Mondays are productivity days at SimpleProductivity blog.
We all want to be on the top of our game. Sometimes we are not because of legitimate reasons; other times our productivity gets stolen from us.
I was thinking about the things that zap my productivity without me being aware of it. Here are some of the ones I came up with, and ways to combat each:
Most of us have experienced real worry, as when you a waiting for the results of a medical test. However, most of us also carry a low level of worry about everyday things. On a recent day, here were some of my worries:
- Are there going to be more layoffs announced?
- Will I make it to school on time for the end of rehearsal?
- Will I be able to get everything done I need to tonight?
- I cant find the checkbook. What if I lost it?
- Will my daughter give me attitude tonight?
All of these have one thing in common when viewed written down: there is nothing I can do about any of them. Each of them might not take much of my time or action. But put together, they make for a major ball of worry, and the worry gets in the way of what I need to be doing.
Solution: as soon as I start to feel my anxiety level rise, I remind myself that there is nothing I can do about the situation. I push it out to the universe to take care of. In really persistent situations, I may write the worry on a piece of paper and flush it, telling myself it it is now symbolically out of my hands, and I cannot get it back.
2. Mental Fatigue
We all know how difficult it is to do something when we are physically tired, yet few of us stop to think when we are pushing ourselves against mental fatigue.
Recently I spent an afternoon untangling the threads of circular data within a reference file. By the end of the task, my mind felt like tapioca. I kept going, working full speed. Yet I grew frustrated later that day because I couldn’t seem to concentrate on some difficult reading I had to do.
Solution: take plenty of breaks to keep yourself from sapping your mental energy. It is important to give yourself adequate mental rest, along with physical rest.
Many of us, when feeling a little groggy, reach for caffeine. I am no exception to this, and often will have a cup of coffee in the afternoon. Sometimes this can backfire, though.
Last week I purchased a 32 oz iced tea (unsweetened, or Northern style, as they call it where I live) with my lunch. At first it provided a nice jolt, but by the time I was a third of the way into the drink, I was shaking. My mind was going so fast I wasn’t keeping up with it, much less forming coherent thoughts.
Solution: if you find that you reach for stimulants to combat after-meal slumps, find better ways to eat to even out your blood sugar. Use caffeine in moderation, rather than as a tool to jimmy you out of a low blood sugar torpor.
Doing things to the best of our abilities can be a good thing. However, many people take this beyond a reasonable level and sink their productivity as they spend time trying to make something just a bit better.
A couple of years ago, I decided that I was going to write a novel for National Novel Writing month. (This was the first year I attempted it). I read a couple of books and decided I was going to write this thing without any boring outline. So I wrote the first scene. And rewrote it. And rewrote it. Other scenes followed the same path. So by the end of the month, although I had spent hours each day writing this book, and had accumulated 50,000 words, I had about two dozen really polished scenes. And no way to link them because I had edited out all the plot.
Solution: if you have perfectionist tendencies, ask yourself what you are trying to accomplish and decide what the minimum criteria to getting that done is. Then ask yourself if extra effort really matters. Writing your thesis, yes. Taking crumbs out of the toaster, no.
5. Not Having A Good Plan
Many creative types, or even semi-creative types resist making a plan because it feels too confining. I consider myself a creative person, because software programming is a very creative sort of job. When I don’t make a plan I often will try to get of much done in the time allowed, and end up getting nothing done.
Today I was heading out the door to a standing meeting. I told myself that I could drop my daughter off at a friend’s, travel to my workplace to feed the cats, drop tools off at my husband’s job site, and make the 20 minute drive to the meeting. All in 45 minutes, because I told myself I was efficient. This became, predictably, an exercise in frustration as I realized I was governed by the same physical and traffic laws as everyone else. I left one of the tools at home, forgot the cat food, and was only saved from a traffic ticket by a little old lady in the lane next to me who stubbornly refused to let me merge over…the same lane where I would have zipped past the waiting State Patrol. I also remembered when I got to the meeting that I left all the financial paperwork I needed sitting on the kitchen table.
Solution: make a reasonable plan as to what you can do in the time allotted. You will save yourself from hurry, forgetfulness, and frustration, and get your tasks completed.
I am sure there are plenty of other sneaky productivity sappers. What is your worst one? Share below.
Photo by cbowns