The Productivity Cycle

by | May 18, 2021 | Productivity Mindset

Change is never easy. Changing habits is challenging. Changing how you manage your time and priorities is an emotional roller coaster.

Based on psychologist Bruce Tuckman, I bring to you my “Productivity Cycle,” which can help you gain insight into the development process.

The model identifies the stages a team goes through to reach higher levels of performance. Having managed teams around the world over the last 20 years, I have seen this in action. While working with managers and supervisors, I found it powerful to use common language to identify what stage a team was in to know how to best lead and guide them forward.

During challenging times, when sitting with a group of managers and supervisors, it was useful to focus on the cause leading to action rather than complain. Complaining takes more of your valuable time and we are here to increase productivity, not decrease it.

As a productivity partner who works with clients who are taking intentional steps to reach higher levels of performance, I have found this same cycle to be true.

Each Stage Explained

The productivity cycle starts with forming then is storming, norming, and, lastly, performing.


Forming is the “honeymoon part;” it’s being excited because you have just figured out how to take control of your time. This new energy is from finding a new “toy” that makes your mind filled with possibilities of working smarter!

During the forming process, you are starting to remove pain points. This might make you hesitant, but it is well worth it!


Storming comes next. You move to storming when things are not perfect because maybe something fell through the cracks or you’re beginning to identify some weaknesses that are not because of the process, but because of you. The energy is a feeling of intensity, being bummed that habits didn’t just form.

During this process there can be a bit of resistance. It’s taking you longer to find things and you think the system should just be all set already. You’re beginning to storm because it’s not the perfect dream you thought. The realization hits that it will take a lot of effort and work.

The best part about sticking through this process is, after storming, you get to the point where it’s norming!


Norming is when the habits are becoming just that, habits. There will be a moment when you need to find a document or need to look something up quickly and bam! It’s right where you found it, where you need.

When your productivity habits are starting to help you, you’re beginning to “Norm.” It isn’t uncomfortable or awkward. Your habits are becoming a normal part of your day.

Once we get to this point… it is time to step it up and perform.


Performing is when you’re able to move forward. You are making improvements to your processes. You find the quality of your work improving. Your hard work is paying off and your habits are helping your day, week, month, and beyond!

One Final Note

The productivity cycle is just that. A cycle and not a destination.

Unfortunately this process is not a one and done type of thing. This cycle will reset whenever there are changes or adjustments. The size of the change does not matter.

It is important to know the cycle so you know how to respond, know what your reaction will be like, when implementing new habits into your life. Knowing why you feel the resistance will help you work through it.

In summary the stages of the cycle go as such:

Trigger – “Oh, no. My current tool/method is not working.”

Forming – “Yes! I’m ready to do this! Let’s go!”

Storming – “Yeah, this was supposed to be easier….”

Norming – “O.K, I can see where this is going. I’ll keep on going!”

Performing – “I like this. I’m in the zone of working smarter not harder!”

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