The Big Idea
Springboards make you ultra productive.
Questions I Answer
- How can I maximize my productivity?
- What can I do to make being productive easier?
- How can I find the bottlenecks in my productivity systems?
Actions to Take
- Use this episode and the resources below to create your own springboards for your personalized systems. Focus on just one system first. Which system do you want to make better through streamlining and springboards?Listen to Episode 029: Batching Tasks: Your Best Work in Less Time to learn how to batch your tasks (Plus there’s a free download for you!)
- Listen to Episode 031: Creating Habits: The Formula for Success and use the effective formula for creating and maintaining good habits.
Key Topics in the Show
Learn which areas in your life you should create springboards for.
How the domino effect can work for your springboards and lifestyle.
How to find ‘bottlenecks’ in your systems and ways to move forward from them.
Examples of springboards in your business, work and home that will allow you to work more effectively.
Resources and Links
- How to Increase Your Productivity:
- Batch Tasks for work: group one big task into subtasks that will make your process much more effective.
- Use equipment or tools that will act as a springboard. For example, for business at home, instead of printing out labels and then taping them on each package, we invested in a label printer to streamline our shipping.
- Meal prep by grouping tasks such as grocery shopping or chopping vegetables on particular days for the week. Try grouping ingredients together in the pantry based on what meal they will be for.
- Delegate bits of your tasks or processes to others – employees, children, spouses, friends, etc. This will give you momentum to get started on what you need to do.
- Automate your springboards. For example, if you want to exercise more, but your home gym or workout area is always messy, plan to clean that room every Monday (or whichever day that works best for you) so that you’re motivated to get in your workout.
Hello, hello everyone. Welcome to Productivity Paradox. I’m your host, Tanya Dalton, and this episode 36. Now, if you’ve been listening for any time at all, you know that this whole season is about systems, which might seem complicated or even impossible to set up and follow. Maybe you’ve tried following or making a productivity system before, and it just didn’t work. That’s why for the next few episodes, we’re focusing on making your systems as simple and as easy to use as possible. Today, we’re going to talk about setting up some springboards within your systems, and I want you to think about springboards like in gymnastics.
A gymnast jumps on a springboard, and they’re propelled further than they would’ve been if they had just jumped on a fixed platform. It makes them able to complete routines. They can do techniques and tricks even easier and with more power. It enables them to do these moves that they could never attempt if they started from standing still. Why can’t a springboard be a standard part of your productivity? A springboard is a small action or a tool that pushes you forward into completing a task. It’s similar to what we talked about back in episode 31 with having a cue for a habit, but it doesn’t just apply to habits. We can apply it to systems in general.
It was Einstein who famously said, “Nothing happens until something moves.” That’s what springboards do. They get the momentum going, and it doesn’t have to be big movements that give you this big advantage. Sometimes it’s the things that appear to be really small that actually effect the greatest change. This is called the domino effect. Now I’m sure you’ve all played with dominoes at some point in your life. We all have, right? You lay them out in a line or maybe you do a fancy pattern. You know one down, and the others begin to topple after it. In 1938, Lorne Whitehead wrote in the American Journal of Physics that he had discovered that while dominoes falling could knock down lots of other dominoes, they could actually make even bigger things topple over.
One single domino is capable of bringing down another domino that is actually 50% larger. Think about that. One little domino can knock down something 50% bigger than itself. In 2001, a physicist in San Francisco decided to test this theory. He created dominoes out of plywood, and each one was 50% larger than the last. The goal was to see if a domino standing at a mere two inches tall would be able to make a three-foot tall domino fall down, and it did. It only took eight dominoes. Imagine if this kept going, if they had bigger dominoes. The 31st domino would be taller than Mount Everest, and that domino would crash down from the force started by a tiny, two-inch domino.
It’s pretty amazing, right? It just shows how little things can truly affect the big things, and we want to create a domino effect in our own lives. Every day, you need to line up your priorities. Find that lead domino and push it over to make the next big thing happen after it. Sometimes those dominoes are only two inches tall, but think about the effect they’ll really begin to have. Now before we talk about setting up these springboards, let’s talk about where you might need a springboard, and that’s
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wherever the bottlenecks are in your system. Now if you haven’t heard that term bottleneck, I want you to think about water flowing out of a bottle.
Now if this bottle is nice and wide at the bottom all the way up to the top, water can flow out of it freely, but what happens if you have a bottle with a wide bottom and ends in a narrow neck? Less water can flow out of the bottle because the bottleneck has slowed the amount of water that could rush out. At the bottom of the bottle, the water moves freely, but once it reaches that narrow neck, the amount of water decreases so less flows out. The term bottleneck is exactly like that, but instead of water, a bottleneck talks about the flow of your system. When water is poured out of the bottle, it has to pass through the bottle’s neck or the opening.
The wider the bottle’s neck, the more you can pour out. The smaller or narrower the bottle’s neck, the less you can pour out, and you end up with a backup, or as we call it in productivity terms, a bottleneck. Breaking down tasks can help you find these bottlenecks. As a matter of a fact, sometimes the act of breaking down your task can be a springboard in itself, and this is especially true of any task that you’ve been procrastinating on. The hardest part can be writing out what you actually have to do to get done. It’s Mark Twain who said the secret to getting ahead is getting started, and he’s right. By thinking about these steps, you’ve essentially gotten started, and you can start moving forward.
