When Productivity Tools & Techniques Fail Us

personal growth productivity

I have a confession. I’ve been struggling to get things started lately — and my normal productivity superpowers have been failing me. The tools and techniques are not delivering. I go through this periodically. Perhaps you can relate.

Normally when this happens, I have a step-by-step path and know the right next actions to advance to my well-defined aspirations. If you’re struggling with getting started and don’t have a clear path and an understanding of where you want to go, start there or you’ll find yourself well on your way to an arbitrary and likely wrong destination. The Notion PPV system is all about putting this in place.

But I’ve done the deep reflection work and have clarity on both my direction and what I need to do to get there. Yet still, getting started has been a bigger climb lately than it used to be.

And I’ve discovered why.

I’ve broken down my next steps to a precise science, which is effective. This is a great way to progress and achieve.

But I have broken them down such that they are too clinical. The steps have become quite process-oriented, as if I’m following Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs).

SOPs are great for learning and initially engaging in a new activity (when joining a new team for example), but they are not good for flow. They do not instill passion and fire in the activity. They are not fun.

And to really dive into something with energy, an element of fun can make all the difference.

To achieve a flow state — where time slows and focus quintuples and we engage at our deepest thought level — we need some form of thrill, passion, excitement, curiosity. Our engagement with the activity needs some sort of fire. 🔥

My next steps were precise and actionable, but not fun or engaging. We need to bring joy into it if we’re going to excel.


Instilling Joy in Our Actions

Even hard, painful things can be connected to joy. Grueling workouts and scary challenges, such as public speaking, can be fueled by an underlying joy of either the activity itself or the desired result. We need to bring a deep human burn to our most important work and connect in some way to our daily actions — either through association (a clear connection to the thrill of the end product) or through a framing of the individual step as intriguing, game-like, or exciting in some way.

We can design our daily actions not only to achieve a larger outcome but also to trigger flow and a deeper emotional connection.

For example, I’ve been uncharacteristically reluctant to dive into making new videos lately. I used to love video production, yet have not been eager to make them despite ramping up my pipeline of planned video projects.

I started my YouTube channel because I missed being on film sets (I used to make TV Commercials, in one of my former lives). So I was puzzled to discover myself dragging on initiating video production.

What to do? I just rigged-out my video camera to make it a pure joy to use. I added a beautiful wooden side handle, mounted easier tools for exposure setting (matte-box with variable ND), balanced it on rails so I’m no longer fighting gravity when filming. Then I added a gorgeous new monitor that allows me to see the full beauty of the images as I’m working, a closer and more direct connection to the end result being captured.

Now, I cannot wait to film again each day! I don’t care what it is, I just want to shoot moving images — family and fun and everything I can. Work recording is no longer work. I can’t wait to make more videos. This is spilling over into post-production, where I’m now more excited about what I captured and therefore more eager to shape it into a final edited piece.

How can you make your hard-to-start tasks more fun?

How can you dress up the tools to make them a joy to use? Software as well as hardware.

What environment can you create to make activities in it more engaging with less friction?

How can you put a game element into the activity?

What kind of personal competition can you design?

Ask how can I make this more fun. What would an exciting version of this look like?

Obviously, any of this can be taken too far and become an act of mass procrastination. But if you’re feeling stuck, look to bring more joy into your tools, tasks, and environments. Add some kindling so you can initiate a spark that can form a flame. Ignite passion.

If we want to be exceptional at what we do and how we live life, we need passion and desire to fill our days and our actions.

This rarely happens by default.

So do it by design.

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