Productivity is possible

BRAVA’s THRIVE speaker Katie Belanger Has a System for You
By Meg Rothstein


Katie Belanger, a nationally respected productivity guru, holds a formidable record of leadership and achievement. Belanger has served in numerous capacities through executive, nonprofit and political work. Currently, Belanger runs Katie B Strategies, offering a sizable menu of services to for- and non-profit organizations, while she continues working full time as the chief operations officer for Freedom for All Americans— the leading bipartisan campaign working to secure full nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people nationwide.

“How does Katie Belanger do it all?” one might, understandably, wonder. Belanger shared her firsthand experiences and productivity prowess with attendees at 2017’s first BRAVA THRIVE Career Workshop, “Making Productivity Productive,” at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art. Here’s some insight into her methods.

“True productivity is about more than checking things off your to-do list. It’s about doing what matters most to you,” Belanger explained. To describe components of true productivity, Belanger uses an equation: Identify your priorities + schedule for success + work your workflow.

Identify Your Priorities

From the outset, individuals and teams need to spend time getting clear about what’s truly important, Belanger advised. From thinking about buying a new car, to signing up to something like a yellow card course for your new job, being able to priorities and handle the important aspects in life will help create more productivity in your life. She led workshop participants through an activity recalling a time when they or their teams were deeply productive. Then, Belanger asked participants to honestly identify what they and/or their teams would be accomplishing if there could be an increase in productivity. Next, Belanger asked participants to plot, on a prioritization matrix, how they currently spend time. Activities were noted in one of four boxes on the matrix: 1. Urgent/Important, 2. Not Urgent/Important, 3. Urgent/Not important and 4. Not Urgent/Not Important. Looking at the matrix, participants were asked what made them feel successful. “Sometimes we can’t remove something from our plate, but we can adjust how we are defining success to make our desired outcomes attainable,” explained Belanger. Finally, Belanger helped participants identify priorities by breaking down large projects into manageable pieces. This action is excellent for building momentum, she advised. Completing smaller chunks of work means more (tiny) victories.

Schedule For Success

Belanger follows key scheduling rules. 1. Manage your time ruthlessly. 2. Select your scheduling tools carefully. 3. Review your schedule and flesh out details consistently. When one reviews her schedule on a daily, weekly, monthly basis, Belanger says, she begins to learn, at a glance, what is working for her. What can we adjust in order to improve our scheduling practices?

Work Your Workflow

In order to illustrate the importance of workflow, Belanger cited David Allen, the founder of the productivity methodology called Getting Things Done: “Your mind is for having ideas, not holding them.” One needs an accessible system that works specifically for her and/or her team— a workflow system with a design that allows one to get tasks out of one’s head and onto paper and/or into technology. To work the workflow, then, one needs to trust and work whatever system is chosen.

With so many tools, how does an individual or team decide what to include in a workflow system? Belanger walked participants through an activity in order to unlock “productivity personae.” Depending on an individual or team’s preferred platform (tech or paper), style (methodical or messy) and approach (process or visionary), different tools will ultimately work best.

After identifying productivity personae, Belanger introduced and/or reacquainted participants with apps such as Omnifocus, Basecamp, Remember the Milk and Gantt Charts (great for the Tech/Methodical/Process productivity people), Wunderlist and utilizing calendar app reminders features (for Tech/Messy/Process folks), Asana, Notions and Pagico for the Tech/Methodical/Visionaries among us and Trello, Evernote, Google tasks and calendar app reminders for the Tech/Messy/Visionaries.

Participants came away from Belanger’s THRIVE Career Workshop knowing productivity excellence isn’t just a dream. It’s well within sight. “Knowing yourself and how you work is half the battle,” Belanger says.

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