The Productivity Pyramid: A Framework to Make Real Progress

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Kate Erickson

We’re all dealt 24 hours a day. I believe how you spend that time, or maybe rather how you invest it, should give you some sort of return.

That could be a monetary return, sure. But it could also be a return in personal satisfaction or impact on others.

Today, I want to introduce a productivity framework to make time for your side hustle I’m calling The Productivity Pyramid.

Like most frameworks, it’s a work in progress, but here’s how it shapes up:

  • Vision / Goals
  • Projects
  • Tasks
  • Tools and Tactics

Or since a visualization is probably easier:

productivity pyramid

To help me talk through this is Kate Erickson. Kate is a master of systems, and over the last several years has helped grow into a multi-million dollar operation.

She also has a new podcast called Ditch Busy, which is all about helping you take back control of your time.

Tune in to hear:

  • the goal setting and vision exercises Kate uses
  • how she plans and tackles projects
  • how she breaks down tasks and decides what to delegate
  • the tools she uses to increase her productivity and get more done in those 24 hours

Goal Setting and Vision Exercises

When it comes to setting your goals and vision, Kate explained, “The most important thing is that you’re actually giving yourself time to do this.”

It sounds obvious, but how often do you actually set aside time where you’re not going to be disturbed to actually think about your goals?

Kate said most of us are so busy that we only ever work on the “surface.” We don’t get — or make — the time to go deeper and ask ourselves:

  • “What is my desired outcome?”
  • “Why am I doing what I’m doing?”
  • “Where is this going to get me?”
  • “What’s my end goal?”

Kate said the first and foremost critical thing is to schedule that time to yourself so you can ask yourself those questions.

Once you’ve set aside some quality time, you can start to write out the answers to those questions.

An important question is: “What would your perfect day look like?”

Only then will you be able to clearly map out what you need to do to achieve that perfect day.

Outcome Goals vs. Process Goals?

“Once you have your vision and you have a really strong WHY… some of those micro-goals can be those monetary goals,” Kate said.

But it should always be with the vision in mind that you have clear goals you want to achieve. Those goals may result in meeting your monetary goals, but Kate doesn’t set money-orientated goals.

The happiness is not in the money, happiness is what the money affords you, Kate explained. Such as more time with your family, nice vacations, experiences, and so on.

Lately, I’ve tended to set more process-oriented goals (like doing a daily workout, creating content consistently) vs. outcome goals (make $1 million this year), because I feel like I have more control over the process than the outcome.

How Often Should You Evaluate Your Goals?

Kate likes to check in quarterly on her goals but said it comes down to preference and what works best for each person.

She likes to work in small chunks, and really likes 90 to 100-day plans. Kate said longer periods, like a year, tend to include multiple plans and can easily become overwhelming.

For instance, my Progress Journal is built on 4-week time-blocks.

Plus, as 2020 has shown us, a lot can happen in a year to derail even the best-formed plans.

Related: Pandemic Pivots: How Entrepreneurs are Adapting to “Obliteration”

How to Structure Your Goals

“I really love the SMART goal setup,” Kate told me.

SMART is an acronym for:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Relevant
  • Timebound

Setting the timeline and evaluating how realistic your goals are is an important piece of the puzzle for Kate.

Kate looks at the goals she’s written down and works backward through the SMART framework to make sure they’re realistic.

Choosing Projects

The second part of the Productivity Pyramid is projects.

productivity pyramid

“All of my projects that I start are very specifically rooted in the goals that I have,” Kate told me.

Kate never starts a project that isn’t geared to help her achieve her goals.

This is an area where Kate sees a lot of people going wrong. People are quick to start new projects and invest time into things that interest them, without evaluating if it’s going to get them closer to their goals.

Kate said she actually fell victim to this a couple of months ago. She decided to start focusing on Pinterest as a new platform to raise awareness of her podcast.

She set some goals around creating checklists and pinning to boards. But Kate said what happened was she ended up bailing on the two platforms that give her the highest ROI — Facebook and Instagram.

By adding Pinterest to her workload, she started losing traction with the platforms that were working for her. She ended up putting Pinterest aside and focusing on the other platforms as they’re delivering measurable results.

What Projects Are You Working on Right Now?

Aside from the new Ditch Busy podcast, another big project she’s working on right now is improving the SEO on so they rank higher for podcast-related terms.

She’s hired an SEO team to help with this and is optimizing a lot of the content herself. Kate said it’s a time-consuming project, but each post she re-optimizes gets her one step closer to that end goal.

Plus, she loves working on content, so she’s having fun doing it.

Finding the Motivation to Keep Going

Looking back, Kate said there were a lot of 60-hour weeks building up the business to get it to where it is today. During this period she was motivated to get to where she is now.

Now she’s fortunate enough to be able to be more selective about what she works on. So she picks stuff that is motivating for her.

Kate typically sets goals and works on projects that get her excited and makes an impact on her audience.