Even if it is just a tiny bit, that’s part of the reason I think it’s so important to create an action roadmap when you’re setting your goals. It’s that same idea. You want to find these bottlenecks. Ask yourself what’s slowing you down. Finding your bottlenecks isn’t about improving every single aspect of your process. It’s about finding the parts in your systems that need improving, and then giving them a springboard. Break down your tasks and estimate how much time each step takes. When I say break it down, I mean break it down into each teeny tiny step. Sometimes bottlenecks are hidden in the details.
If possible, next time you do the task, time yourself and see how long each step takes. You might be surprised at the results. What I do is I time each step, and I write it down. Then I look at those numbers, and I ask myself, “On each of the steps, can I make this work better? Can I shave off some time I’m spending on this one step?” Sometimes the answer is no, sometimes it’s that I can’t make it faster just yet, but sometimes the answer is yes. Springboards work whether it’s for business or for your home. I want to talk about both, but I’m going to start by talking about business here just for a minute.
Then I’ll talk about implementing them at home because I think it’s really important that we talk about productivity in terms of how it works at work and also at home. I think that’s one of the aspects that’s missing in a lot of productivity tips and strategies is that they really all focus on business. You are a well-rounded person. There’s more sides to you than just business, so I want to make sure we’re talking about both parts. Here’s an example from when I was working with a business client that I was consulting. She was walking me through her packaging process. I asked her to walk me through each step. To start, we tackled how she prepped her products for shipment.
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One of her products that she was selling was holiday ornaments. She said, “Oh, I get out the ribbon, and I tie it on the ornament, and then I-” I was like, “Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa. Back up. Where’s the ribbon coming from?” She said, “Oh, well, I get the spool of ribbon. I measure out six inches, and then I cut it.” I was like, “What? Wait,
for each one?” She said, “Yes.” “So how long does that take,” I asked. She told me, “10 seconds.” “Okay, that doesn’t sound long, right? 10 seconds, but is there a way that we could streamline that?” I told her to go and cut a piece of cardboard three inches wide, and then I had her take that ribbon and wrap it around 100 times and cut it one time.
“Voila, now you have 100 ribbons all exactly six inches long. How long did that take?” Well, she timed it, and she said it took her two minutes. “Okay, so if it takes you two minutes to cut 100 ribbons, that’s 1.2 seconds for each.” We just made that one part of this process 90% more effective. Yes, we shaved off seconds there, which doesn’t seem like a lot, but think of it this way. If you have six steps you’re going through in that pre-packaging process and each of them takes 10 seconds, that’s a full minute on pre-packaging. You shave each step down, you could pre-package each in let’s say 20 seconds. If you have 100 orders, you just went from spending 100 minutes on this process down to 20 minutes.
See what I mean? Sometimes it’s the little things that really start to add up. Even better, now she can easily stock up hundreds of these six-inch ribbons ahead of time, so she doesn’t need to cut individual ribbons at all. Essentially, she just batched that task, right, just like what we talked about back in episode 29. Sometimes that’s what your springboards are, taking some of these menial tasks and batching them together. Think about tasks that don’t necessarily take the longest but could be automated to make it a lot faster, like the ribbon story we just talked about. Now, was cutting each individual ribbon the longest step in the process? No, but there was a simpler way to make that step go even faster, and it made it easier.
Now other times, it can be equipment that can act as your springboard. Again, thinking about springboards in terms of business, let’s talk about a business where you’re doing a lot of shipping of packages, and you’re printing the labels out on a regular printer and taping them to a box. Well, does it make sense to perhaps invest in a label printer? You might think they’re costly because they’re not cheap, but if you’ve bought ink two or three times already because of the amount of labels you’re printing, you already spent that same amount of money in ink, and you have to do it again and again. Not only do you have to spend the money on ink, but you have to spend the time purchasing it.
Instead, you could buy the thermal printer once and never buy ink again. This saves you money in ink. It saves you money on tape and paper. It saves you that time from printing and taping the labels to the box, not only saves you the time of reordering ink every now and then. That’s an example of using equipment as your springboard. It can also be something as simple as corralling your items together. Let’s talk about inventory. If one of your monthly automations is counting your inventory, and I firmly believe it should be if you have a physical product, you can group items together to make it even easier.
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When I ran my jewelry business before I had inkWELL Press, I had a million jump rings. When I first started, I was counting all these little jump rings every time we’re doing inventory. Then I decided to use a little Ziploc bag technique where I put little Ziploc bags and filled each one with 50 jump rings, so when I counted my inventory, I was no longer counting by ones. I was counting by fifties. As you can imagine, that made that inventory process so much faster. A springboard can be a tool that saves you time, like the label printer, or it can be batching in action, like that ribbon example, or it can be corralling items together to make it simpler and easier to get the bigger system done.
