Increase productivity by learning a lesson the first time

One of my major productivity challenges is that I have a difficult time learning lessons from my mistakes the first time they happen. I’ll get an idea in my mind for how something should work, and then when it doesn’t go as planned, I take little or no notice that my procedure was flawed.

Here, let me give you an example: I’m currently working on an article for a magazine. According to my calendar, I should have been working on this article every morning this week from 8:00 until 10:00. So far this week, I have yet to work on the article between 8:00 and 10:00. This is the busiest time of my day. I have been interrupted with important endeavors every time I’ve tried to work on the article. But, did I adjust my schedule to work on the article at a different, less chaotic time? Nope. Not a bit. For FOUR DAYS this block of time hasn’t worked for me and this article, but I haven’t done a single thing about it. Instead, I’ve stayed at work an extra two hours every evening to get the work finished.

This is what I should have done: On Monday evening, before I left work, I should have rearranged my schedule for the next day so that I could try working on the article from 2:00 to 4:00 in the afternoon. If things went well, then I should have rearranged my schedule for the remainder of the week. If they didn’t go well, then I should have tried a different time slot for the next day.

To help overcome my inability to learn lessons the first time, I have devised a new strategy for the end of my work day. I’m going to keep up with my practice of preparing my desk and materials for tomorrow’s work day, but I’m going to add a routine before this process.

I’m going to take five minutes to ask myself questions and evaluate my work that occurred during that day:

  1. What processes went well today?
  2. Why did those processes succeed?
  3. What processes didn’t go well today?
  4. Why did those processes not succeed?
  5. What changes can I make in the future to turn these non-successful processes into successful processes?

How do you analyze your work to keep from making the same mistakes repeatedly?

7 Comments for “Increase productivity by learning a lesson the first time”

  1. posted by whyioughtta on

    I guess we have to accept that to some degree we’re all Homer Simpson stepping on the rakes, over and over and over.


    Seriously, though, I’m also a professional writer and I totally agree that blocking off time is hard in our line of work. I really like your idea of taking time to hone our work processes in what is otherwise a very fluid, hard-to-contain field.

    I don’t think I could do this daily because it takes a critical mass of failure for me to see a pattern. But I do like the idea of making this analysis part of the ‘way I work’.

  2. posted by Pierre Canthelou on


    based on my own experience and current productivity tips (, I’ve extended the learning process also on the week, and almost on every project. I think this is the best way to become productive : learn how to repeat things that goes well, learn to correct things that goes wrong !

    When I’ll be able to repeat things that goes well, I’ll try to improve them !

    On a daily basis tool, I use Evernote : realy easy to take a screenshot of somethings that goes wrong, or use tag to say ‘here is a bug’ => how to correct it…

    Hope it will help !

  3. posted by Fit Bottomed Girls on

    It’s funny how we do get so wrapped into life that we miss little tweaks and problems that can be easily solved or avoided. Thanks for the reminder.

  4. posted by Another Deb on

    My goal tomorrow is to have things ready for Monday morning when I return to school. I am usually stressing and have “planner’s block” on Sunday nights when I get started on my week’s lesson plans.

    I would love to be able to have the copies all made for the week and to have the plans done. However, I need to create some documents, tweak others and find the lab equipment for the coming week. The lab I will do tomorrow will generate things I need to clean up.

    If I am too tired , I will never want to stay late and get plans made for the coming week. If I don’t sleep enough tonight I’ll be too tired. Time for bed!

  5. posted by Jan Ferrante - Queen of KAOS on

    I’ve done that exercise and found that the same problems and solutions kept arising in different forms, or even the same ones.

    But rather than make me feel that it was hopeless, it did 2 things. It introduced to me the habit of problem solving and it made me realize that some things can take time to change, but putting it in words every day made it known rather than unknown and I found myself gradually working on the challenges automatically.

    By keeping a notebook or online journal, it is really easy to start seeing patterns as well and even remembering solutions that had gone by the wayside.

    An excellent exercise in every area of life that is a challenge, thanks for the reminder!

  6. posted by Sandra on

    This is why I don’t like putting things in the “hard landscape”. Just put it on your “to do ASAP” list and honor that list.

  7. posted by Productivity Power Links 12-17-08 « Geeks Guide To Productivity on

    […] Power Links 12-17-08 Jump to Comments Insanity defined-doing the same thing over and over, but expecting a different result. One of my major productivity challenges is that I have a difficult time learning lessons from my […]

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