I follow them all mostly through being on their email list and it seems I get an email for a new “Ultimate XYZ Journal” product launch every couple of months like clockwork. I get it, and I don’t blame them. Having a great journal or planner that helps you map out your day, week, month, and year makes you not only more productive but much more likely you’ll hit your goals in the first place. A system such as that can really be the cornerstone of your productivity.
However, I sigh a little every time I see something like this because it’s always the same thing:
I’ve found the ultimate formula to achieve maximum productivity and realizing your goals. All you need to do is follow it to get my results!
This is critically flawed because we all work differently. What works well for one person doesn’t work so well for another. There are a variety of reasons this is the case, reasons I won’t get into here because it’s beyond the scope of the topic, but suffice it to say that life and our conditioning make us all different, so we all need to find our own unique combination of strategies, tactics, and tools that work for who we are.
How to Find Your Most Productive Self
Absorb what is useful, reject what is useless, add what is specifically your own.
– Bruce Lee
I have my own planner method I’ve been refining for years. I have my ten-year and one-year goals which I’ve broken down into 3-month micro-goals. I then plan out my week and each individual day by breaking down my current 3-month target to ensure I’ll hit those goals if I hit my daily goals.
I read a lot of books, tried out a lot of productivity and organizing apps and planners, and stacked programs to create unique systems I thought might work well for me. I eventually found a book by the name of The 12-Week Year that has worked great for me and is what I base my goals and workflow off of. But it’s my system. I customized it to fit who I am and what I’m doing.
And that’s the point. There is no one-size-fits-all system that will help you find your most productive self (and me and everyone else at the same time). Sure, most systems will make us more productive if we don’t already have something in place, but I’m really talking to those who have tried several things and might still not have settled on an optimal system for maximum productivity.
So, here’s step one:
STOP searching for the ‘ultimate productivity method and START crafting the optimal system that plays to your needs, strengths, the type of work that you do, and your specific goals.
Make your own ultimate system to find your most productive self and stop being sold on someone else’s optimal system (which may or may not work best for you).
With that out of the way, let’s talk about a simple 3-step process for helping you craft your own optimal system and finding your most productive self.
Step one, get out there and experiment. All these ‘ultimate systems’ and productivity apps might not be perfectly suited for your needs and wants, but they likely include pieces you can take to craft your own optimal system.
For example, as a writer, I use Trello to organize my writing tasks for the week. I then have my Trello connected to my calendar app (I use Google calendar to connect Trello to my calendar app, BusyCal) so that I can see my Trello tasks right there on my calendar which allows me to see the week clearly at a glance along with anything else I have planned and that allows me to stay on track.
I’ve also connected my Trello to a program called Pomello, which is based on the Pomodoro method. Pomello allows me to pull Trello tasks and work on them individually in 25-minute blocks with 5-minute breaks, allowing for the optimal workflow.
That’s obviously very tool-centric, but the same should be done for potential strategies and tactics. What motivates you? Do you keep your goals in your pocket or posted on your wall as a vision board?
Do you write your daily tasks on a planner because the act of physically writing helps you feel more connected to your goals or do you prefer strictly digital because you work all day on your computer? Are you an early riser or does this just not fit with your creative clock and you find yourself doing your best work as a night owl at midnight?
Get out there and experiment and find out what works best for you.
This step is simple, but it happens simultaneously with the experimentation phase. As you’re getting out there and experimenting with different strategies, tactics, and tools you need to actually document the results to make real progress.
Don’t leave this up to memory because you’ll quickly start to forget what you liked and didn’t like about a particular strategy, tactic, or tool. Document how each worked for you, what you liked, didn’t like, and what you thought should be different or could be optimized.
3. Customize (repeat to refine)
As time goes on, repeat these steps to continually optimize your process and find your most productive self. However, in the beginning, it might seem a bit like a hodge-podge with aimless experimentation. Just keep going and, over time, you’ll start to find what works best for you and discover your most productive self.