You are motivated to be productive and you have all the tools to be. You start strong, but in a couple of weeks you are back to where you started – sinking in tasks and unable to come up for air. What went wrong?
Hey, you are not the only one who periodically falls of the productivity wagon. The good news is that you can get right back on it. All you need is, well, a process. It is a troubleshooting checklist designed to evaluate the state of affairs and get you right back on track.
- Stop. Drop everything you are doing and clear your head. Take a break or a walk in the park. Step away from your tasks and enjoy some peace.
- Evaluate. What are your professional goals? What tasks are you doing that do not bring you closer to your goals? Delegate them, eliminate them or do them as fast as you can. Set a deadline.
Write down all frustrations you have that cause you not to be productive. What do you wish happened that will have allowed you to be more productive? Describe your ideal situation where your productivity can thrive. Keep writing everything down.
- Troubleshoot. This is the fun part – let's see what is broken. Did you see any patterns in the previous step? Did you notice where the problems tend to linger? Make a note of it and dive in deeper.
- Look at your routines and processes. Are you doing weekly reviews? Do you maintain your calendar up to date? Do you stick to your routines? Can your processes be trusted? In other words, if you put an item on your to do list, you should be confident that you will remember to complete it before the deadline.
- Look at the list of your frustrations. What brings your productivity down? Where are the road blocks? The solutions might be as simpe as reducing the number of places you capture the information or committing to doing everything once.
- Make sure you are maintaining your new productivity habits. Even if you have no people to call at 4pm, keep up the habit to look at your call list anyway. Do your daily review even if you think you know everything that will happen tomorrow.
- Are there any time-draining tasks? Sometimes there are tasks that take up all your valuable time. If you are spending hours formatting your Power Point presentations, find a way to delegate it or set time limits on how long you can afford to change the font color. If never-ending email conversations occupy most of your time, stop answering emails as they arrive. Pick 2-3 times a day when you reply to people. Automate what you can. You got the idea.
- Do you have clarity? Are you clear about what needs to be done next? No, really. How clear are you on what needs to be done next? Often we procrastinate and shuffle the tasks around because you are not sure what exactly you are supposed to do. If your next actions are clear, make sure you do one thing at at time.
- Maintain your energy. Are you doing your most important tasks when you have enough energy to do it? At your daily review outline 2-3 tasks that you have to do no matter what. Do the unpleasant tasks first. Do not overwhelm yourself. If you are in meetings all day, do not plan to complete an important proposal. You will end up doing it in the middle of the night when you are tired and frustrated. So, are you guilty of not planning your day based on your energy?
- Are you doing too much? You could be planning to do more than you can handle. Look at your professional goals and look at your projects and tasks. Which of them bring you closer to your goals? Mark them as important. Prioritize them and do urgent projects and tasks first. Clear at least 2 appointments from your schedule that should not be there. Purge all non-essential tasks.
- Fix the problems. Of course, you wrote all your observations down. Find a solution for each problem and write it next to the problem. For example, if your tasks are unclear, spend more time defining them using action verbs, like call or create.
- Practice what you decided. If it requires developing a new habit – do it. If you have to get up earlier or shut down your internet once a day – do it. Whatever it takes. Make it interesting and challenge yourself: can you do a task in 30 minutes? How about 20? Get yourself motivated and excited about the outcome.
The good news is that even if you fall off the productivity wagon, it is possible to get back with just a little effort. Productivity does not have to turn you into a robot. You can do only what you can do, so do not overwhelm yourself. Make sure your goals are attainable and reasonable. Your calendar has breaks between appointments and has enough time to do the required work. Always ask yourself if you need to do a task. Only do what needs to be done and not what you would like to do.
Do not set yourself up for a failures by making yourself too busy. If you accomplish everything you set out to accomplish during a day, you will keep it up. I promise. If you are stuck somewhere, pretend that you figured it out and move on. Then, come back to it and tackle it again.
Have you ever had to get back into productivity mode? What did you have to do? Do you have any tips?