The Working With… Podcast

Why Do People With No Productivity System Manage To Get Their Work Done?

March 9, 2020

This week, why do my colleagues who have no productivity system seem to always get their work done on time and I struggle? 



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Episode 123

Hello and welcome to episode 123 of the Working With Podcast. A podcast to answer all your questions about productivity, time management, self-development and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein and I am your host for this show.

This week we have an unusual question and a question that intrigued me somewhat because I also noticed it. That is people who have no apparent knowledge of productivity systems, to-do list managers, Evernote or OneNote and seem to be able to get on with their work, meet their deadlines and not appear stressed out. How do they do that?

Now before we get to answer this intriguing question I’d like to tell you about an unusual sale I am having. 

I began creating online courses in 2017. I gathered together over twenty years of knowledge, put it all together into a series of courses and began helping people to discover a better way of managing their work, achieving their goals and building a life they wanted to live. I used the knowledge I had gained, the tips and tricks that had worked for me over the years and my own know-how and began my career as an online teacher. 

Well, the time has come to retire some of these courses. I have updated some of them in newer, more comprehensive courses and now my Learning Centre has quite a lot of duplication. 

So, this month I am having a clear-out sale. You can buy many of these older courses for just $10.00 or you can buy them all as a bundle for just $40.00 - that’s 4 courses including my Complete Guide To Building A Successful Life for just $40.00!! 

Don’t worry, these courses will not disappear. If you enrol now or have enrolled in any of them in the past, you will still have access to them via your dashboard. The only change is they will no longer be showing in my course lists. I have also made them all downloadable so you can take them with you wherever you go. 

More details of what’s on offer are in the show notes. There’s a lot of content there for an incredibly low price. So if you’ve been holding back, now would be a fantastic time to pick up a course and start building your own productivity system, goal planning method and so much more for very little cost. 

Okay, it’s now time for me to hand you over to the mystery podcast voice for this week’s question.

This week’s question comes from Matthew. Matthew asks: Hi Carl, I am a regular listener of your podcast and I watch your YouTube channel. I am also an avid reader of productivity blogs to get the latest tips and hacks on productivity but I have a problem. My colleagues at work do not have any productivity system neither do they read or talk about productivity. They are more productive than me and they get a lot done and are not stressed at all.

Is having a productivity system to follow a waste of time or is there something wrong with me.

What a fantastic question, Matthew and thank you for sending it in.

Now my first reaction when I read this question was, yes! I have noticed that too. But then when I began thinking about it and looked at the way many of my language students manage their work I realised that much of what we see is just the surface. We do not see what is going on internally with these people. When I ask my students how they manage their work a lot of them tell me their email determines what they work on each day. Or their supervisor will give them a list of tasks that need to be done. 

What I noticed was that most were managing their work based on what was the most urgent and who was asking them to do the work. They had no plan, no direction and pretty much all of them were not achieving their goals. In fact, almost all of them had no goals. It was a life of work, eat, sleep repeat. 

Often when you operate your life from the perspective of what your boss or your most urgent email is telling you to do, you may appear on top of your work, but the problem here is you are just following the priorities of other people. Your life, your goals and your aspirations never get a chance. It’s a life following orders and when you finally approach the end of your career you realise you have lived a life serving other people’s interests and neglected your own interests. And that’s when regret sets in.

Sure, when we are young we feel we are immortal. We feel we have plenty of time to pursue what we want to achieve and it’s so much easier to let other people tell us what we should be doing. After all, if it goes wrong, if we discover we were working on the wrong thing, then we have someone else to blame. Right? 

That’s true. It is an easier life to let others make all the decisions for you. But if you stop for just one moment and ask yourself is that really what you want for your life? You may find you have your own ideas, your own aspirations, dreams and things you want to pursue. So the question will be when are you going to start making decisions for yourself? When are you going to take responsibility for your own life? 

I’ve been there. I’ve done that. When I first began working full time, I too took orders from my supervisor. But then I was learning the job. I was following the SOP (Standard of Procedure) manual. And although it was slow at first, I was soon able to do my work without a list in front of me. Then when I began working in a law office, the mail came in, it was put in my in-basket and all I had to do was empty my in-basket each day and I was doing my job. 

The problem here is that this kind of work in not fulfilling. Sure you are clearing your in-basket each day, but you are doing nothing for you. You are not developing. You are stagnating. And stagnation is a horrible place to be when you reach 45 years old. 

In Tony Robbins’ early work, he often talked about something called “CANI” spelt C A N I. “CANI” stands for Constant And Never-Ending Improvement” and the idea is every day you are striving to be a better version of yourself. Now, this is hard work, this involves questioning everything you do and asking yourself if there is a better way to do it? How can I improve myself today? 

For your colleagues, who never read or are not interested in self-improvement or productivity they are not asking this question. They are avoiding this question. They are avoiding it because deep down they will be feeling a little unsettled. Questions like “is this it”? Is this what life is all about? Will be coming at them from time to time. 

When we are young, it is infrequent—we still have hopes about a better life. We fall into the trap of if I follow this path that everyone tells me to follow I will be happy. The reality is this path leads to disappointment. Nobody is else is going to make you happy. Only you can do that. And the happiest people I know are the people who have a goal, have a plan and have a system in place that is taking them a little closer to achieving their goals each day. 

So, perhaps on a day to day basis when there are other people telling what to do and where to be, a productivity system may seem a bit surplus to requirements, but having a productivity system in place is less about your daily work and more about keeping you focused on what you have identified as being important to you. 

If all you were concerned about was getting the work that has been assigned to you done each day, then a simple piece of paper and list of those tasks to be done would be all you need. But a fulfilled life is much more than that. Your daily work is a single component of a whole life. You have your family and friends, your hobbies, your health and side projects. All these need your attention and some will be more important to you than others. Having a system in place that allows you time each day to reflect on these things, to prioritise what is important to you right now and have a plan in place for you to follow so you achieve the things you want to achieve is the way towards living a fulfilled life. 

Having a productivity system is not really about getting things done. It does help you there because you can see what needs doing and you can decide when to do it. Having a productivity system is much more about making sure you are working on your priorities and not being dragged off to work on other people’s priorities at the expense of your own. That’s the key. Having a system in place means you can collect your ideas, develop those ideas and build a life for yourself that leads to real happiness and fulfilment. It helps to prevent you from living a life you will one day regret. 

A final bit of advice here is if your colleagues do not have a system and are getting more work done than you there is a possibility your system is too complex. One of the things I preach is to simplify your system and maximise the time you spend doing the work. If you are collecting and giving yourself around ten to twenty minutes at the end of the day to process, review and plan the next day, you should be finding no difficulty in getting your work done with little to no stress. If you are struggling to get your work done and are feeling stressed then the chances are your system is too complex. Look at ways to simplify. Reduce your processing and organising time and find ways to maximise your doing time. 

The goal is to start the day knowing exactly what it is you want to get done and to get started straight away. 

I hope that has helped, Michael and thank you very much for your question. Thank you also to you for listening.

It just remains for me now to wish you all a very very productive week.