’ll be doing over the next few videos is looking in more detail at each of these. There’ll be one video about each step. After that I’ll start looking at techniques that you can use to help you to achieve these. I’ll cover a lot of different techniques. Some that work well for me. Some I have tried and they haven’t worked very well for me, but they may work well for someone else.  

As I said it’s all about what works for you. Finding that and doing that is the first of the small changes. Everything we do it’s about making one small change. Not putting in place a brand new system but making one small change to what you’re already doing. They will soon add up and improve your life and work.

Also published on Medium.