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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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Last Updated on March 13, 2019

How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

Have you gotten into a rut before? Or are you in a rut right now?

You know you’re in a rut when you run out of ideas and inspiration. I personally see a rut as a productivity vacuum. It might very well be a reason why you aren’t getting results. Even as you spend more time on your work, you can’t seem to get anything constructive done. While I’m normally productive, I get into occasional ruts (especially when I’ve been working back-to-back without rest). During those times, I can spend an entire day in front of the computer and get nothing done. It can be quite frustrating.

Over time, I have tried and found several methods that are helpful to pull me out of a rut. If you experience ruts too, whether as a working professional, a writer, a blogger, a student or other work, you will find these useful. Here are 12 of my personal tips to get out of ruts:

1. Work on the small tasks.

When you are in a rut, tackle it by starting small. Clear away your smaller tasks which have been piling up. Reply to your emails, organize your documents, declutter your work space, and reply to private messages.

Whenever I finish doing that, I generate a positive momentum which I bring forward to my work.

2. Take a break from your work desk.

Get yourself away from your desk and go take a walk. Go to the washroom, walk around the office, go out and get a snack.

Your mind is too bogged down and needs some airing. Sometimes I get new ideas right after I walk away from my computer.

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3. Upgrade yourself

Take the down time to upgrade yourself. Go to a seminar. Read up on new materials (#7). Pick up a new language. Or any of the 42 ways here to improve yourself.

The modern computer uses different typefaces because Steve Jobs dropped in on a calligraphy class back in college. How’s that for inspiration?

4. Talk to a friend.

Talk to someone and get your mind off work for a while.

Talk about anything, from casual chatting to a deep conversation about something you really care about. You will be surprised at how the short encounter can be rejuvenating in its own way.

5. Forget about trying to be perfect.

If you are in a rut, the last thing you want to do is step on your own toes with perfectionist tendencies.

Just start small. Do what you can, at your own pace. Let yourself make mistakes.

Soon, a little trickle of inspiration will come. And then it’ll build up with more trickles. Before you know it, you have a whole stream of ideas.

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6. Paint a vision to work towards.

If you are continuously getting in a rut with your work, maybe there’s no vision inspiring you to move forward.

Think about why you are doing this, and what you are doing it for. What is the end vision in mind?

Make it as vivid as possible. Make sure it’s a vision that inspires you and use that to trigger you to action.

7. Read a book (or blog).

The things we read are like food to our brain. If you are out of ideas, it’s time to feed your brain with great materials.

Here’s a list of 40 books you can start off with. Stock your browser with only the feeds of high quality blogs, such as Lifehack.org, DumbLittleMan, Seth Godin’s Blog, Tim Ferris’ Blog, Zen Habits or The Personal Excellence Blog.

Check out the best selling books; those are generally packed with great wisdom.

8. Have a quick nap.

If you are at home, take a quick nap for about 20-30 minutes. This clears up your mind and gives you a quick boost. Nothing quite like starting off on a fresh start after catching up on sleep.

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9. Remember why you are doing this.

Sometimes we lose sight of why we do what we do, and after a while we become jaded. A quick refresher on why you even started on this project will help.

What were you thinking when you thought of doing this? Retrace your thoughts back to that moment. Recall why you are doing this. Then reconnect with your muse.

10. Find some competition.

Nothing quite like healthy competition to spur us forward. If you are out of ideas, then check up on what people are doing in your space.

Colleagues at work, competitors in the industry, competitors’ products and websites, networking conventions.. you get the drill.

11. Go exercise.

Since you are not making headway at work, might as well spend the time shaping yourself up.

Sometimes we work so much that we neglect our health and fitness. Go jog, swim, cycle, whichever exercise you prefer.

As you improve your physical health, your mental health will improve, too. The different facets of ourselves are all interlinked.

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Here’re 15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It).

12. Take a good break.

Ruts are usually signs that you have been working too long and too hard. It’s time to get a break.

Beyond the quick tips above, arrange for a 1-day or 2-days of break from your work. Don’t check your (work) emails or do anything work-related. Relax and do your favorite activities. You will return to your work recharged and ready to start.

Contrary to popular belief, the world will not end from taking a break from your work. In fact, you will be much more ready to make an impact after proper rest. My best ideas and inspiration always hit me whenever I’m away from my work.

Take a look at this to learn the importance of rest: The Importance of Scheduling Downtime

More Resources About Getting out of a Rut

Featured photo credit: Joshua Earle via unsplash.com

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