“I Do” or To-Do? How One Productivity Superhero Succeeds at Both

wedding-ringsFor most people, planning a wedding is both stressful and joyful, and typically something they only want to do once. Not so for Tracy Brisson, a wedding officiant in Savannah, Georgia who married 228 couples last year. In addition to providing a personalized and unique ceremony for hundreds of people (even coffee shop weddings), she writes books, provides career coaching, and is active in her community. She takes care of herself through regular participation at the gym and periodic acupuncture. For fun, Tracy keeps up with Marvel comics and lets her imagination run wild in the world of the X-Men.


And, yes, this very productive wedding expert is happily married with an active family life.


In this series on #ProductivitySuperheroes, the prevailing question is “How does she do it?” For Tracy, the secret sauce is an intentional mixture of productivity tools and systems.


Tracy was not always so productive, though. When she started her business five years ago, she said “I couldn’t get anything done.” The skills that she had used in her previous corporate life didn’t necessarily help her be productive as a freelancer.  She hired a productivity coach, learned new valuable skills, and has been going strong ever since. Let’s look at Tracy’s systems and tools.


Here are some of the systems and strategies that help Tracy manage the amazing volume and variety of work she produces:
  • David Allen’s GTD (Getting Things Done) approach. She aligns her life goals to her daily actions. Tracy maintains project lists, lists of next actions, and someday/maybe lists. “Mind like water” is something that inspires her to get information out of her head and into an actionable system.
  • Steven Covey’s principles. Tracy reads The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People every few years as a reminder of the importance of value alignment. She is particularly fond of using the urgent/important quadrant when things get busy.
  • Decision Trees. Tracy develops checklists to help her make fast decisions in frequently-occurring situations. For example, she has a list of questions that helps her determine whether she will accept a request for a meeting. Luckily, I must have passed the list because she decided to meet with me!


However, Tracy has incorporated several helpful technical tools in her work:
  • Workflowy – an easy-to-use app that helps her manage her tasks
  • Evernote – a place to store her ceremonies. She reads right from Evernote on her iPad during weddings. Additionally, Tracy uses Evernote to store emails, articles of interest, blog ideas, and recipes.
  • Feedly – an RSS reader that sends blogs of interest to Evernote
  • 17 Hats – her CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system without which Tracy says she’d never be able to handle so many clients. She stores the workflows for her five most frequently-used wedding packages here.
  • Scrivner – a book-writing tool that allows her to sort, organize and store her writing
  • Hemingway Editor – a copy and paste tool that checks for common grammatical and writing errors. I used it for this post!
  • Line2 – a service that filters many phone numbers for her various business ventures into one place
  • Hootsuite – a social media manager where she can schedule postings as well as track social media accounts
  • FancyHands– a US based virtual assistance company that offers a low-cost monthly subscription she uses to schedule appointments and make phone calls she doesn’t need to make herself.
  • Subcontractors/outsourcing – how difficult it can be to realize that we cannot do everything ourselves. Tracy outsources tasks and projects to subcontractors.


BrissonTracy_headshotI am impressed by Tracy’s thoughtful use of technical tools and productivity systems. Some people would get overwhelmed by all that she does, but she has layered these tools into her business over time. Undergirding all these best practices is a calm, cool, and collected demeanor. She believes in prioritization and putting things on the back burner until she is ready to take action.


If Tracy had systems without tools (or vice versa), I do not believe that she would be as effective as she is. You can give a girl a pneumatic nail gun, but if you want her to build a fence, she needs to understand how and when to use it.


Where do you stand on the tools vs. systems balance? Have you downloaded several productivity apps that are languishing on your iPhone? Too few systems. Do you spend time setting goals and determining next steps only to fail to follow through? Too few tools. You’ve gotta have both.


Like Tracy, maybe you need to kick start your productivity by reaching out to an expert. Yes, I happen to be one and would love to help you. But if emailing me is too big of a leap for today, sign up for my newsletter. You’ll receive articles containing tips to enhance your productivity at work. See? Tools *and* systems. Funny how that works.


This article is a part of my #ProductivitySuperheroes series where I profile people who are exceptional at managing their time, tasks, information and/or life in general. If you’d like to nominate yourself or someone you admire, please email getproductive@melissagratias.com.


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Dr. Melissa GratiasMelissa Gratias (pronounced “Gracious”) used to think that productivity was a result of working long hours. And, she worked a lot of hours. Then, she learned that productivity is a skill set, not a personality trait. Now, Melissa is a productivity expert who coaches and trains other businesspeople to be more focused, balanced, and effective. She is a prolific writer and speaker who travels the world helping people change how they work and improve how they live. Contact her at getproductive@melissagratias.com or 912-417-2505. Sign up to receive her productivity tips via email.


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