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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 December 2, 2019

10 Powerful Ways to Stop Worrying and Start Living Today

10 Powerful Ways to Stop Worrying and Start Living Today

Plato knew that the body and mind are intimately linked. And in the late 1800s, the Mayo brothers, famous physicians, estimated that over half of all hospital beds are filled with people suffering from frustration, anxiety, worry and despair. Causes of worry are everywhere, in our relationships and our jobs, so it’s key we find ways to take charge of the stress.

In his classic book How to Stop Worrying and Start Living, Dale Carnegie offers tools to ditch excessive worrying that help you make a worry-free environment for your private and professional life.

These are the top 10 tips to grab worry by the horns and wrestle it to the ground:

1. Make Your Decision and Never Look Back

Have you ever made a decision in life only to second-guess it afterwards? Of course you have! It’s hard not to wonder whether you’ve done the right thing and whether there might still be time to take another path.

But keep this in mind: you’ve already made your decision, so act decisively on it and dismiss all your anxiety about it.

Don’t stop to hesitate, to reconsider, or to retrace your steps. Once you’ve chosen a course of action, stick to it and never waver.

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2. Live for Today, Package Things up in “Day-Tight Compartments”

You know that feeling: tossing, turning and worrying over something that happened or something that might, well into the wee hours. To avoid this pointless worrying, you need “day-tight compartments”. Much as a ship has different watertight compartments, your own “day-tight” ones are a way to limit your attention to the present day.

The rule is simple: whatever happened in the past or might happen in the future must not intrude upon today. Everything else has to wait its turn for tomorrow’s box or stay stuck in the past.

3. Embrace the Worst-Case Scenario and Strategize to Offset It

If you’re worried about something, ask yourself: “What’s the worst thing that could happen?” Could you lose your job? Be jailed? Get killed?

Whatever the “worst” might be, it’s probably not so world-ending. You could probably even bounce back from it!

If, for example, you lose your job, you could always find another. Once you accept the worst-case scenario and get thinking about contingency plans, you’ll feel calmer.

4. Put a Lid on Your Worrying

Sometimes we stress endlessly about negative experiences when just walking away from them would serve us far better.

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To make squashing that worry easier, try this strategy, straight from stock traders: it’s called the “stop-loss” order, where shares are bought at a certain price, and then their price development is observed. If things go badly and the share price hits a certain point, they are sold off immediately. This stops the loss from increasing further.

In the same manner, you can put a stop-loss order on things that cause you stress and grief.

5. Fake It ‘Til You Make It – Happiness, That Is

We can’t directly influence how we feel, but we can nudge ourselves to change through how we think and act.

If you’re feeling sad or low, slap a big grin on your face and whistle a chipper tune. You’ll find it impossible to be blue when acting cheerful. But you don’t necessarily need to act outwardly happy; you can simply think happier thoughts instead.

Marcus Aurelius summed it up aptly:

“Our life is what our thoughts make it.”

6. Give for the Joy of Giving

When we perform acts of kindness, we often do so with the expectation of gratitude. But harboring such expectations will probably leave you disappointed.

One person well aware of this fact was the lawyer Samuel Leibowitz. Over the course of his career, Leibowitz saved 78 people from going to the electric chair. Guess how many thanked him? None.

So stop expecting gratitude when you’re kind to someone. Instead, take joy from the act yourself.

7. Dump Envy – Enjoy Being Uniquely You

Your genes are completely unique. Even if someone had the same parents as you, the likelihood of someone identical to you being born is just one in 300,000 billion.

Despite this amazing fact, many of us long to be someone else, thinking the grass is greener on the other side of the fence. But living your life this way is pointless. Embrace your uniqueness and get comfortable with who you really are: How to Be True to Yourself and Live the Life You Want

8. Haters Will Hate — It Just Means You’re Doing It Right

When you’re criticized, it often means you’re accomplishing something noteworthy. In fact, let’s take it a step further and consider this: the more you’re criticized, the more influential and important a person you likely are.

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So the next time somebody talks you down, don’t let it get to you. Take it as a compliment!

9. Chill Out! Learn to Rest Before You Get Tired

Scientists agree that emotions are the most common cause of fatigue. And it works the other way around, too: fatigue produces more worries and negative emotions.

It should be clear, therefore, that you’ve got to relax regularly before you feel tired. Otherwise, worries and fatigue will accumulate on top of each other.

It’s impossible to worry when you are relaxed, and regular rest helps you maintain your ability to work effectively.

10. Get Organized and Enjoy Your Work

There are few greater sources of misery in life than having to work, day in, day out, in a job you despise. It would make sense then that you shouldn’t pick a job you hate, or even just dislike doing.

But say you already have a job. How can you make it more enjoyable and worry-free? One way is to stay organized: a desk full of unanswered mails and memos is sure to breed worries.

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Better yet, rethink about the job you’re doing: What to Do When You Hate Your Job but Want a Successful Career

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Featured photo credit: Tyler Nix via unsplash.com

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