APU Business Careers & Learning Leading Forward Podcast

Podcast: Tips and Tricks to Increase Productivity

Podcast featuring Dr. Aikyna FinchFaculty Training Developer, Center for Teaching & Learning and
Dr. Ali Griffith, author, business coach

Many people feel they just don’t have enough time to get everything done. In this episode, APU’s Dr. Aikyna Finch talks to author and business coach Dr. Ali Griffith about ways to be more strategic with your time to increase productivity. Learn why it’s so important to evaluate what system you currently use to manage time and consider other tools and strategies to help boost productivity. Also learn tips like attaching feelings and rewards to tasks to increase motivation and generate a sense of completion that drives greater productivity.

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Dr. Aikyna Finch: Greetings, greetings, greetings everyone. I am Dr. Aikyna Finch and welcome to the podcast. Today, we’ll be talking about tips and tricks to increase productivity with Dr. Ali Griffith. Dr. Ali Griffith is a powerhouse author, TEDx global speaker and business coach dedicated to simplifying the process of building a profitable business so women can create wealth on their own terms. How are you doing today, Dr. Ali?

Dr. Ali Griffith: Oh, I’m doing well. Thanks for having me.

Dr. Aikyna Finch: I’ve been waiting on this conversation, I can’t wait to get started. So let’s get into this first question here. Tell us about your passion about productivity.

Dr. Ali Griffith: Mostly as a special needs mom, I had to learn that I didn’t have that much time. And a lot of the things that I wanted to get done kept not being done because I was always busy or running out of time. One of the things I had to learn early in the game to manage my many hats, which most of us wear, I had to be more strategic with my time. And that’s where productivity came into play.

Dr. Aikyna Finch: Wonderful, wonderful. And what are some of the things that those secret nuggets that people don’t know about productivity?

Dr. Ali Griffith: One of the secret nuggets that people don’t usually know is that we usually already have a system that we’re doing, but we’re not aware of it because we’re constantly “in the doing.” So when we have successful moments, it’s usually because of a system, like many of us went to school. For some of us who went to school or in an academic program, we’re wondering why sometimes we do super well and why we don’t do well, when those moments happen.

And it’s often because the times that we’re doing well, there’s some sort system that we have that’s working, that’s creating productivity without us being aware. And then oftentimes when we’re not doing well or when the breakdown happens or the challenges show up, it’s because we are not using our tools that we probably have established already and/or have picked up along the way, we stop doing it. So we usually have a system within ourselves, but we just need to stop, recollect it, be aware of it, and start really documenting it so we can duplicate it.

Dr. Aikyna Finch: Documenting and duplicating. So, in your expert opinion, because I know you work with many coaches and speakers and women entrepreneurs, have you noticed that people tend to not document and duplicate? They just keep trying to create a new thing every time?

Dr. Ali Griffith: Yeah. I mean every time we hear about something new, we want to do it. We hear a new app, we want to do it. We hear a new product, we want to do it because the main thing is we’re tapped into the fact that there’s a problem. There’s a challenge that’s showing up and somehow we want to do more or we want to feel more successful in a specific thing that we’re doing. But when we see the breakdowns happening, we’re thinking to run for the quick fix, and that quick fix usually may be temporarily and then it usually falls back to the wayside.

So that’s what usually happens when we’re really just trying to find that answer. It’s like when we are trying to do organization in our home, and I know my mom is key for this. Every time you look around, she’s buying a new storage cabinet or a new storage bin. And eventually we have a whole bunch of storage bins because we know the answer is the storage bin, but there’s still no system or organization within that. So, we’re getting the quick fixes, but we’re not really tapping into the root of moving towards the real solution within us.

Dr. Aikyna Finch: The real solution within us, I love that. So can you give us a few examples of what the real solution was kind of like with your mother and the storage bin? What would be the real solution within us?

