Short on Time? Systems Will Save You

Interview with Katherine Ann Byam for the Women in STEM, Reimagined masterclass.


When you search for ‘productivity hacks’ on Google, you’ll get 13.500.000 hits. Searching for ‘productivity systems’ even gives 269.000.000!

What’s the difference? Katherine Ann Byam explains that productivity hacks are often only a quick fix. People that are productive have a system to drive them forward every day.

Having a system gives you assurance of success and it all starts with inquiring deeper into your why, your reason for doing things. Then you can build systems that reinforce the positive behaviour that eventually leads to the results you want to see in your life.

It’s worthwhile pairing the what (your goals and milestones) with a strong why. The why is where you want to be, who you want to be and serves as an aspirational identity statement. In other words, it’s your reason for getting up each morning with a clear sense of knowing you’re moving toward this future self.

But Katherine cautions us:

“You don’t rise to the level of your goals, you fall to the level of your systems.”

That’s also why she recommended to start with levelling up your productivity before starting any other personal and professional development effort. Because let’s be honest: “I don’t have the time” is one of the biggest obstacles to taking on projects and activities that are meaningful to us. That’s why, when you restructure your life, you make time for what’s important to you.

Katherine shared an exercise to help you shape the mindset you need to tackle the activities in a way that makes you more and more productive:

  1. Recall a time you’ve done this specific task before and you were at your best doing that. 
  2. Relive that moment and visualise it, even get your body to recall those steps to help you get in the right mindset. 
  3. Write down what it is you do every time you do this activity.

This exercise takes about 10 minutes and you’ll end up with a super simple Standard Operating Procedure on how you can do this specific task (e.g. preparing for a presentation) so that it brings you the results you want. 

Now every time you have to do that same task again, you can bring up that sheet and start improving your process.

Ideally it’s not a one-off or monthly exercise. Katherine recommends to do this every day to get some tracking. You can use a journal to help you reflect each evening:

  • What did I like about my process today?
  • What opportunities existed?
  • What am I most proud of?

That way you improve how you get results every day and drive optimisation and excellence.

You’ll start to notice where your value is best added and can start to automate and reduce friction in your work processes.


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Katherine Ann Byam is the Founder of Dieple Consulting. Her business serves medium sized business and startups looking to scale up. Connect with Katherine on LinkedIn here.


Dr. Nicole Tschierske is a positive psychology coach who helps women in STEM get noticed in their company so they attract their next opportunity with total ease.

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