Productivity - a coach's guide on how to increase and maintain it.
This article is closely aligned to my previous one on procrastination Prevent Procrastination in 6 Easy Steps Why write two very similar articles? Well this on really builds on the previous one by grabbing hold of that new found motivation and keeping it going to remain truly productive.
In the following article I'll reveal the process I use and the ways in which I remain productive even when feeling unmotivated or lethargic.
By productive I do not mean busy. We can be busy but not actually get anything of significance done.
Therefore, first step is to for us to identify what we need and want to achieve and understand the reasons why we want to do so.
This may be a large project to break down into smaller stepping stone steps or it may be a small yet very significant task that is crucial to us moving forwards or a certain habit we want to ingrain and maintain.
For me there are a few (well quite a few actually) so I split them into different categories:
My health: Get physically fitter and mentally more sharp by establishing an effective exercise routine throughout the day and reading to learn daily.
My work: Reach more people with my coaching work and the articles I write by improving my website and increasing my subscriber list.
My development: learn to drive and pass my test! In the past I would have said - "well because I should" or "at my age it is ridiculous I can't drive", however, now I am owning this goal more by giving my reason "I will learn to drive to be able to see my family quickly and easily as well as travel more extensively"
My environment: to bring more nature into my home life by investing in and not killing off both house and garden plants. (To be honest - this is more and more a pipe dream as I have not been successful in keeping anything alive - any tips then please let me know. For the sake of the plants at least!)
This process enabled me to really define the areas of my life I wanted to be more productive in and to set some pretty clear objectives. Rather than just 'get more clients' I really thought about how I wanted to do this, what was and was not working and what else I could offer, hence, the writing of weekly articles and blogs.
So now we have identified our 'what we want to achieve and why we want it' stage let's move onto to making this as easy as possible for ourselves.
When are you most productive? This is probably at a certain time of day when you are able to focus sharply or are inundated with creative ideas or fly through tasks that yesterday felt as if you were trawling through treacle in order to complete.
Some of us have a tendency to say "Oh I'm a morning person so therefore I am firing on all cylinders before 1pm"
This may be the case but are we firing the right cylinders at the right time? By this I mean that your morning energy may really fuel your workout but it will be too much for you to really think through complex problems.
By identifying which fire to light at the right time can really help us achieve a lot and for it to be an enjoyable experience. For example - I am much more energetic in the morning so this is when I will do a strenuous (ish!) work out whereas I will leave a walk, barre class or yoga session to the end of the day.
You may now be thinking - "yep this is great Kate but with my job and home life commitments I can't easily suddenly just stop what I am doing to maximise my productive creative time" And I hear you - it's hard to make your work, tasks or even life fit this but you can do a little at a time by planning your week and day in advance.
Now I know the unexpected happens, however, by really planning your working day, scheduling in your morning and evening routines then you are much more likely to stick to them as you will know that your specific productivity fire is alight at the right time ready for you to achieve so much more.
Going hand in hand with sticking to your diary is the power of saying "no". For some of us that is incredibly hard to do as we don't want to let people down or offend them. However, think of it this way - if you are not fully present in that meeting, friend Zoom call, online class or strategy session then are you really providing enough value? I get so annoyed when I am in a meeting and someone is clearly distracted by a message or an email they have just been sent. If you cannot fully show up, be present and contribute then say "thanks but no thanks"
The same applies if you don't want to attend or be part of something - give your reasons why, thank the organiser for thinking of you but keep in mind your priorities.
If the idea of a strict routine or schedule fills you with a slow, silent, creeping dread then do not fret (you are not alone and I often feel the same) Instead focus in on what you are wanting to do differently - the habit you are wanting to develop and maintain. In my case; I have set myself the challenge to read just one chapter of a coaching or confidence book every day. Just 1! Now, 9 times out of 10 I read a lot more, however, I am happy if I get through one and can see I am creating a solid learning habit through doing this.
Finally, here a few ways of working when you area feeling so demotivated that even the idea of thinking about work is draining:
5 minute rule - set your timer for 5 minutes, start your task and really focus for just 5 minutes. Turn off notifications, put your phone away or on airplane mode, close the door and remove any distractions. Chances are that after just 5 minutes of deep, focused work or exercise or meditation or whatever you are working on achieving, you will want to do 5 minutes more and then another 5 minutes. If not - at the very least you have made a start.
Try the Pomodoro Technique which is another time based strategy to help you get stuck into deep work. Grab your timer again and set it for 20 minutes this time. Remove all distractions once again and get stuck in. When your alarm goes off spend 5 minutes doing something completely different - put a wash one, make a cup of tea, stretch. Take yourself out of your deep work environment for those 4 minutes and then return, set your timer to 20 minutes and start back into your deep work. Repeat this 4 times and on your 4th alarm have a break for 15 minutes. It is incredible how much you can achieve if you say to yourself "I just have 20 minutes to do this"
Keep your motivation and productivity high by reflecting on all you have achieved each day or each week by asking yourself:
What did I learn from each of my achievements?
What did I learn from the things that did not go so well?
What will I do differently next time?
What will I now continue to do?
A key element to remember with all of our ongoing development is that it is a journey. Often we are so wrapped up in achieving our goals, getting to the end point, finishing that task that we miss out on the process itself which negates the idea of us learning from that experience.
I sincerely hope this has helped and don't hesitate to get in touch for more advice or guidance on becoming a better you. Now I am off to water/sing to/coax back to life some very sad looking plants ...