Now that we’ve talked about some examples in business, I want to touch on some examples at home. How can you use springboards to help your systems move more effectively and help you feel like you’re able to focus on the things that matter most? Well, let’s talk about cooking because that’s something that almost all of us do on a daily basis. A springboard you could use is doing your meal and ingredient prep ahead of time. If chopping and prepping your fruits and veggies is a time suck for you, batch it and do a week’s worth of chopping in one batch. Three meals in one week require chopped onions? Chop three onions on Sunday, and then place those chopped onions in a container to keep in your fridge for the week.
Then when it’s time to make your dinner, you’ve got less cleanup because there’s no cutting board or knife, and you’ve jumped ahead several steps because you don’t need to worry about chopping that onion. You can even use that corralling method we talked about earlier with making the food prep easier. When you go to the grocery store and you do your shopping, take your groceries home and group them together in your pantry by meal. That way, when it’s, I don’t know, spaghetti night at your house, you can make one trip to the pantry and grab the can of tomatoes, the noodles, the bread, the spices, grab everything quickly and easily because well, they’re all together.
No more searching around or spending that looking for all the things you need. Spend a few minutes after your grocery store run grouping these ingredients together, or even better, delegate for someone else to do the job for you. This is a great kid job. If you have kids in your house, this is a great thing to delegate to them. Now, you know what I did just there? I’ve already gotten you excited for next week’s episode, which is all about delegating, but we’ll talk about that later. I want to get back to talking about springboards. Another springboard is getting the laundry together the morning of laundry day.
You heard last week when I talked about automations in episode 35 how I have my kids bring down their laundry for laundry day. That can be a springboard to get the momentum going. Here’s another example. If you come into your space and you feel frustrated each morning because it’s a mess, spend a few minutes clearing off your desk at the end of the day. Set the timer. Give yourself two minutes to just do a real quick straighten up because clutter hurts your focus, and that could take away from the fresh perspective and energy you have first thing in the morning. It’s a bottleneck because it means you start your mornings feeling behind when you walk into your space and it feels like a mess.
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That springboard can happen the day before by just doing that simple two minute cleanup. It could make a huge difference to what you get done in the day. Removing obstacles like a messy desk, that can really be a great springboard for you. Let’s back up for just a minute, and I want to piggyback off of two ideas that we’ve been discussing this season. We’ve talked about habits and automations. Each of these have been discussed at length, so I’m not going to go into detail on those, but you can use springboards to make you even more successful using these systems. Think about the cues for habits. We talked about habits back in episode 32.
Setting out your exercise clothes so that you aren’t spending time hunting down your tennis shoes and eliminating the excuse for why you can’t go on your morning run, that’s also a springboard. Build off your established habits. Think about that domino effect that we talked about earlier in the habits that you started to build. Since it’s been a few weeks since we talked about habits, have you found that you’ve created one habit that built off another? That’s the domino effect, which is exactly the springboard we want. Putting floss next to the toothpaste, like we discussed in that episode. When we talked about automations last week in episode 34, you can carry automations over into how you set up these springboards.
Can you automate something so it can become a springboard? Let’s say there’s a place in your home where you could exercise, but it’s always messy. When you think about exercising, you’re blocked by the thought of how messy and distracting the room is so you just don’t do it. Well, creating an automation to regularly straighten up the room and getting it ready for you to exercise could be a major springboard in getting you to exercise at home more. See, here’s the thing. It’s not about having discipline. Disciplined people just have built a series of habits and automations into their lives. These are made easier with these springboards.
Success is about doing the right things, and you need less discipline than you really think. You only need just enough to establish the process in the first place because then it becomes easy. You can start to take the thinking out of it, and you’ll accomplish more with less stress. That really is the goal here. Okay, now it’s time for you to set up your own springboards, so I’m hoping that these examples that we’ve discussed in this episode have gotten you thinking about where you might be able to use springboards for yourself. Think of one system that you have in an area of your life to focus on adding springboards to. It could be at work, or it could be at home.
You might have more than one system in more areas that need springboards, but let’s start with just one. Focus on one because I want you to have the freedom to play around with it first and really make your system your own before you try doing too much with all of your systems. We don’t want to overwhelm ourselves by doing too much at once. I want you to think about what is a system you really want to make better and you want to streamline, and let’s figure out how you can add some springboards to it. Now next week, we are going to be talking about the art of delegating because I think springboards and delegation are really going to make a difference in getting these systems to work for you. That’s what I want. I want these systems to work for you.
I want them to feel easy so that you’re not having to stress about them, so you’re not worried about how they work. We want to make this as seamless as
possible so that you’re really able to focus on the things that matter the most to you. If you found any of this information helpful, which I hope that you have, please leave me a five star review and a note over at iTunes. I would love to read your thoughts. Also, if you have any questions, I will be having another Ask Tanya episode coming up in the next couple of weeks, so feel free to submit a question at inkwellpress.com/ question. Lastly, feel free to connect with me in my free Facebook group. You can find me over at inkwellpress.com/group. I’d love to see you in there. All right, until next time, happy planning.
**This transcript is created by AI, so please excuse any typos, misspellings and grammar mistakes.
Tanya Dalton is a female time management keynote speaker, the best selling author of 2 productivity books for women and a time management expert.