Dr. Ali Griffith: The real solution is often tapping into where did the chaos happen at the beginning? Where did the breakdown truly happen? Is it because I have all of these things? Am I buying too much? Am I buying too much of the same thing? Am I even releasing some of the things that I had before?

So, a lot of it really taps into our mindset and some of the habit that we’re doing before, even hitting the challenge. So identifying and tapping into that. So for those of us with time, I know a lot of us say I don’t have enough time. I hear that so much with my clients in terms of, “Well, why haven’t you started this program? Or why isn’t your website up? Or why aren’t you calling your clients?” And the first thing I’d hear is, “Oh, because I didn’t have time.”

So, really tapping back into myself before the challenge and say, “Okay, what is my relationship with time? What am I looking at it as? And I already seeing it as I don’t have enough?” So, when I already am leading with the I don’t have enough, you’re already creating yourself, setting yourself up for failure, in terms of looking at the actual time you have available, and then how can we maximize what you have there? That’s usually some of the spaces that we tap into, like what is showing up before that breakdown?

Dr. Aikyna Finch: Very good, very good. So what are some of the triggers that we should look for as far as our productivity? When we know we have a project to do and all of a sudden, everything was trucking and then all of a sudden we started getting a little bit stagnant and then it comes to a screeching halt, what are some of those triggers to let us know before we get to the screeching halt?

Dr. Ali Griffith: Usually, it’s piling on too much. Usually, it’s the over extension of ourselves. Usually it’s the, I know I only have an hour, but somehow I feel I can get six things done within the hour, as opposed to one to three things done within the hour.

For most of us, we are overachievers. So we’re usually trying to fit a lot within that small amount of time or that, and then within that, that’s when we get overwhelmed. So, really looking at the time that we have, the relationship that we have, knowing ourselves, and instead of setting ourselves up for failure, setting ourselves up more for success. Focus on the one. And then after the one, do I still have enough time for the second one? So that we can start really celebrating those moments and moving at a bite-sized pace than trying to overconsume.

Dr. Aikyna Finch: So you just hit a spot, talking about the overachiever now, we have a lot of students. We have a lot of faculty on here to fit into that realm, and a lot of business people to fit in that realm as well. And so how do we recognize, “Okay, I am an overachiever. I don’t just do everything well, I’m just an overachiever.” How do we call it out? And how do we come up with a plan to stop the overwhelm?

Dr. Ali Griffith: Looking at yourself and saying, “Am I putting too much on my plate?” We know it. Like you just said it, I’m speaking out loud. And the majority of the people who are overachievers are already self-identifying themselves. They’re like, “Yep, that’s me.” Because we know it. We know within ourselves that we are trying to do team too much. We’re trying to do too much within the time. And that’s really our relationship with time.

As children, or when we were younger, us multitasking and being in a world where we’re trying to do five things, especially moms. I work a lot with mompreneurs or moms that are trying to start businesses as they’re in school or have professions. And we’ve been taught that we can do it all as super women, as super beings.

And really when we’re trying to do it all, we’re truly losing ourselves. And sometimes we’re not doing that particular one to the best of our ability. We’re actually just trying to do it to get it completed and check it off of our list.

The answer to that is most of us have already self-identified ourselves as the overachiever. We’re the ones that get overwhelmed when we have that list. When you look at your to-do list right now, it’s not three things. It’s like 10 things.

Dr. Aikyna Finch: Yes, yes. And you know, when that list is like 10 things, 15 things, the number goes on and on and on. What is the quickest way to start eliminating this? Is it I need to say “No” to things? I need to prioritize things? What is the quickest way?

Dr. Ali Griffith: There are two different ways I look at it when I’m looking at my list of things to do within the time that I have available. So, I usually aim for prioritization, like what is super important to me that I am going to feel good about? If it’s something that’s related to income producing, because as a CEO, it’s important for me to move towards revenue-generating activities. So, if that’s the priority for the day, then that zooms up to priority.

If that day, it’s my son, like I know he’s off from school today. He’s moving more towards virtual, yes, I have to get a lot of my work done, but I can’t get work if he’s not set up for whatever he needs to get done. On that day, the prioritization then becomes lifestyle, becomes more of my son.

