Why “How You Do It” is not enough

By Timo Kiander

I like to optimize my working methods as much as I can. It’s really awesome when I can find even a small way to improve my working methods, thus saving some time while doing so.

One part of this process is learning new stuff about the productivity all the time. My preferred way of doing this is by reading books.

However, sometimes things didn’t work out as I hoped and this happened especially when I was implementing what I had learned in practice.

Naturally, this made me confused and sometimes even annoyed: I had spent time reading and learning something, which didn’t work in a real life scenario.

 “How you do it” is only one part of the package.

What I realized was that I was seeing only one part of the “package.”

You see, I was emphasizing the “how” part of the solution. And although the “how” gives you the step-by-step instructions, it’s not enough: it’s just one part of the bigger picture.

I knew that in order to master a new technique, I also had to change the ways I implemented the technique in my everyday life.

I also realized that I couldn’t just extract the “how” out of the big picture and ignore the other important areas of the technique at the same time.

This would just leave me confused – and annoyed – when something promised wasn’t working.

Are you too unfocused?

When I started to analyse why something worked and why something didn’t, I finally realized what was causing the unsatisfactory results: the focus.

First of all, my focus was too narrow, when I was just trying to implement the “how.” In the process, I had missed the other critical questions I had to ask myself when implementing the new way of working.

On the other hand, the lack of focus was also the reason why I wasn’t getting the results I was supposed to have: I let the distractions to overtake my concentration and this made it more difficult to implement the learned stuff in practice.

So, now that I knew the reasons – focus which was too narrow and lack of concentration. I had to find a way to fix the situation and rethink my working methods by asking two important questions.

Why it’s not enough to ask “how”?

Instead of just focusing on the “how,” I also had to know the “when” and “where.” I knew that if I was able to answer those three questions, I would be able to implement these new strategies successfully in practice.

For instance, one of the great productivity techniques is to plan your day and your week in advance. Now, I could be just focusing on the “how” part, but without proper focus – by answering when and where – I wouldn’t be able to do this plan successfully.

If I would just try to do the planning when there is television making noise on the background, my son hanging on my sleeve or my wife talking to me at the same time, it would be obvious that I wouldn’t be successful with my planning.

On the other hand, if I took the time to figure out my “when” (when I do the planning) and “where” (in which physical location I do the planning), I would be more successful and I would be able to see the results that were promised (by a book, blog post, article, etc. …).

You should try this too: don’t just ask how to do something, but also, when and where to do it. This way you are able to see the bigger picture and you are more likely to succeed.

Asking the right questions – step-by-step

With the following steps, you are able to get better results and the time spent on reading a book or a post is not wasted.

  1. See your current results. If you are not getting the results you want, it’s time to do analysis on what’s going on. Are you focusing on just the “how” part of the solution?
  2. Ask “when” and “where.” By answering to these questions, you are also focusing on more wholesome way than by just asking “how.” For instance, in my daily/weekly planning example, I know that the best results I get are when I plan my week when others were sleeping (during the early morning hours, on Sundays). I also know, that since it’s quiet in our home, I’m able to concentrate well enough on our kitchen table, where my laptop (temporarily) resided. However, you might find other options compelling as well. Maybe your “when” is sometime during the afternoon and your “where” is in the coffee shop, in a library or outside in the nature. Only you can answer those questions.
  3. Avoid the temptation to rush. I know that I’m pumped after I have read a book: I’m ready to put things into action right away! However, this is not the optimal strategy and other factors matter too. In my case, I like to find out the right time and place to implement the stuff I have learned.

You should do this too: Figure out the optimum time and place to implement what you have just read and learned. This way you are getting the best results – without frustration and distraction.


Learning new ways of working is fun. However, focusing on just the “how” part is not enough, you have to find the answers to questions “when” and “where” as well.

This way, you are more successful when implementing the new technique in practice.

Over to you: Do you ask yourself “when” and “where,” when implementing a new strategy in practice?


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