What does productivity mean to you? Does it mean getting more things done each day? Is someone who can multi-task more productive than someone who can’t (or doesn’t want to)? Is having many things on the go better for productivity and for achieving goals? Busy is good, we’ve been taught. I used to write “ability to multi-task effectively” on my resume, way back when. In reality, while I get many, many things done each day, I despise multi-tasking. I feel as though I never get anything done that way! I manage to get 7 projects 90% done and never go back to actually fully complete any of them. All multi-tasking got me was tired. Are you tired too?
Come on! Jump on my “100% busy, 100% of the time is just plain exhausting” bandwagon. Hop on, there’s a spot right here for you!
Ready? Here’s the real definition of productivity :
True productivity is getting important things done consistently.
Losing track of Priorities
aka – GETTING BOGGED-DOWN BY THE DETAILS
Imagine this: you’re giving a presentation at work on Wednesday. You’re raring to go on Monday morning. You cleared your schedule and got everything done last Friday in order to focus on this one task. You sit down, boot your laptop up, take a breath and type in the title. Then your phone rings: your colleague needs you to verify some info. After that, you receive a text asking you to email a contract to someone. You reply, wrap up the call, take a breath and -ding- an email from your boss asking you to do something important right away comes in. And so goes your day.
By the end of the day, your presentation sits at the title stage. Sound familiar? Everyone clamours for your input. You’re in demand, well-respected and well-liked. In addition, you’re frustrated and exhausted!
This also happens at home. Have you ever intended, in the morning, to empty the dishwasher only to get to the end of the day with it still full? First, the vacuuming got done, then the dusting and finally the baking. You may even have played with the kids or done the groceries. All the while, the one thing you wanted to get done sits waiting for you!
Now I feel the need to point out that I haven’t forgotten a kid anywhere…yet!
There’s a better way! (decide what is important)
Learn how to cut out the chatter, how to focus on the important tasks and not get side-tracked by the seemingly urgent. I will show you how to get the important things done, day-in and day-out. The rest will fall
Deciding what to focus on, with all the tools and knowledge in your arsenal, with your entire attention is being truly productive.
Master these tasks in order to be productive :
- Making Decisions
- Focusing your attention
- Increasing mental energy
One task is no more important than the others. The ability to make decisions will not help you at all if you’re deciding on the wrong things.
For example, being able to decide what to wear to your best friend’s wedding or what to have for supper each day this week will not help you at all when it comes to writing that book you have in mind.
Focusing on the job at hand is crucial. Similarly, i
Identify your goals and take action. Sounds straight-forward, right? Yet it’s so easy to get drawn into every little detail, or to get derailed. The trick?
Make conscious, intentional decisions.
- Decide what your goal is. This is the WHAT that you are going to accomplish/complete/do. Write it down!
- Plan: how, when, why and with whom. Thoroughly. Step-by-step. Write everything down!
- Lastly, make choices and follow through.
Properly drawn-out plans guide you through a series of small decisions, ones so little that they don’t take long and they don’t seem intimidating. This detailed type of plan takes away decision-paralysis because each step is so small.
Break very large goals into categories and work on these one at a time. For example:
- Paint the whole house by the end of August because it’s been 10 years and it needs refreshing.
- Pick a colour for each room by June 20
- Buy the paint by June 30th
- Paint the Main floor by the end of July
- Master bedroom (finish by July 7)
- Bathroom (finish by July 14)
- Kid A room (finish by July 21 with Kid A’s help)
- Kid B room (finish by July 21 with Kid B’s help)
- Hallway (finish by July 28)
- Paint the Basement by the end of August
- Den (finish by August 10 with hubby)
- Storage area (finish by August 20)
- Furnace room (finish by August 27) Paint the whole house by the end of August because it’s been 10 years and it needs refreshing.
Complete the following tasks in each room:
- empty room
- move remaining furniture
- tape off baseboards
- uncover furniture and place in
- put everything else back in
Now you know where to start: first, pick a colour for each room. Then, buy the paint before June 30th. Third, empty the master bedroom and clean it. And so on and so forth.
Focusing Your Attention
Planning effectively means focusing on the important stuff. I have a natural tendency towards two modes: super-duper hyper-focused and … not. I can have the attention span of a gnat, so through some research and
Find the tools and technology to help you along, that work for your purpose and make use of them. Selecting those tools can be fun but it can also be a slippery slope! Be careful not to get lost in the process! Otherwise, you’ll be like a kitten with the next shiny thing. Or like me when I’m having one of those days where focusing is so very difficult! I’m curious to hear your feedback on whether the following works for you:
Step 1 : Have all the necessary tools at hand
Place everything you need within reach, for instance binders, planner, scissors, whatever you need to get the job done. Make a list, check items off as you gather them up.
Step 2 : Turn off all distractions
Close all unnecessary browser tabs, turn off all alerts and pop-ups. In other words, anything that will suck you into doing something else other than working towards your goal.
Step 3 : Decide how long you will focus on the task
Play with different lengths of time to find what works best for you. The happy medium that works for most people seems to be 30 to 45 minutes. I like 30 minutes myself because, when you think about it, you can do pretty much anything for 30 minutes no matter how tedious or distasteful it seems.
Step 4 : Set an alarm
Set an audible alert to remind you it’s time to stop and do something else. Alarms will usually trump do-not-disturb modes, but test yours to make sure. An egg-timer is my go-to tool because it helps me no succumb to the temptation of looking at my phone. Stay focused and don’t check email, messenger, Pinterest, or Twitter.
Step 5 : Take a break
- Ten minutes is plenty (set an alarm for this too!)
- Get up, walk around, do some squats, push-ups, whatever gets the blood flowing and turns your crank.
- Drink some water!
Check the news, messenger, what-have-you if you like but when the alarm goes off you’re done!
Step 6 : Repeat
Back to the top you go. Over and over again, until the goal is reached.
Be productive by choosing to ignore distractions, eliminating wasted time and deciding what is necessary!
Increasing Mental Energy
Taking care of the whole person, physical as well as emotional is crucial. Figure out what your brain needs in order to pay attention to what really matters to you, according to your goals and priorities. Here are a few universal things to do:
- Get enough sleep
- Eat reasonably healthy
- Get some exercise
- Drink lots of water
- Be social! Friends, family and/or volunteering are key
- Think positive. Mindset counts for so much!
- Have fun (okay, maybe not all the time but regularly for sure)
- Be present
Notice what makes you feel alive and ready to take on the world. Do more of THAT.
If you would like a few more details on increasing your energy levels, read this: How to have more energy (physical and mental)
It takes time to form new habits
Remember to be kind to yourself. Accept that forgetting to set an alarm or a necessary tool is not the end of the world. Being side-tracked by something else happens to the best of us. Reset as soon as you realise you’ve gone off course and move on.