So, understanding that when we’re putting those, and this is what I do, one of the systems I do is when I get up in the morning, I think of okay, what are my top three things I need to get done for today? And some maybe business, and sometimes it’s also personal and lifestyle things, and then putting that into order so that once I do that one, then I can check that off and then I can move on to number two.

Dr. Aikyna Finch: We were talking about that quick thing that’s going to get us started to decrease the overwhelm and get us more productive. Well, I would like to talk about that quick thing that’s going to get us more productive. Let’s say we are just stagnant. We’re bad at making plans, all of things. What is going to be that quick thing to get the productivity jumpstarted?

Dr. Ali Griffith: And this is going to sound super “woo woo.” But I usually go into what feels good. Our endorphins get moving. We get excited about it. So even as I’m looking into my list of the top three things to do, I tap into “Okay, as a result of this, how would this make me feel? If I get this completed, how would that make me feel?”

So, I really align the activity and the objective for that moment with feelings. And when we’re doing that, that high feeling, that good feeling, it tends to make us more attracted to doing it and completing it.

Now the hardest things are when we have things that we absolutely hate, like for me, sometimes I hate the finance aspect of my business. And I’ll be honest, like when you have to do numbers and all the things that most business people have to do, it’s like, that is not my area of expertise. I prefer to be on the phone with people and doing the connection and doing the coaching part.

I still know I need to get it done. So I first place it into my calendar. So it has to be done in the calendar. As much as I want to do the other things, it has to get done. So, when I put into my calendar, I also put okay, so what’s the feeling I’m going to feel when I get that completed? I’m going to feel a sense of accomplishment. I’m going to be excited because once money is in, then I know I can afford my trip. I align it with something that feels good, so my vacation, something that I have to invest in for my business. And then once I have that good feeling attached to it, then I’m like, “Okay, now I’m driven more to get it completed.” So usually attaching it to the success of, I can’t wait to get this done, because at least it will be completed. So I move into that space.

Dr. Aikyna Finch: Okay, so the power of the reward, so to speak, yes?

Dr. Ali Griffith: The power of the reward, the power of the feel good with the reward, the power of the sense of completion.

Dr. Aikyna Finch: Ah, yes, the sense of completion. Let’s go there. I have been told that I collect achievements. So someone like me would like to attach it to an achievement or maybe a completion thing, something to mark off the checklist. What kind of tools do you recommend for productivity for someone who needs to check off the list or needs that feel-good thing so that they can say, “Oh, I get the feel good thing now, because I completed this.”

Dr. Ali Griffith: So, there are two or three different types of tools. It depends on the type of person it is. I’m super visual, so I like to actually keep checklists in front of me, like a huge paper with the things I have to get done. And when I actually see the checks next to them, that makes me super excited because I’m like, “Okay, I got checks.”

It’s similar to back in elementary school, I was a special educator a few years ago. We’d have that reward list with the stars, the gold stars. And when we see those 10 gold stars, we know we get to go into the goodie jar to get a reward. Using whatever works for you visually, if you are a type of person like that. We also have apps that also, as you complete it, now it can go into apps that are named and I don’t want to give all the names because we actually don’t have, I don’t know we have, if you can mention them, but something like way of life apps.

Sometimes it’s just your simple app on your phone. I use color notes. I have an Android. Everyone has their own choice in terms of Evernotes where you create your task list. And when you just see the check off, then you feel okay, completion, because there’s a checklist that goes with that so you can use something tangible like that.

There’s even like in your calendar with it, you can then put as a completion of that, which should be completed within 30 minutes so you’ll get your alarm that goes off. Then reward yourself, like reward yourself with a good job. Reward yourself with a nice cup of coffee. Reward yourself with something that made you feel that sense of completion.

