Updated: Apr 2, 2020
It goes without saying that there is so much happening in our world today. But most of us don’t have to look to the world to determine an influx of drama. Many of us can narrow the focus even closer. There is so much happening in our lives, with our jobs, in our homes, with our families. Inside our own minds. As a result, maintaining our focus long enough to complete simple tasks can often be an overwhelming activity. Think about it, how many times have you said to yourself, that you were going to finally read a book? Only to get started, and an hour later you realize you’ve been reading the same paragraph for over an hour! It’s almost impossible to fill your mind with something new because of the amount of garble that is occupying all the free space.
It goes without saying that uncovering the magic that allows you to be productive and STAY productive is rare and requires some serious skill. And while I don’t have all the magic… I do have a little to share. Let’s use this week’s post to talk through the challenges of productivity and come up with some strategies for improving our odds. And because I love a good bulleted list… here we go!
1. You’re in over your head – listen we can’t do it all and we definitely can’t do it all at once. I love when people say, “I’m multi-tasking”. What they are really saying is, I have too much to do and no sense of priority around getting it done. The truth is most people are seldom successful when it comes to multi-tasking. The outcome is usually a load of false starts with poor execution.
Do a quick brain-dump – Before tackling any effort, get it out of your head. Take a few moments to just empty your mind of the activity ahead. Start by writing down what it is that you need to do. Once you can see what needs to be done, it’s easy to begin bucketing the activity by priority or work-effort. Sometimes the biggest hurdle and roadblock that we will ever face, exists in our own head. The moment you write it down, you can manage it.
2. Too many distractions – I remember when our kids where teenagers. My husband would ask them how they were able to do their homework with the radio and the T.V playing in the background. They would always respond, “easy!”. Later we would check everyone’s homework for completeness and accuracy. Just as we suspected, there would be missing entries or some other error. While all the homework issues may not be directly related to the distractions, the resulting giggles, dancing, singing and laughter definitely were.
Turn it off! - While I understand music is soothing, too many non-essential background noises can easily serve as productivity blockers. When it’s time to focus, turn it off anything that’s not necessary to completing your task. If possible, block some time that you can devote to a specific task. During that time, don’t take any calls (or limit them as much as possible). Try this with small efforts until you are accustomed to balancing your day and the amount of distractions.
3. You’re hungry – Listen, it’s impossible to do anything when you are hungry. When hunger pain kicks in, productivity goes out the window. There are medical reasons to make sure you are both hydrated and energized. I’m not a doctor so I can’t explain them. However, I’ve tried to complete a task while skipping breakfast and it’s well past 1 PM and I’m totally hangry. (Hanger is when hunger and anger make a baby, that baby bites you and turn you into a werewolf). Once hanger sets in, it’s the rest of the day just goes south.
EAT Something – Simply put, go eat.... Period! I’m not saying grab a bag of your favorite chocolates and a bottle of wine (unless that helps), but I am suggesting you don’t’ skip meals. Especially on the days that you know you have a full load ahead. You need your mind to function and that can’t happen if you are hungry. Healthy snacks like almonds or fruit are great to help you dive in and get the job done. Just don’t starve yourself trying to conquer the world. You are most productive when your energy tank is full.
4. You’re tired – Exhaustion and production are two things that just don’t go together. You need to get proper rest because it just does so much for your mental health. Not to mention your physical health, your ability to think, see, hear, focus. Depriving yourself of proper rest is a recipe for disaster when it comes to getting things done.
Go to bed – Aside from the 8 hours that doctors recommend you get each night, I’m a huge advocate of the 10-15-minute power nap. Not just babies and toddlers need to take a nap. The mid-day slump usually occurs after lunch, when your day is picking up again. It’s during that time when you feel like passing out. Take a break, grab a few quick z’s to recharge and refresh your mind. 5. You don’t have a dedicated work-space - So this may not apply to every case, but in most cases not having a space that is central to the work you need to accomplish, can seriously zap you of productivity. It can be critical to define a zone that is solely focused on doing work and completing task.
Define your zone – Take some time to define a zone dedicated to completing a task. Try to make sure all the tools and supplies needed to complete the task are kept in that zone. This creates time and habit. Time prevents you from running around looking for those tools and thus prolonging how quickly you complete the activity. Keeping all the tools and supplies in this zone gets you in the habit of organization and time management.
6. You’re not comfortable – There is nothing worse than working in a space that is not comfortable for the task ahead. I can’t stand being too hot or too cold. While I love sunlight or sitting close to an open window, the climate I live in doesn’t allow it for most of the year because of my allergies. Trying to work in an uncomfortable space can be draining and zap you of energy because you're trying to get comfortable. Discomfort is the obvious distraction that can hinder productivity by creating chronic pain, potentially increasing trips to the doctor or constant fidgeting with your clothes throughout the day (because they are too uncomfortable). Discomfort plays a major role in how productive we can be.
Fix what ails you – If and when possible, adjust your space and find the best comfort levels for you. Whether it’s changing your shoes, wearing comfy stretchy clothes, getting a new cushion for your office chair, adjusting the temperature or getting a mobile desk that allows you to alternate between sitting and standing. Find the best way to make your space comfortable. While discomfort can be a major distraction, finding comfort can be the conduit the delivers productivity on a silver platter.
7. There is too much in the way – Are you someone who likes to lay all the tools out before starting a project? What about someone who uses your “office” as a catch all for everything under the sun. When there is too much “stuff” impeding your workspace, it’s time to take a step back and figure out the best way to clear a path to sanity.
CLEAN UP YOUR MESS!! – Pick up the socks, old newspapers, kids toys and yesterday’s lunch plate Your biggest problem could be your most important project, and that’s cleaning up and around your workspace. Make sure you are not using your workspace/office for storage or non-work-related essentials. I suggest you either pack it up if you plan to use it at some point in time, donate it, if it’s run it course in your life and you no longer plan to use it (and it’s not damaged and can be used by someone else), or toss it. I personally purge twice a year. I won’t buy a new pair of shoes if I can’t get rid of a pair that I don’t get much use out of. I personally don’t think it makes sense to just amass stuff for the sake of doing so. So, don’t allow your office to become a landfill…CLEAN IT UP!! It will make you feel better and work better too. I’m a huge advocate of creating a workspace that is sleek, modern, clean, comfortable and most of all one that evokes productivity. Whatever your dream workspace style is, if it doesn’t promote you to be successful, it’s probably a space that can benefit from a good restructuring. During this time of social distancing and #alonetogether, take some time to assess your workspace. There is no time like the present to do some cleaning and organizing of your space. This will definitely support your future productive endeavors. Be well everyone. Do you struggle with staying productive (especially in times of COVID19)? Let me know in the comments. Please like and share...
These are absolutely my thoughts… rated pg.