Hands up who is constantly buying a new planner, subscribing to a new app or changing project management tools in an attempt to be more productive?
I have definitely been there! I get so enthusiastic about new shiny things – this is the tool that is going to be the game changer. I start off obsessed. Using it constantly. The first flush of using something new. And after awhile, the enthusiasm starts to wane. I’m less disciplined in using my new planner. My ability to get things done feels the same as its always done. It feels like I’m getting nowhere.
It’s disappointing and what’s more it’s discouraging.
Have you been here?
You question whether you’re actually capable of making any meaningful change to your productivity levels. You feel like you’ve wasted money, that you got suckered. Maybe even going as far to question your ability to make choices and soundly evaluate options.
But the problem isn’t you. And the problem certainly isn’t the tool. Here’s how you change the pattern.
Stick With It
If you’re switching tools constantly, you’re not giving yourself time to truly integrate the tool in your life. You’re jumping from one thing to the next, which makes it really difficult to evaluate how effective it is.
When you buy a new planner or app or productivity tool, you do so because you expect certain results. That you’ll feel more organised and less chaotic. That you’ll get more done. That you’ll use your time more effectively. If you chop and change from one thing to the next, you move on before you have a chance for the results to come through.
Part of adopting a new tool is building the new habit. That means realising that you’ll need to stick with it for awhile to start to see results. You don’t see the impact from a new exercise regime after the first class, you need to show up consistently. Implementing a new productivity tool is the same.
READ MORE: Six Simple Tips for Planning Your Work Day
Figure Out What You Need
Sometimes we struggle to stick with using our new planner because it doesn’t match up with functionality we actually need. We see something on Instagram, get super excited about achieving the promised results and don’t stop to think about what our requirements actually are.
What functionality do you actually need? How do you intend to use the tool? What outcomes are you trying to produce? Figure that out and then shop around to see what is the best fit.
So with a planner do you want a day per page or a week layout? Will you do a weekly reflection or monthly? Do you want space to map out hour by hour? Or room for gratitude? How you answer all of these questions determines which planner is going to suit you best.
It’s worth mentioning that less can be more. It’s tempting to try and get as many bells and whistles as possible. But I’ve found this gets overwhelming. I either give up on the planner altogether, feeling like it’s too much of a commitment to use all of the functionality. Or I only use the parts that actually work for me, with a niggling feeling that I’m not getting the most out of it.
Speaking of less being more, if you’ve been adding and adding tools without consciously decommissioning the old ones chances are you’re spending more time maintaining your various planners and time management apps than actually getting stuff done. It’s an easy trap to fall into, that writing to do lists and scheduling tasks into calendars is being productive. While taking time to plan is part of using your time effectively, there is no substitute for doing.
Evalute your tools by considering what feels overwhelming or like a chore. Tapping into your feelings, your gut reaction to using something is a quick way to figure out what needs to go. The tools that add value to your life, will feel fun and easy to use. They were easy habits to implement and even easier to maintain. If you’re a struggling to consistently use a planner, it probably isn’t the right fit for your needs. Time for something new (just be clear that you’ve given a good go and not avoiding deeper productivity problems like procrastination or deep rooted belief of laziness).
READ MORE: Thoughts on Trusting Your Intuition
Build The Habit
I started to touch on this with figuring out what you need but implementing a new tool or planner is the same as building any other habit. A good place to start is to figure out the what, when, where, how, maybe the who and definitely the why.
When are you going to use it? For instance, with a planner do you plan daily or weekly? The night before or the morning of. How are you going to use it? Do you want to be able to carry it around with you (so it needs to be small) or do you want room for loads of notes and ideas (so needs blank pages). Why are you using it? Are you experimenting with time blocking? Do you want to bring more gratitude into your day?
Figuring out exactly what your new habit looks like defines success for you. That makes you more accountable. It also helps you identify any changes you might need to make like clearing room on your desk or waking up fifteen minutes earlier. Even thinking about if you need time to set everything up, input goals, creating structures. Making all of these decisions ahead of time, increases your chances of following through.
Finally consider what habit building techniques do you usually employ? How could they help you here? Accountability. Use reminders. Scheduling. Make a bet with someone that you’ll have to do something embarassing if you miss a day. Do your research to build a strong why behind adopting the tool. Stack the habit with another one. Plan a reward for yourself if you complete seven days in a row. Anything to help you build and maintain momentum so you can realise the full benefits of your new productivity tool.
Successfully Implementing Productivity Tools
In the end, implementing a new productivity tool is the same as building any other habit. Figure out the details, make decisions ahead of time, create a plan for success, choose which habit building techniques will support you.
The great thing is formulating this plan with help you be discerning in which planners, apps or software tools you decide to try. Realising that you only want to spend ten minutes a day on planning may steer you towards something more simple. Deciding you want to be more reflective makes you look for a planner with a monthly checkin. All of this empowers you towards success.
One final piece of advice, have fun! Use stickers and brightly coloured pens. Create a Sunday planning ritual with candles and music. Do whatever you need to to make planning and organising feel as good as possible! If it’s fun, you’ll do it, it’s that simple.