Weekend Upgrade (by R.J. Nestor)

Weekend Upgrade 51: That's Where the Money Is

Published about 2 months ago • 4 min read

Happy Friday!

Robbing banks

Bank robber Willie Sutton, when asked why he robbed banks, answered,“Because that’s where the money is.” Simple, concise, and obvious.

The most valuable way to improve your productivity is just as simple and obvious, but we tend to overlook it.

In Weekend Upgrade 44: Capture Recurrence, I introduced the Action-Powered Productivity tactic called Capturing Recurrence™ and said this about it:

Capturing recurrence is a timeless skill, on par with developing typing skills or learning to write clearly. Just like those skills, capturing recurrence improves the speed, accuracy, and quality of the work you do. But not only have most people not developed their capturing recurrence skills: most people are unaware that the skill of capturing recurrence exists.

Improving your productivity means seeking out the little bits of repetition in your life and becoming the master of them. We fear this because repetition feels confining: If I add a bunch of recurring tasks, routines, procedures, and such to my productivity toolkit, we think, I’ll have so much more to do that it will overwhelm me.

Here’s the thing: that repetition already exists in your work and life. Pretending it doesn’t won’t help you. In fact, it hurts you.

Repeating work won’t surprise you or disrupt your plans if you’ve captured it in a recurring task. Negative mindsets won’t derail your days if you develop recurring routines that prepare you for your work. You won’t waste time reinventing wheels, doing menial manual tasks, or fixing work you did wrong if you capture the right templates, automations, and procedures.

Genuine, practical productivity improvements are possible when you embrace this maxim: If you don’t master recurrence, recurrence will master you.

💡 Recurrence is where the leverage is 💡

👆 That's your weekend upgrade.

Like Willie Sutton finding money in banks, we become the masters of recurrence because that’s where we find true leverage.

Sure, some productivity mindsets can help reframe our approach to work. And some productivity hacks can chip away at inefficiencies. But capturing recurrence? Capturing recurrence will change your life. Here’s why.

(1) You will “Always Start in the Middle”

Wouldn’t it be great if every time you started working on something, it was already half done? Starting from scratch is hard, and there’s really no excuse for continually starting from scratch on work you’ve done before and you know you’ll do again (which is most work). Capture that recurrence in templates and automations, and you can start in the middle of all the work you do.

(2) You will work more accurately

You know what really wastes time? Fixing work you did wrong. If you capture your recurring processes into procedures, you can significantly improve the accuracy of your work. Plus, you’ll save time getting started on that work, because you can confidently dive in knowing exactly what you need to do.

(3) You will remember work that needs to be done

A lot of effort is wasted when you forget to do work that needed to be done. For one, your errors of omission need to be corrected. But more than that, the sort of maintenance or preventative work that recurring tasks can remind you to do keeps your productivity toolkit operating smoothly. And when your toolkit is firing on all cylinders, all your work is faster and easier.

(4) You will save the same time and effort more often

The three aspects above are life-changing by themselves, but their leverage is still linear in nature. Yes, I can save time by starting in the middle of a certain workflow. Yes, I can spend less effort if I do more accurate work, or if I remember to do all my work.

But here’s the magical part: we’re talking about recurring work. You won’t just saving that time and effort once. You’ll save it again, and again, and again, and again. The real “that’s where the money is” leverage lives in that repetition.

In Weekend Upgrade 41: Small Bridges, Big Work, I shared my workflow for creating the weekly worship aid at the church I serve as music director. There’s a recurring task, a link to templates, a set of templates, an automation for generating the PDF booklet to send for printing—essentially, every step has some form of captured recurrence providing me leverage.

I make at least one worship aid a week, more around holidays and holy days. My workflow saves me about 45 minutes per worship aid, taking an hour-long job and cutting it to 15 minutes.

Saving 45 minutes is nice. But let’s do some math. I wrote Weekend Upgrade 41 about half a year ago—we’ll say 26 weeks. Since then, that one worship aid workflow has saved me almost twenty hours. Over the course of a year, that’s an entire 40-hour work week saved with only one workflow.

Capturing recurrence yields exponential improvements in productivity. Each recurring task, template, procedure, automation, routine, or other productivity bridge saves you time and effort every single time you use it.

Review and Tune

Reaping these benefits isn’t difficult. It’s not hard to create recurring tasks, procedures, or templates—and not much harder to create automations, with the right tools. But you miss out on capturing recurrence because you’re skipping (at least) two parts of your work cycles.

In the last newsletter, I encouraged you to “Play your PART” by making each aspect of your productivity toolkit follow a four-part cycle: Prepare, Act, Review, and Tune. You can read the previous newsletter for more detail, but here’s how it applies to Capturing Recurrence: the reason you’re not capturing recurrence is that you’re not taking the time to look at the work you’ve completed and ask yourself “how can I do that work better next time?” Until you review what you did and tune your toolkit accordingly with the right templates, automations, procedures, and more, you will not have access to this exponential increase in productivity.

Don’t think “big picture.” Don’t build a “comprehensive productivity system.” Assemble a toolkit, one bit of recurrence at a time. The benefits come quickly and easily when you’re not trying to solve every problem. Just make your recurring work easier—the improvements will follow.

What do I do next?

(1) Take 2 minutes and answer this question: What’s one thing I learned in this newsletter that I can put into practice right away?

By committing to a specific action, you make it much more likely you’ll do it.

(2) Next week, commit to asking “how can I do that work better next time” after every task you complete.

You don’t need to build the template or automation right then, but if you find a way to improve the work, capture a task to build that improvement soon!

If this was valuable for you:

Share the newsletter with someone you think would also get value from it!

Until next time, friends:

Master recurrence, or it will master you.


P.S. My book, The Rhythms of Productivity, will be releasing in ebook form in a few weeks (with a paperback to follow). Get a free preview!

Weekend Upgrade (by R.J. Nestor)

Weekend Upgrade provides tools to improve your productivity and communication, especially if you use Tools for Thought like Roam Research, Amplenote, Logseq, or Obsidian.

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