Improvement requires short-term pain [PMP #214]

We all like to improve on what we’re doing and how we do things. Whether that’s improving a process in your business, learning a new skill at work or the way you take notes in a class. But the improvement often comes with an adjustment period where it takes time to become accustomed to the change before you can enjoy the benefits. This is why making improvements to the way you work can be challenging. And even though your current process may be slow, we sometimes stick to our old methods because the process is familiar and easier.

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My clients face this dilemma all the time. They come to me with good intentions; wanting to learn how to use tools like Asana and Pipedrive to be more productive and improve their business. We chat, they’re excited and they understand the benefits. But a lot of people ultimately decide not to proceed as they don't want to go through that adjustment period that’s required in order to make the change. Even if doing so would result in greater long-term efficiency, the short-term pain of adjusting to the new way isn’t worth it. The irony here is that once you do make the change, you’ll question why you ever did things the old way. If you’ve ever said to yourself “why wasn’t I doing it this way before”, you’ll know what I mean.

Last week, I talked about how you can use a few tools to boost your productivity on the Mac. And one of the points I made is that some of the power tools I use take time to learn. And even after you learn the basics, you need to identify ways you can use the tool to streamline the things you do on your Mac. I can say with 100% confidence that it was well worth taking the time to learn how to use these tools as they’ve made it so much quicker to do things now. I’m savings hours (maybe even days) each week by using a few simple tricks to do my work more efficiently.

So, what can you do to get through these “adjustment periods” faster?

1. Talk to people who have done it before

Whatever it is you’re doing, whether you’re adopting a new tool. learning a new skill or refining a process, chances are there’s someone that’s been through the same or a similar experience before. Finding these people and learning from their mistakes is a great way of fast-tracking your own journey.

This is one of the reasons I offer group coaching as part of my consulting services. I like connecting clients together so they can share their experiences and help other people who are going through the same challenges.

I’m getting more and more into golf and luckily for me, my friends are much better than I am. So when I hit my ball off the tee and I cut it to the next fairway, they’re able to point out where I’m going wrong that I can’t see. Often just having a 3rd party perspective is a very powerful way of identifying what’s going wrong and how to improve.

2. Find resources that help you learn faster

Living in the information age, we’re spoilt by having access to a wealth of knowledge to help us learn anything we want.

Whenever I’ve wanted to learn about new tools like Hazel, Keyboard Maestro or Alfred, I’ve turned to public community forums, YouTube videos and online courses to learn more.

For example, when I was learning how to use Keyboard Maestro, I understood the basics, but still didn’t really know what to do with it. Once I took David Sparks’ Keyboard Maestro course it gave me loads of ideas on how to use the tool that I would have never discovered on my own.

Or if I’ve ever gotten stuck with Alfred, the community forum is there and willing to help.

And this is why I make so many free videos for YouTube to promote my services. Being on the receiving end, I appreciate people who can teach things in a clear way. So if I can do the same for others, it’s a great way of building credibility and positioning yourself as an expert.

3. Repeat, repeat, repeat

Ultimately, adjusting to a new process or tool can just take time. Especially if you’ve been working the same way for years and now you’re doing things differently, it can feel weird and even slower at first.

This is why when I work with clients I try not to overwhelm people with all the features of Asana or Pipedrive at once. When adopting a new tool, my goal is for new users to understand the basics and start forming new habits around these. I’ve identified the 80/20 features i.e. the 20% of features that deliver 80% of the value. For example, with Asana, new users need to understand how to check and manage their inbox. This helps them to keep up to date with what’s going on in their account. And for the first few weeks, that’s fine. I just need new users to repeat the basics again and again until it becomes more instinctive. Then, more advanced features can be introduced later when they’re ready.

I recently purchased a new Apple Magic Keyboard with the number pad on the right-hand side. I’ve been using the smaller one for years and now I’m forcing myself to use the number-pad on the side instead of the number keys along the top. It felt slow and awkward at first. But after a few weeks of repetition, it’s starting to feel natural.

My big takeaway from this post is this – Yes doing things the way you’ve always done them is easy. But improvement requires change and this comes with an adjustment period. It might suck at first, you might question whether the change is worth it, but if you put in the effort to make it through that adjustment period, you’ll usually be very happy you did.