When we, as adults, start to reward our ownselves, then it makes some of these tasks not as formidable. It sounds super simple, but I’m that simple coach. I’m always going to break it down to it’s a lot of things that we did before, that we often forget when we get older.

Dr. Aikyna Finch: I love that, exactly. I love the simple piece to that. And another app for the iPhone people, I have Chekli, and I think it might be on Android as well. And so you can make all kinds of customized checklists, so for those that are visual, you all can make it pretty or handsome or colorful or whatever you need to help you with that. So, yes, I love that tip. And so now, what would you say because you are an educator, so I know you have tips and tricks for this. What would you do for auditory and kinesthetic people?

Dr. Ali Griffith: Alarms, alarms is everything. The kinesthetic is the actual paper on the wall where you write it down. I love that act. It’s weird. I actually use all three. So, I think I’m a total learner, like total 360-degree learner. That’s three rewards. So I have my calendar, my tangible calendar, the really big wall calendar on the wall with my list of things on each day. And I actually literally get up and check it off. Like, “Yes, I got that done today.” And it’s a visual if I didn’t, have to move it on to the next date and that’s fine also.

And then I have an alarm that goes off. So that auditory sound of “ding, ding, ding.” Did you get it done? A reminder. It even gives you reminders of when to get back into that flow of things, if you’re doing other things.

And then there’s the other checklists which are on your phone. It’s creating a whole experience that works for you. A lot of the mompreneurs I work with, they all have different things work for them. So, I like to say it all depends on you.

I didn’t realize that having that huge big calendar and having my big, gigantic sticky notes on my wall, how it made such a huge deal for me. And it was different than having the wipe-off board, like the whiteboard. I liked the pen to paper part. I liked hearing the sound of the Sharpie going, like really back to the olden days with the markers. I like to hear that sound of the swoosh. So for me, that was everything.

Having a reward jar for yourself, where you can actually physically see like, “Oh I get a candy bar or I get an extra treat for today or I get a discount on something.” Those give you a little bit of tangible in terms of receiving it.

Dr. Aikyna Finch: I love that. One of the things that help me when I have to write papers or really have to sit at the computer for a long time, I’ve noticed music in the background and putting it to the pace of where you’re trying to get the work done. It kind of keeps me at that same pace and I’ll keep working. So, have you noticed that music or different types of buzzes or things like that past the alarms, any other things that is unique? I would love to hear about those as well.

Dr. Ali Griffith: Absolutely. So for those of you who don’t know, and you may have seen it in the show notes, I’m also an audiologist. So sound matters a lot to me. It’s one of the tactics and the strategies I use with Zachary when he had a lot of energy inside of him and he was having difficulty with self-regulating. I would literally throw on softer sounds, meditation music, things with a lower or slower cadence. And you would see him physically slowing down as a result of the sound input.

So, that is the same thing in terms of how you want to move. Now, some people may be more productive with slower sounds that are soothing, that don’t make them feel that there’s pressure to complete at a certain time. Me, I actually move faster to faster-paced sounds. So if I know I only have 30 minutes and I’m from the island so I like soca and reggae and at a faster pace, I may place that so it can give me that extra oomph.

So I’m moving and grooving and getting whatever I need to get done at the same time. Some people may have processing disorder where sound actually throws them off. And if there’s sound on, it tends to make them hard to focus. So sound may not be for everyone. Sometimes people actually need soundproof headphones so they can block out the noise because any sound throws them off.

A lot of people now are easily distractable, so anything or any sound may cause them to, “Oh, I’m off. There goes, I’m off target already. So let’s just move towards that.” So, it all depends on the person and knowing what works best for them. My suggestion is to try different ones and to see where you’re the most productive.

Dr. Aikyna Finch: I love that. So as we’re winding up, I would love for you to give us those final nuggets, those final productivity things that you’ve been hiding from us.