Entrepreneurship and the lifestyle it’s afforded her has had a huge positive impact on her life. She’s incredibly motivated to spread that message and help others. (Which is what her partner John does by interviewing successful entrepreneurs on his podcast.)

Breaking Down Specific Tasks

The third part of the Productivity Pyramid is tasks.

productivity pyramid

Kate used her SEO project as an example of how she would define the tasks she needed to accomplish.

A lot of the tasks for this project are coming from the SEO team she’s working with. If she was doing this project herself, she would look at the micro requirements needed to get to her end goal.

Things like:

  • How do I find out which posts I need to optimize?
  • What are our highest traffic posts?
  • What are the specific actions to take on each page?

Then she would dive into the research to find out ways to optimize those posts for more traffic.

Which Tasks Should Be Delegated?

Kate said there are a couple of approaches you can take to help you decide which tasks you should be delegating.

The first is to assign all of your tasks a value, such as $10, $100, $1,000, $10,000, and so on.

You can then start by delegating all of the $10 tasks, so you’re not spending your time on those yourself when you could be working on $100 or $1,000 tasks.

As the value you put on your own time grows, you can delegate more expensive tasks so you’re always working on higher-value tasks.

Another approach you can take is to simply ask yourself what you love doing, and prioritize your time to work on those tasks, while delegating the rest.

Related: Hiring Your First Virtual Assistant: When, Where, and How to Do it Right, with John Jonas and Nate Hirsch

How to Prioritize Tasks

“Action reveals answers very quickly,” Kate told me.

If you’re really not sure about how you’re going to tackle your tasks, Kate said you just have to dive into it.

You’re going to quickly figure out what you should be doing once you get started.

She reiterated again the importance of putting aside time to focus on tasks. Kate is a big fan of scheduling everything, she advises anyone to schedule dedicated time to figure out tasks.

She uses Google Calendar and schedules all of her tasks there in blocks of time. When new things come up, she will find a timeslot for it and not get distracted at the time.

She also uses Asana to track all of her tasks and do her project management. Asana enables her to track the progress of specific tasks and set completion dates.

What Processes Are Working Well Right Now?

Something Kate has been implementing into her daily routine is a morning sweep and an evening sweep.

She said this has really elevated her productivity and helps her shift from work mode into family mode.

Morning Sweep

When Kate first sits down to work, she opens up her calendar and Asana and checks that everything on her list is realistic.

She then allocates an amount of time to every task. Kate sets a timer on her phone for each of those tasks and for the duration of that time she gives 100% focus.

Evening Sweep

At the end of her working day, Kate looks at what she accomplished during the day. If there was anything that didn’t get done, she breaks down why and looks at how she can approach a similar task differently in the future.

By doing this, Kate said she’s been able to identify what she’s good at, and the things she’s not so good at.

Doing these “bookend” tasks at the beginning and end of each day has helped her to streamline her processes and increase her productivity.

What Tools Are You Using?

Here are some of the tools Kate is using to help manage her time and workload:

RescueTime – This is a software that runs in the background while you’re at your computer and gives you a report showing you where you’re spending your time.

If you get distracted by social media, RescueTime is going to tell you exactly how long you’re spending on it each day.

TextExpander – This software enables you to save snippets of text you use over and over and add them to an email, document, etc at the touch of a key.

Kate said her TextExpander report told her she saved 3 hours last month by using this tool instead of typing the same phrases over and over.

Boomerang – This is a software that works with Gmail. It enables you to manage your inbox more efficiently. You can schedule emails, have emails come back to you if they’re unread, and more.

And a few of my favorites:

Kate’s #1 Tip for Side Hustle Nation

Ask yourself your biggest priority every day.”

Links and Resources from this Episode

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Nick Loper

About the Author

Nick Loper is a side hustle expert who loves helping people earn more money and start businesses they care about. He hosts the award-winning Side Hustle Show, where he's interviewed over 500 successful entrepreneurs, and is the bestselling author of Buy Buttons, The Side Hustle, and $1,000 100 Ways.

His work has been featured in The New York Times, Entrepreneur, Forbes, TIME, Newsweek, Business Insider, MSN, Yahoo Finance, The Los Angeles Times, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Financial Times, Bankrate, Hubspot, Ahrefs, Shopify, Investopedia, VICE, Vox, Mashable, ChooseFI, Bigger Pockets, The Penny Hoarder, GoBankingRates, and more.

2 thoughts on “The Productivity Pyramid: A Framework to Make Real Progress”

  1. Wonderful article, very helpful!
    I use Zapier and Quire to make sure I stay on the productive pyramid.
    Highly recommend using these two apps if you’re trying to choose a useful tool.

  2. Great tips. I’m doing a weekly review on my goals and progress to make sure my tasks are always in alignment with my goals. And I’m using Trello to organize my tasks. I like the idea of assigning tasks with value. It helps better priotize our tasks. :)


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