For about the past few months, I’ve been using a strategy that may be helpful to some of you.  I call it, “Pick a card, any card,” which is a phrase that my mom used to say related to some game that we played.

Because this has generated so much interest I decided to teach a free class to help you use this new strategy.

This recorded class is available now!

Although known for my productivity, I can get off track just like anyone else. I can fritter away a whole day, mostly by distracting myself, albeit with some worthwhile activities, just not the top priorities for the day or the week.  It’s not pretty or anything to be proud of, but it’s the truth.

After a couple of weeks of intermittent productivity and a disturbing amount of distraction, I decided to make staying focused and purposeful more game-like. The result was the “Pick a Card, Any Card” strategy.  This strategy is designed to keep its user doing the work that matters, rather than the work that either doesn’t matter at all or doesn’t matter right now.

If you want to give this a try, here are the steps:

cards on desk

  1. Write down the tasks, projects, or jobs you need to work on this week. You could use another period of time such as a day or a month, but for me, one week has been the best time boundary.
  2. Get some index cards.  Although the ones you see in the picture are colored, the reason this strategy works has nothing to do with the colors.
  3. Write one task, project, or job on each index card. For example, at the top of one of my cards it says, “Coaching Clients.” This is an on-going project, but in any given week, I might add a few notes to the card about specific to-do items related to that project. At the top of another one of my cards one week, it said, “Make flight and hotel reservations for South Carolina workshop trip.” Once that is done, that card is recycled, whereas the Coaching Clients card is re-used each week until it gets completely full or worn out.
  4. Stand the cards up in your Levenger bleachers (or create some other type of holder so that you can see the cards that are on deck for your week; use your ingenuity for this). The cards that are standing in the holder are the ones from which you will be choosing each day as you commit to focusing and being productive.  Note: I had wanted “the bleachers” for years and once, when they went on sale, I jumped in and bought them.  [Note: Someone recently sent me a link to these card holders that work for her.]
  5. Commit to yourself that throughout your work time, you will “pick a card, any card.” This means that if you are casting about for what to do, your ONLY choice – if you live up to your commitment – is to pick one of the cards and make progress on the task or project represented by that card.
  6. Put the card to the side when you have either finished a card’s task for today or made progress on it. And guess what?  Your only choice is to pick another card (any card).
  7. Strategize about which cards to have available for your “pick a card, any card” time.  Some days, I will have a huge array of options to choose from. Other days, there will be a limited number of cards, usually when deadlines are looming, and I know the need to focus on a few projects is paramount to my productivity and professional reputation.

Since I’ve been using this strategy, my focused productivity has increased and my distraction and frustration with frittering behavior have decreased.

My productivity practices, which I’ve been honing for 25 years, include using strategies for as long as they work for me. When a strategy stops working, I find another one or make adjustments to the one I have so that it will work again. For now, “Pick a Card, Any Card” is working so I’ll keep using it through the summer and potentially into the fall. We’ll see.

Let me know if this works for you, too or if you’ve found something else that works better.

  • Pick a Card, Any Card – Strategy for Staying Focused

    Pick a Card, Any Card – Strategy for Staying Focused
    If you find yourself being distracted and not staying focused and productive, try this strategy. Pick a Card, Any Card is something especially created to capitalize on making focus more game-like and fun!

For other tips and ideas please visit the video gallery.