Dr. Ali Griffith: I love it how they say hiding. I mean the key of everything is that you already have a system that works within you. My suggestion is to really look back at yourself and see what worked for you then, for those of you who graduated certain programs and realized that I do more in the nighttime, I am more productive in the daytime. I have certain times of the day where I have more energy or I’m more focused. Start to pay attention to that, to see when are you the most productive? When are you in more high-vibrational flow? Because when you’re happier, you tend to create more.

There are times that we’re just tired and for us to really tap into how we’re feeling at that moment to then decide is now a good time for me to be productive. And sometimes it’s not, and you’re doing it and you’re miserable and your results and your work is being done. So create systems that you can shift into a high-vibratory space where you feel good about whatever action step that you have to do. That’s one of my secret sources. That’s not in a book. It’s not scientifically found. It probably is, but it’s just what I realize that when I feel good, I’m the most productive, like I’m clear. I know exactly what I want to get done. When I’m in a crappy mood, all the things happen. So that’s the first thing. Check on your mood, check on the best times that you’re most productive in the day and/or in seasons. Some seasons when I’m planning out for the year, some seasons, I know it requires more out of me than other seasons. Winter seasons, I tend to show less productivity in certain areas.

So find times in the day and the overall time for you to be more productive. The second thing I would say is definitely create a system, system helps. If you have a certain pattern that works with you, that you know that take care of the things you enjoy more at the beginning, or take care of the things of the things that you don’t like to do at the beginning so you can get it out the way so you can get to the things that you’d like to do. If that works for you, great. If it doesn’t, try a different system. And usually I would say tap back into something that brought you successful results before. Look into it and see what did I do before? For most of us now as professionals, we forgot that when we were in school, we had a certain system that worked for us. How can we adapt some of that? We might not be able to do the same thing, but we can go back and see our previous success modalities that we use.

And then the third thing I would say is be open to technology and how it can support you now, and I know the audience is really varied. So some of us are very kinesthetic and we want hands on and we like writing things down, but be open also to an app or to something that’s digital or technology-wise that can alert you faster.

It’s weird that my Apple, not my Apple Watch. I have a Samsung watch. Mostly some of you have Apple Watches. I like the actual vibratory feel of it reminding me of something. It reminds my body, oh get up and start moving. “Oh shoot, oh yeah.” When I don’t wear it, there isn’t that. It doesn’t remind me. So be open to whatever technology that you may use that can help you to become more productive as a being.

Dr. Aikyna Finch: Thank you so much, Dr. Ali, for this wonderful conversation. I have learned so much and I actually have a few notes that I am going to explore after this podcast. So thank you so much.

Dr. Ali Griffith: You are absolutely welcome to find out more, I know I just shared a few of them, but if you guys follow me at Dr. Ali Griffith on Instagram, Facebook, in so many different areas, even a YouTube channel, you can find other time saving techniques, productivity. I think I even did a TikTok on some. So I use all the modalities that can help you to be more efficient and just feel good about your time.

Stop being so hard on yourself with time management and start moving towards how can you shift your relationship with time so that you can fall in love with that 30 minutes that you do have available and stop comparing it and saying it’s just 30 minutes. Those 30 minutes can be the most powerful 30 minutes if you choose to make it be.

Dr. Aikyna Finch: Oh, I love that, the most powerful 30 minutes, if you choose it to be. And so I hope everyone out there is listening to what has been said in this podcast and choosing to make those next 30 minutes the most powerful they can be. I am Dr. Aikyna Finch and I want to say, be safe and be well

Dr. Aikyna Finch is Faculty Training Developer in the Center for Teaching & Learning at American Public University. She received a Doctorate of Management, an MBA in Technology Management and an Executive MBA from Colorado Technical University. She has an M.S. in Management in Marketing, an M.S. in Information Systems in IT Project Management from Strayer University, and a B.S. in Aeronautical Technology in Industrial Electronics from the School of Engineering at Tennessee State University. She is a podcaster, social media coach and speaker. She is a member of the Forbes Coaches Council and a contributor to Huffington Post, Goalcast, Forbes and Thrive Global. She can be found at DrADFinch on all social media platforms.

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