When it comes to becoming more productive, we often face many roadblocks that prevent us from increasing our work output. Technology-driven round-the-clock work expectations, no–excuse not-to-attend Skype and Zoom conference meetings, and constant digital alerts on our computers and haptic alarms on our wrists see us barraged with challenges to being busy and productive.
And this doesn’t even include our own thoughts and habits that create procrastination – the ultimate block in motivating ourselves to be more productive. The most common erroneous beliefs that stop our getting things done include:
- Perfectionism – settling for nothing short of the most magnificent performance, thus defeating yourself with unrealistic goals.
- Overwhelming yourself – by magnifying an assignment to the point it appears in your mind that it’s impossible to do, by assuming incorrectly that everything has to be done at once, and obsessing about the task, creating paralysis.
- Self-labeling – calling yourself “lazy,” or “a procrastinator”
- Fear – of failure (“I’ll never get it done right”), of success (“If I do a good job they’ll expect even more of me that I won’t be able to deliver”) and of disapproval (“I’m bound to make a mistake and I’ll be criticized and that’s intolerable”)
So what can we do to become more productive? To begin with, we’d be wise to build our energy in four areas:
- Physical – most importantly, our fitness, as well as our nutrition, sleep and recovery time
- Emotional – creating and sharing positive emotions with others
- Mental – slow down our thinking with mindful meditation to gain control of our own attention and focus
- Spiritual – being clear about our goals, our purposes and seeing what really matters
So why is my Total Gym so important to me? If I’m working smartly to be productive and want to grow my energy in the above areas, then staying fit is essential, as working out grants us a boost in alertness, mental well-being, and has emotional benefits.
Imagine that. Working out increases your productivity? Stay off your Total Gym for a week and you may see a lull in your productivity.
The well-known “Getting Things Done” (GTD) approach developed by productivity guru David Allen is designed to improve productivity, reduce feelings of being overwhelmed, increase confidence and build more energy, through control and perspective.
Allen’s five steps include:
- Capturing what has your attention
- Clarify what your to-do list means in terms of it being actionable
- Organizing by putting action reminders on your to-do lists (calls, errands, emails, etc.)
- Reflecting or revising your lists frequently
- Engage or take action with confidence
Here’s my list of time-tested, best-in-class, work related activities that help keep me productive, starting each day with a positive thought and with gratitude for what can go right:
- I list my most important tasks that contribute to my primary goals of the day, describing my goals using “SMARTER” language (specific, measureable, actionable, realistic, timely, enthusiastically set and revisable), and describe the specific tasks that support my goals. It’s not about being busy, it’s about having impact – after all, busyness is too often a lack of focus. My most important tasks and behaviors are always measureable.
- My goals genuinely leave me wanting to jump out of bed every day.
- I list tasks and meetings that can be deleted, delegated or redesigned, and do things today that’ll take more time tomorrow.
- I always have an accountability partner with whom I check in.
- I wake early (about 5:15/5:30 A.M), and work out on my Total Gym, and then either read, meditate or catch up on overnight emails.
- I don’t quit when I’m tired, only when I’m done with what I’ve planned to accomplish that day (“Grind now, shine later”), that is, I own my own time. At the same time, I know my limited capacity for continuous attention and take frequent breaks, no less frequently than every 90 minutes.
- I batch my tasks during the day when I write, see clients, workout, make phone calls, and prepare presentations, allowing me to step back to give me an opportunity to find breakthrough ideas when I step back into a task.
- I’ve tried several software offerings such as Todoist, and in companies I’ve consulted with, have suggested Desk Time
- Ultimately, I create the mindset of fearlessness before beginning a project – when I’m courageous enough to begin, I’m courageous enough to succeed. And I never feel bad executing a plan to say “no.”