When I used to hear the word productivity I would cringe. To me it meant being at high speed, always go go go and never stopping to smell the flowers. I imagined someone who is always on and never has down time to just be and enjoy the moment. That may be some people’s version of productivity; however it’s not the full picture. Productivity means being efficient with your time so you get the most out of your efforts. This connects to the work I do, where every moment matters and being intentional is key.
Being productive then requires a high degree of clarity on your why, what you are creating and how. Once you have those three pieces being intentional about what is required of you falls into place, making you productive. Sounds easy right! Well this involves you going through a process of getting clear on what matters the most, making a plan and eliminating what doesn’t match. Next comes organizing yourself and integrating habits and routines to support you.
This also means taking some time each day, week and month to reflect on what matters the most, what you want to create and the direction you need to go in to make it happen. Striving for balance between producing what matters to you and recharging the batteries with quality time is key. That doesn’t mean exactly 50/50 for everything. It’s how you engage in activities, it’s being fully present and enjoying the time with your family and friends when they happen. It’s making sure you take care of yourself otherwise you waste a lot of time being unfocused and unproductive.
Ways to Get Clear and Moving – A Process For Being More Productive
Let’s look at how you can be more intentional and productive in your life. When we are unclear on what we are doing and why, we waste time. How many times have you been working on a project and had a general sense of what you needed to do but you weren’t clear on the actual specific steps you needed to take?
Get clear on your Values + Goals
When I work with clients I begin with having them get clear on their values and life purpose. This helps them see what it is they want to create and how they want to be spending their time. Next we create goals to help them match up with what they value most and create tangible steps to achieve these goals. Planning is the next essential step and involves mapping out your key moves that will create a domino effect and have the most impact for your efforts.
2. Plan your next moves
Another way to look at mapping out your steps is seeing it as a ‘prolific quality output’, as Brendon Burchard describes. Here you see what actions will get you the most leverage in what you are trying to create. This means increasing actions that matter the most and improving any skills required to do so. For example, I’m focusing on providing engaging and influential workshops right now for organizations and businesses. This means I need to improve my workshop skills: how I provide and deliver content as well as how I engage with participants.
Part of mapping out key times to do specific tasks is actually planning the specific steps you need to take during that time. Include breaks in your planning so that you actually take them. The other benefit to planning and mapping out your whole day is that you know what it will look like before it even starts. What helps (and I mention this often) is starting by implementing a morning and evening routine. Here you take time for yourself, your health, and getting yourself set up for your day or the following day. This reduces stress and creates more stability and predictability in your life.
Planning your day, week and month also helps you set boundaries so that you stay away from panic mode. Often clients I’ve worked with who struggle with planning find themselves in situations where they are always putting out fires. This rhythm means they get very little done for themselves and constantly get pulled away to other issues.
3. Minimize your distractions
What pulls you away from being productive? How can you minimize distractions? I’ve talked about digital distractions in previous blogs and how they pull us away from the present moment. What are your digital distractions and how can you start eliminating them and replacing them with focused, intentional time?
Dean Bokari talks about time thieves and better understanding what they are for you. By identifying these time thieves you will see a massive change in your productivity as you begin to eliminate them and replace them with planning, and eventually clarity, about what you need to be doing.
4. Organize + Design your schedule
Once you mapped out your steps it’s time to organize your schedule and when you complete particular tasks.
When you tackle a task matters. Research shows that we are best the first 2.5 – 4 hours we are awake. During this time it is ideal to do more complex problem solving, idea generating and tasks that require our full attention. Blocking off a few hours first thing during your day as uninterrupted work is ideal. This could also include meetings that involve collaboration, problem solving and more complex tasks.
When I work with clients we create a task list within a category, ie. projects or communication. We then map out zoned times to complete these tasks that work for you and those around you. During this process it’s best to get the most important and complex tasks done in the morning.
5. Sustain and track your growth
It’s easy to get inspired, jump right into a new way of living your life and then go back to your old habits a few weeks later. That’s why when I work with clients I make sure that once we’ve gone through getting clear on values, mapping out goals, and organizing their time we also look at:
How to track their growth
Creating an accountability plan
Implementing daily habits and routines (especially a morning and evening routine)
Using a habit tracker helps you track your growth, see where you are falling short and helps you notice patterns of old habits that need to be addressed. It also helps you celebrate your wins and releases happy hormones that make you feel great naturally.
Sustaining encompasses self care and making sure you get your MEDS (meditation, exercise, diet and sleep) everyday. These are fundamental and although they are basic and we all know they help, the question is: are you practicing them?
What are you telling yourself and what’s stopping you from practicing your MEDS everyday? A daily practice of positive self talk can also make a huge difference in your productivity. Vanessa Van Edwards talks about productivity and how self talk plays a huge role in your success. By shifting your thinking and what you tell yourself, you shift your confidence level and how you approach tasks. . Start paying attention to what you are telling yourself and how you can change it to be more supportive, encouraging and help you actually believe you can do it! One way to notice and shift to a softer inner voice is imagining saying self-critical things to a young child or even a younger version of yourself. Or ask yourself: would I speak like that to a good friend in distress?
In the end productivity is a combination of strategies that have been proven to work alongside digging deep and understanding what matters the most to you and why. Then seeing what inner beliefs, thoughts and patterns need to change in order to make every moment matter.