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Why “How You Do It” is Not Enough

Why “How You Do It” is Not Enough

I like to optimize my working methods as much as I can. It’s really awesome when I can find even a small way to improve my working methods, thus saving some time while doing so.

One part of this process is learning new stuff about the productivity all the time. My preferred way of doing this is by reading books.

However, sometimes things didn’t work out as I hoped and this happened especially when I was implementing what I had learned in practice.

Naturally, this made me confused and sometimes even annoyed: I had spent time reading and learning something, which didn’t work in a real life scenario.

So the question was: Was I reading the books for nothing, if they didn’t work out the way I hoped?

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“How you do it” is only one part of the package.

What I realized was that I was seeing only one part of the “package.”

You see, I was emphasizing the “how” part of the solution. And although the “how” gives you the step-by-step instructions, it’s not enough: it’s just one part of the bigger picture.

I knew that in order to master a new technique, I also had to change the ways I implemented the technique in my everyday life.

I also realized that I couldn’t just extract the “how” out of the big picture and ignore the other important areas of the technique at the same time.

This would just leave me confused – and annoyed – when something promised wasn’t working.

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Are you too unfocused?

When I started to analyze why something worked and why something didn’t, I finally realized what was causing the unsatisfactory results: the focus.

First of all, my focus was too narrow, when I was just trying to implement the “how.” In the process, I had missed the other critical questions I had to ask myself when implementing the new way of working.

On the other hand, the lack of focus was also the reason why I wasn’t getting the results I was supposed to have: I let the distractions to overtake my concentration and this made it more difficult to implement the learned stuff in practice.

So, now that I knew the reasons – focus which was too narrow and lack of concentration. I had to find a way to fix the situation and rethink my working methods by asking two important questions.

Why it’s not enough to ask “how”?

Instead of just focusing on the “how,” I also had to know the “when” and “where.” I knew that if I was able to answer those three questions, I would be able to implement these new strategies successfully in practice.

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For instance, one of the great productivity techniques is to plan your day and your week in advance. Now, I could be just focusing on the “how” part, but without proper focus – by answering when and where – I wouldn’t be able to do this plan successfully.

If I would just try to do the planning when there is television making noise on the background, my son hanging on my sleeve or my wife talking to me at the same time, it would be obvious that I wouldn’t be successful with my planning.

On the other hand, if I took the time to figure out my “when” (when I do the planning) and “where” (in which physical location I do the planning), I would be more successful and I would be able to see the results that were promised (by a book, blog post, article, etc. …).

You should try this too: don’t just ask how to do something, but also, when and where to do it. This way you are able to see the bigger picture and you are more likely to succeed.

Asking the right questions – step-by-step

With the following steps, you are able to get better results and the time spent on reading a book or a post is not wasted.

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  1. See your current results. If you are not getting the results you want, it’s time to do analysis on what’s going on. Are you focusing on just the “how” part of the solution?
  2. Ask “when” and “where.” By answering to these questions, you are also focusing on more wholesome way than by just asking “how.” For instance, in my daily/weekly planning example, I know that the best results I get are when I plan my week when others were sleeping (during the early morning hours, on Sundays). I also know, that since it’s quiet in our home, I’m able to concentrate well enough on our kitchen table, where my laptop (temporarily) resided. However, you might find other options compelling as well. Maybe your “when” is sometime during the afternoon and your “where” is in the coffee shop, in a library or outside in the nature. Only you can answer those questions.
  3. Avoid the temptation to rush. I know that I’m pumped after I have read a book: I’m ready to put things into action right away! However, this is not the optimal strategy and other factors matter too. In my case, I like to find out the right time and place to implement the stuff I have learned.

You should do this too: Figure out the optimum time and place to implement what you have just read and learned. This way you are getting the best results – without frustration and distraction.

Conclusion

Learning new ways of working is fun. However, focusing on just the “how” part is not enough, you have to find the answers to questions “when” and “where” as well.

This way, you are more successful when implementing the new technique in practice.

Over to you: Do you ask yourself “when” and “where,” when implementing a new strategy in practice?

Featured photo credit:  Young student with thoughtful expression sitting at a desk on some books with tangled lines and symbols coming out of her head via Shutterstock

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Timo Kiander

Productivity Author and Founder of Productive Superdad

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Last Updated on July 10, 2020

How to Take Control of Your Life with Better Boundaries

How to Take Control of Your Life with Better Boundaries

We all have them—those hurtful, frustrating, offensive, manipulative people in our lives. No matter how hard we try to surround ourselves with positive and kind people, there will always be those who will disrespect, insult, berate, and misuse you if we allow them to.

We may, for a variety of reasons, not be able to avoid them, but we can determine how we interact with them and how we allow them to interact with us.

