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  • Productivity Champ Spotlight — Building A Lego-Block System by Andy Vandiver

Finding a system or routine that works for you can be difficult and time-consuming. Once you think you’ve got one down, a new one comes across you that you want to try. Our productivity champ this month, Andy, can attest to this.

He came across various systems, habits, and routines that promised to increase his productivity. Finally, he had an epiphany that lead him to decide on a system of his own that he continues to use today.

Read on and find out how Andy’s system and the AE community has helped him become more productive.

Introducing Andy Vandiver

Tell us a little bit about who you are and what you’re up to.

Based in North Carolina, I am a Senior Director of Business Development for Catalent Pharma Solutions. In this capacity, I work directly with a wide range of clients — from large, global pharmaceutical businesses to virtual biotech start-ups (and a lot in between). The common thread among them all is a desire to positively improve patient/consumer lives by developing and commercializing new impacting medicines. At Catalent, we partner with each of them to expertly develop and make these drugs for approval.

What is the backstory that ignited you to get started on becoming more productive?

Three things conspired to set me on a path to raise my personal productivity bar:

  1. Marrying someone who gets things done at a much faster clip than me.
  2. Being encouraged to ‘redeem the time wisely’ in scripture while realizing my goals, up to that time, had been completely static.
  3. Stumbling by happenstance across the Asian Efficiency podcast and community. And of course, endless email.

What was the wall or problem that you ran into that stopped you from accomplishing what you wanted?

James Clear said ‘We don’t rise to the level of our goals but fall to the level of our systems’. So, what if systems are lacking or absent entirely? Then I can say — from experience — the fall is as long as Gandalf’s fall in Moria! The lack of good systems meant very little progress on poorly defined goals — year after year. It was obvious if growth was going to occur, I would need some structure.

What was the epiphany you experienced and discovered?

Initially, in my attempt to become organized & productive, I tried to adopt highly touted approaches and philosophies, such as “GTD” or the “One Thing”. Inevitably, they would each fail, as the implementation of such a total system — in and of itself — required a degree of productivity and focus I lacked. I needed a tool to use the tool.

The light began to break through when I recognized that “The journey of 1,000 miles begins with 1 step” isn’t just good fortune cookie wisdom — It is true in personal productivity. By taking small steps and continuously trying out habits/tools/routines, slowly a unique system sufficient for my own needs emerged. I ditched the urge to adopt a total system approach and became content with bolting on anything that seemed to work. Almost invisibly the results began to pile up.

I saw I wasn’t alone in this regard either – a fair number of AE Dojo community members were taking a similar approach to hacking their way into a system that worked for them. While the fundamentals remained constant – prioritizing, calendaring, reviewing, stacking routines and so on, the means to achieve these varied extensively.

What was the transformation that you experienced?

Recently during a holiday break, my boys and I did an exercise where we listed everything noteworthy we have accomplished or experienced over the past 12 months — really in an attempt to give them some perspective — and the list was not what I expected. We had done far more in our personal lives than I had ever thought, across multiple areas.

Professionally, my sales targets have been exceeded for the fourth straight year, exceeding over $100 million in contractual value. More importantly, however, is the fact I am working with clients on life-enhancing and/or life-saving drugs and being productive means faster acting and better working medicines for patients.

If you have one piece of productivity advice for someone who is struggling to make progress towards their goals, what would it be?

An imperfect, 70% effective approach is infinitely better than the perfectly effective approach still being studied. Stop reading about productivity or what others are doing and start building a lego-block system that works for you. Then tear it down, and build a better one.

Thank you Andy for sharing!

Andy is a great example of what we refer to in our community as a “productivity champ” — someone who continuously looks for ways to become better or someone who has the growth mindset. Other examples of people who have succeeded are Lisa and Scott who we have written case studies about.

If you are feeling overwhelmed, exhausted, or distracted, you can overcome that and become a productivity champ too:

  • Review our TEA Framework, and become familiar with the 3 Pillars of Productivity.
  • Take our super-quick Productivity Quiz, which will give you actionable insight into where you should get started.
  • Pick one (only one!) action step and schedule it on your calendar to implement it.

If you think we should feature you as a productivity champ, get in touch and let us know!

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Thanh Pham

Founder of Asian Efficiency where we help people become more productive at work and in life. I've been featured on Forbes, Fast Company, and The Globe & Mail as a productivity thought leader. At AE I'm responsible for leading teams and executing our vision to assist people all over the world live their best life possible.

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