My friends and family often ask, “How do you get so much done?” “Jedi mind tricks,” I quip. Lately I have noticed a flood of Fortune 500 CEOs sharing their “productivity tricks,” so my team decided we would share ours – with a Stars Wars twist – as this busy holiday season approaches.
“But only you can change yourself.” — Bendu
One of my mentors told me a long time ago (in what seems now like a galaxy far, far away) that as I moved up the ladder in life, I would need to “upgrade” my systems. As a result, I am always searching for what works and what needs improvement in my own habits. To remind myself to “upgrade my operating system,” I use my birthday and New Year’s Day as checkpoints to examine my habits, reduce or eliminate the ones that aren’t helping and start forming new ones that will increase my productivity.
“The Force will be with you. Always.” — Obi-Wan Kenobi
Once I decide on a process, we as a team ensure it becomes a habit by creating a “standard operating procedure.” I also “automate” and delegate as much as possible. This takes time upfront, but it saves time and confusion in the long run. By setting up this “cheat sheet,” as we call it, every person involved in a project knows which steps they are responsible for and the deadline by which each phase needs to be completed. It’s also helpful to have in case of an unexpected leave of absence. Having necessary steps for automated processes written out allows any team member to step in and fill the void.
“Do. Or do not. There is no try.” — Yoda
By nature, I am an action-oriented person. To ensure I tackle my to-do list thoughtfully, I purposely plan to plan. This may seem crazy, but it gets results. I start by defining success (on my own, with my team or with clients). This is a crucial step for any new project but is often a forgotten one. By doing this, I am better able to make game-time decisions that lead to better outcomes.
I also spend time analyzing best practices and asking others for advice. However, it’s important to not let fact-finding lead you to analysis paralysis. I live by the 80/20 rule – when I feel I have 80% of the information needed, I make a decision. And, I try remember that not making a decision is still a decision. It’s important to prioritize. Not every idea merits moving forward – some not at all while others need more time to form, in which case I’ll plan to revisit them in four months.
“There’s always a bigger fish.” — Qui-Gon Jinn
At the beginning of each week and month, I ask myself two important questions: 1) Am I doing the most important thing I alone can do? and 2) If not, what is distracting me from doing it? I am inherently a helper and want to return every student/job seeker/nonprofit email within 24 hours. But, this isn’t humanly possible. I stay focused on my “big fish” – for the week and the month. This takes every ounce of discipline I have, but it is worth it to help me stay focused.
“You can’t stop the change, any more than you can stop the suns from setting.” — Shmi Skywalker
At the end of his life, Charles Darwin evolved his thinking on “survival of the fittest.” It wasn’t the strongest that survived, but the one that is most adaptable. This knowledge requires us to follow the trends and be open to new ideas and ways of doing things. I try to embrace change as an opportunity to learn and evolve.
“Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger; anger leads to hate; hate leads to suffering.” — Yoda
Bad days happen to even the strongest Jedi. My antidote is a two-pronged approach: 1) Tap into a wide range of support – for me, that is friends, family, and other consultants and entrepreneurs; 2) Own the bad day/moment and move through it as quickly as possible. Volunteering with children, being in nature, binge-watching my favorite shows and practicing meditation are activities that help me put a bad day behind me. Find your own antidote that keeps you away from the dark side.
“Well, if droids could think, there’d be none of us here, would there?” — Obi-Wan Kenobi
Humans think and manage a number of tasks with an amazing degree of complexity. But with more complexity, the more we need space and time for creativity. We cannot operate like droids – we need “quiet time” to come up with our best ideas. My best ideas come from hikes, dinners with friends and reading.
“To die for one’s people is a great sacrifice. To live for one’s people, an even greater sacrifice. I choose to live for my people.” — Riyo Chuchi
In the social sector, we live for our people and communities every day. But, to be our most productive, we must be as disciplined as the Jedi: we have to practice self-care, avoid distractions and elevate our thinking to the most important task – creating change in the lives of those we serve. We hope you enjoyed this piece and look forward to hearing your Jedi mind tricks, too.