Ah, productivity, you elusive beast. Why do you torment me? Why are you so profoundly unsexy? Why don't you speak up when Netflix and the couch call out to me? Why is it that you leave when my to-do list is longest?
Creative difference-makers struggling to get motivated, have no fear! You are far from alone. I am a self-professed time management and productivity queen, and I still have days where motivation just isn't a thing.
After struggling with this personally and coaching many, many clients through it, I've got three big secrets to changing your relationship with productivity and getting much more control over your time, energy, and freedom. Plus, I made a free worksheet you can download and use to conduct your very own DIY Productivity Audit. You're welcome.
Secret #1: The Energy With Which You Approach a Task Matters.
If I'm dreading starting a particular project, I will clean my entire house in order to "feel productive" without having to do the thing I don't want to do. The energy (or attitude) with which you approach a project (work, housework, writing, applying for jobs, etc) has a drastic impact on how you feel performing the task, the time you actually spend doing the task, and the quality you produce.
Fix: Banish your Energy Leaks or change your perspective about them.
If you really, truly hate doing the task, so much that it's leaching away positive energy from your life, consider giving up the task. For example, if your weekly grocery trip makes you want to pull your hair out, check to see if Instacart delivers to your area. If compiling meeting minutes makes you cranky, explore handing the job over to another coworker. If writing a blog post is torture, think about podcasting instead. The goal here is to first identify what's stealing your energy (and thus your productivity) and banish it from your life. Some energy leaks are not so easily banished, however, like a needy family member or a difficult task at work. Consider putting up some loving boundaries or changing your attitude about the situation. That way, you may still not love the situation, but it won't steal as much of your precious productivity.
Secret #2: Your Brain is Easily Distracted.
Bless its heart. Your brain really can't handle going back and forth all day between tasks amidst constant interruptions. It just isn't built that way, and yelling at yourself to focus isn't going to change that, so cut your attention span some slack.
Fix: Use Batching.
All productive people are pros at batching. Batching looks something like this: I have three reports to draft, two cakes to bake, and seven emails to follow up on. The un-batched girl bakes a cake, drafts two reports, and reads one email. Then she takes a break, drafts another report and remembers she left the cake in the oven and calls the fire department. The batched girlboss looks at the list of items she needs to tick off today and tackles the most annoying tasks first and all at once: she drafts all three reports and moves on to the cakes. When the cakes are done, she takes a break and then knocks out all seven emails at once. The point is this: group tasks together as much as possible. That way your brain isn't bouncing back and forth so much, and it's easier to find a flow and get it done.
Secret #3: Multi-Tasking is the Devil.
In my recruiting days, I would frequently ask candidates what their strengths and weaknesses were, and I cringed when someone would proudly beam that they were "great at multitasking." The truth is that NO ONE multi-tasks well. It's science. Some of us are better at it than others, but focusing on two tasks at a time just means that both take longer and come out sloppier. Obviously, you can't banish all multi-tasking from your schedule, but you can tweak it to get more productivity.
Fix: Commit to work time being work time.
"I really don't want to do this thing, so I'll just put on Netflix while I do it. Then it will be more palatable!" Maybe. But it will also probably take longer, encourage distraction, cause mistakes, and make you feel guilty when three hours pass and you've only just gotten started. Just make work time work time. Period. Find your best work flow, ie the conditions under which you naturally work best. Is it in a bustling coffee shop? A quiet room with classical music playing? Early morning in your bed with plenty of snacks? Find what best allows you to flow and commit to creating those conditions without distraction. It may seem hard to do at first, but when you're focused on one thing and in the flow, work is easier and gets done faster, freeing up your time and energy for other things.
Productivity is completely possible once you understand what sneaky things are stealing yours, hence the need for a DIY Productivity Audit. Download the FREE DIY Productivity Audit below. In it, I'll walk you through the process of building awareness around your current productivity habits so you can change the lame ones and get what you need. After all, you're up to big things. You should be able to have the productivity support required to accomplish them.
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