Olivia Newton-John’s Productivity Hack Everyone Needs

The surprising way post-it notes helped a manager find fresh focus, clarity, and productivity at work, and ultimately freedom to live a better life.

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For Arianna, who proved our stories change the world.

More than any of the words I’ve written (and I’ve authored more than a dozen books – so that’s a LOT of words), I remember the Dedications.

That tiny line of devotion at the beginning of each book is what stays with me. It’s what makes me most joyful when I remember my work.

Hearing from my readers is one of the ways that my work builds a personal connection, and I truly treasure it. But long before my book travels out into the world, that one line of devotion is all that gives my work a link to another person’s heart.

My first book was not just my first chance to knit hearts together. For one person it was also my last chance to form that thread. My beloved Grandpa sadly died before I’d written anything else. It reminds me that we don’t have forever to show our love. Some days today is all we have.

As I started another book dedicated to Jessie – and the utter joy my niece brought into my world just by being born – it was a reminder not to underestimate the beginnings. Those tiny little seeds of relationships, even before words are spoken, are so precious and packed with potential. Some days starting something is better than having everything.

Now, when I remember being trapped in soulless, joyless, cubicle prisons, I realize it was the author inside that taught me my greatest productivity hack – to start each day with a dedication. 

You could keep it hidden in your heart, you might tap it into your phone or dictate it into an email. But I found handwriting a simple daily dedication on a post-it note and placing that on my monitor was a powerful visual cue that my work mattered to someone, and their life and love mattered to me.

The change in me was immediate. I cared. I cared less about the stress of the deadline and more about who I was being to other people. I was still focused on my tasks, but in ways that would last beyond the task. Being mindful of one person I loved made we want to be better at the task – not just for them but for everyone else I was working for too.

More than an old framed photo, the daily post-it note gave my work (and my relationships) a freshness and flexibility that I hadn’t even noticed had long gone stale.

Even writing just their name and nothing else had an impact. Just one word was enough to shift my intention towards connection. I would find myself wondering what they were up to. I started saying post-it note prayers – micro-blessings like “God, fill their day with goodness and mercy”. Inevitably, I’d call them. Sometimes, before I went to bed, I’d meditate on ways to be more valuable to them, or write them a letter articulating how unique they are and how much value they bring to my world.

Within just a month or two, I’d started writing names of people I didn’t even know; world-changers like Sir Richard Branson and Mother Theresa. Dedicating a day to work for them inspired me and stretched my capacity to think bigger, bolder and smarter.

Colleagues started noticing I was calmer, more relaxed, and patient. The tiny post-it-note made me more focused and able to recognize what mattered in my work, too. As I let the stress slide right past me, I magically had more time, more client-focus and a greater commitment to quality. New insights fueled my productivity. 

Distinguishing signal from noise came naturally. My boss, thinking he was hilarious (and he was), started asking me for my analysis of an issue because, he said, I had “greatly improved my ability as a stripper!”

I have no data, no science, no proof that this ridiculously sustainable, quick, simple, cheap practice is guaranteed to prepare the escape route out of your cubicle hell. Oh, other than that it did for me.

These days, I often sing Olivia Newton-John’s hit song from Greece (the movie not the country), Hopelessly Devoted To You, as a simple reminder when I write and edit and critique and craft and rewrite my book Dedications. The words rely on my technical ability, but the source is love.

Who do you love enough to dedicate your work to today? If filling a post-it note with hopeless devotion sounds too small a thing to change your day, you’re right. Because Dedications are far bigger than that. They will change your life. 

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