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  • Productivity Champ Spotlight — Learn How To Learn First By Micah McGuire

Learning a new skill can be exciting. For some, a new skill is needed to achieve a goal. But it can also be a bit challenging and overwhelming when you’re not quite sure where to start.

Micah, a member of the Dojo community, shares how she was able to apply the “Learn how to learn first” mentality to help her develop new skillsets and achieve her goals faster.

Read on and find out why she is our productivity champ for this month.

Introducing Micah McGuire

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

I am the Communications Director and Health Coach for a small corporate wellness company. My education background is in microbiology, but I’m also a writer. In the nonfiction realm, I write about productivity and its connections to mental health. In line with this, I coach creatives and students on how to optimize their creative and academic processes (respectively) to perform at their best. I also write fiction and have a completed manuscript I hope to query in August.

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

I actually have Asian Efficiency to thank for a lot for my productivity story. I had just graduated from college and was working with my dad to open a weight management clinic. In school, I was used to going at an absolutely breakneck pace academically. My honor society voted me “Most Studious.” You know when you’ve out-nerded the nerds, you have a problem.

But school gives you a framework to work with and a roadmap. You don’t have that when you’re starting a business. For a good eight months, I felt like I was drifting through oil—I had to fight for any progress and whatever got done was slow and exhausting. Not to mention I wasn’t sure if that progress was even progressing in the right direction.

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

The weekly review was my biggest initial hurdle. I just had this completely baseless, squirming reaction to it. I coaxed myself into a pretty basic review session and wanted to go all-digital at first. That didn’t really work—my mind still felt cluttered.

I eventually started looking into nice paper planners as a sort of a mental trick. This was something I picked up from Charles Duhigg’s The Power of Habit — maybe if I made the tools attractive, I’d be more likely to use them.

Ultimately, I decided the paper planners weren’t working because they weren’t customized. I made my own template pages in Adobe Illustrator and bought a disc-bound journal from TUL. I’ve used a hybrid digital/analog system for my weekly review ever since.

What was the epiphany you experienced and discovered?

So I started searching questions like: “How can I get more done?” And while I was getting into the basics of productivity, I stumbled across Ron Friedman’s Peak Work Performance Summit. I think I watched every interview in real-time for three days.

A lot of the PWP Summit interviewees were authors. They had links to their books at the bottom of their interview pages and I added all of them to my reading list. Out of all of the sessions, Thanh’s interview was one of three that really resonated with me. And I remember scrolling to the bottom of his interview page and going: “He doesn’t have a book—are you kidding?! But I need to know more about his productivity philosophy.”

Cue the dive into every bit of free content AE had. By the time the Dojo membership option came up, it was a natural “yes.”

What was the transformation that you experienced?

From there, I read Getting Things Done, implemented my task manager (I’m in the AE minority using Todoist over Omnifocus) and piece-milled my way into a weekly review. At the same time, I took multiple MOOCs about learning (Jonathan Levi’s Become a Superlearner, Barbara Oakley and Terrance Sejnowski’s Mindshift and Learning How to Learn.)

All this gave me the mindset and time management skills I needed to start really making inroads in multiple areas of my life. I learned enough communications/PR skills to transition to my communications director role, I opened my mental performance coaching business and produced an average of 1500 words a week on my fiction writing projects.

The Dojo really came into play with honing that skill set even further. Sometimes all it took was a small tweak to really improve places I considered my “problem-areas.” Even now, it’s helped me with changes that seem small but make a big impact.

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

The biggest obstacle to obtaining your goals lies in your knowledge gaps about a topic or skill. So learn how to learn first. And it’s not the way school taught you. What we do in school is inefficient and mentally demoralizing.

Learning how to learn properly will open doors. You find out you don’t have to just brute-force your way to a skill. If you’re smart about how you’re learning, you can learn almost anything in a fairly short period of time—even if you don’t have the “formal” training or background for it.

This way, nothing is ever overwhelming. You can identify your knowledge gaps and say: “Hey, I don’t know how to do this right now, but I will soon!” All it takes is a bit of curiosity, open-mindedness and a willingness to explore the topic.

Thank you, Micah, for sharing!

Micah 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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