So, how to take control of your life and stop being pushed around?

Learning to set clear firm boundaries with the people in our lives at work and in our personal lives is the best way to protect ourselves from the negative effects of this kind of behavior.

What Boundaries Are (And What They’re Not)

Boundaries are limits

—they are not threats or ultimatums. Boundaries inform or teach. They are not a form of punishment.

Boundaries are firm lines—determined by you—which cannot be crossed by those around you. They are guidelines for how you will allow others to treat you and what kind of behaviors you will expect.

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Healthy personal boundaries help protect you from physical or emotional pain. You may also need to set firm boundaries at work to ensure you and your time are not disrespected. Don’t allow others to take advantage of your kindness and generosity.

Clear boundaries communicate to others that you demand respect and consideration—that you are willing to stand up for yourself and that you will not be a doormat for anyone. They are a “no trespassing” sign that makes it very clear when a line has been crossed and that there will be consequences for doing so.

Boundaries are not set with the intention of changing other people. They may change how people interact with you, but they are more about enforcing your needs than attempting to change the general behavior and attitude of others.

How to Establish Boundaries and Take Control of Your Life

Here are some ways that you can establish boundaries and take control of your life.

1. Self-Awareness Comes First

Before you can establish boundaries with others, you first need to understand what your needs are.

You are entitled to respect. You have the right to protect yourself from inappropriate or offensive behavior. Setting boundaries is a way of honoring your needs.

To set appropriate boundaries, you need to be clear about what healthy behaviors look like—what healthy relationships look like.

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You first have to become more aware of your feelings and honest with yourself about your expectations and what you feel is appropriate behavior:

  • Where do you need to establish better boundaries?
  • When do you feel disrespected?
  • When do you feel violated, frustrated, or angered by the behavior of others?
  • In what situations do you feel you are being mistreated or taken advantage of?
  • When do you want to be alone?
  • How much space do you need?

You need to honor your own needs and boundaries before you can expect others to honor them. This allows you to take control of your life.

2. Clear Communication Is Essential

Inform others clearly and directly what your expectations are. It is essential to have clear communication if you want others to respect your boundaries. Explain in an honest and respectful tone what you find offensive or unacceptable.

Many people simply aren’t aware that they are behaving inappropriately. They may never have been taught proper manners or consideration for others.

3. Be Specific but Don’t Blame

Taking a blaming or punishing attitude automatically puts people on the defensive. People will not listen when they feel attacked. It’s part of human nature.

That said, you do not need to overexplain or defend yourself. Boundaries are not open to compromise.

Sample language:

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  • “You may not…yell or raise your voice to me…”
  • “I need…to be treated with respect…”
  • “It’s not okay when…you take things from my desk without asking…”
  • “I won’t…do your work…cover for you anymore…”
  • “It’s not acceptable when…you ridicule or insult me…”
  • “I am uncomfortable when…you use offensive language”
  • “I will no longer be able to…lend you money…”

Being able to communicate these without sounding accusatory is essential if you want others to respect your boundaries so you can take control of your life.

4. Consequences Are Often Necessary

Determine what the appropriate consequences will be when boundaries are crossed. If it’s appropriate, be clear about those consequences upfront when communicating those boundaries to others.

Follow through. People won’t respect your boundaries if you don’t enforce them.

Standing our ground and forcing consequences doesn’t come easily to us. We want to be nice. We want people to like us, but we shouldn’t have to trade our self-respect to gain friends or to achieve success.

We may be tempted to let minor disrespect slide to avoid conflict, but as the familiar saying goes, “if you give people an inch, they’ll take a mile.”

It’s much easier to address offensive or inappropriate behavior now than to wait until that behavior has gotten completely out of hand.

It’s also important to remember that positive reinforcement is even more powerful than negative consequences. When people do alter the way they treat you, acknowledge it. Let people know that you notice and appreciate their efforts.

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Final Thoughts

Respect is always a valid reason for setting a boundary. Don’t defend yourself or your needs. Boundaries are often necessary to protect your time, your space, and your feelings. And these are essential if you want to take control of your life.

Start with the easiest boundaries first. Setting boundaries is a skill that needs to be practiced. Enlist support from others if necessary. Inform people immediately when they have crossed the line.

Don’t wait. Communicate politely and directly. Be clear about the consequences and follow them through.

The better you become at setting your own boundaries, the better you become at recognizing and respecting the boundaries of others.

Remember that establishing boundaries is your right. You are entitled to respect. You can’t control how other people behave, but you do have control over the way you allow people to treat you.

Learning to set boundaries is not always easy, but with time, it will become more comfortable. You may eventually find that boundaries become automatic and you no longer need to consciously set them.

They will simply become a natural extension of your self-respect.

Featured photo credit: Thomas Kelley via unsplash.com

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