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Relaxing Passive Income Entrepreneur

9 Small Actions To Make You Feel More Productive

Have you ever laid in bed and thought to yourself, “What did I do today? I feel like I was busy all day, but somehow, I still need to go to the grocery store, and I also have to send my boss that lengthy email.”? If so, I know exactly how you feel, because I have been dealing with that a lot lately. After dealing with the shame and guilt from those days, I wanted to share my personal list of 9 ways to feel more productive that I made to encourage myself. Get ready! Here we go!

1. Reframe your thinking around what you can and can’t accomplish.

It sounds very clichè, but your mind has the power to push you toward your goals or hold you back from it. Your accomplishments evolve around your thoughts, so do your best to make microshifts in the way you speak to yourself. If there is a large task on your list, remind yourself that you may not be able to complete it in one day– but if it’s important, you can complete it

2. Write out your tasks. 

This may seem like a frivolous step, but I assure you, it is not! Many times, we find that the mind “races” because it is trying to juggle all of the tasks without dropping, or forgetting any. Writing your tasks unloads your busy, frustrated mind and allows your brain to shift energy toward completion of the tasks.

Don’t overthink it! Your brain will let you know what to unpack, and as things come up, you can add to this. Get the most pressing tasks on paper or in a task management system (Trello, Airtable, Asana, ToDoist, iPhone reminders/To do list, etc). These programs have many features that allow you to personalize your systems to maximize the amount you can get done. Choosing a program to use for the long haul can be a bit difficult, but the best way to find which one works for you is to try them out. I can do a later post to explain some of the pros and cons of the programs that I’ve used to help out with that as well.

3. Break large tasks into smaller pieces.

When trying to complete an all-day task like “Clean the house”  or large projects at work, begin by breaking the task into bite -sized pieces. Breaking a task down and completing the smaller pieces will give you quick serotonin boosts that should help with your motivation to continue. This doesn’t always work as quickly and forcefully as we’d like, so if you are feeling stuck, take a break and come back to the next task.

Personal tip: Depending on how stuck I feel, I will also break down medium -sized “grouped” tasks as well. For example, I may have “laundry” written on my list, but I know that laundry includes loading the washer, loading the dryer, folding, and repeating (if needed). “Dishes” is another task that I often do this with. I understand that to consider the dishes done, I want to unload the dishwasher (if it is full), load the dishwasher, hand wash fragile items, and wipe the counters down; so I will often write these as separate tasks to track what I’ve done already and keep myself moving forward.

4. Identify distractions that could become a problem for you while trying to accomplish a task. 

Have you ever heard of the “squirrel syndrome”? Have you ever fallen victim to the “squirrel syndrome”? I imagine that most people answered yes to BOTH of these, because getting distracted is natural. Combatting this requires the utmost intention (and attention). We all know our own weaknesses, so we are the ones best equipped to handle them.

First, we have to set ourselves up for success within our work environment. Take notice of things like your lighting, your music, and your appetite. These things may seem insignificant, but they pack a hefty punch when trying to get tasks done. Over a span of time, certain types of fluorescent and computer lighting can cause eye strain and headaches. You will also want to make sure that you are not hungry or thirsty while trying to focus. This is directly tied to your energy level and can easily put you on a downward spiral. Your choice of music while working can also affect your productivity, so you will want to choose music that puts you in a good headspace.

Personal tip: I love music. I’d definitely say that it’s an integral part of my life and work. Because music can have a huge effect on my workflow, I am careful to choose the right music for the job. If I am doing chores that require more action, like dishes, I give myself upbeat tunes to listen to. These include songs with lyrics, as this is a great time to sing, dance, and really enjoy the activity at hand. If I am working on some creatives or design elements, I choose lyricless electronic music with a steady beat to keep focus while staying open to the occasional “What if?”. However, if I am writing for business or journaling, I will opt for ambient music, white noise, or no music at all. These are times when my concentration needs to be the deepest, and I don’t want anything to distract me from my train of thought.  This is simply what has worked for me, but feel free to change this up as you see fit. The goal is to be mindful about the music you play and avoid playing music that is counterproductive to your work.

Photo by L O R A on Unsplash

Personal tip: I love music. I’d definitely say that it’s an integral part of my life and work. Because music can have a huge effect on my workflow, I am careful to choose the right music for the job. If I am doing chores that require more action, like dishes, I give myself upbeat tunes to listen to. These include songs with lyrics, as this is a great time to sing, dance, and really enjoy the activity at hand. If I am working on some creatives or design elements, I choose lyricless electronic music with a steady beat to keep focus while staying open to the occasional “What if?”. However, if I am writing for business or journaling, I will opt for ambient music, white noise, or no music at all. These are times when my concentration needs to be the deepest, and I don’t want anything to distract me from my train of thought.  This is simply what has worked for me, but feel free to change this up as you see fit. The goal is to be mindful about the music you play and avoid playing music that is counterproductive to your work.

Once we set up a great environment to work in, we have to tackle the more insidious distractions: those related to social media, conversation, games, and television/movies/videos. These are major timesucks, and we must do our best to avoid these distractions while working or make them rewards for ourselves. If you have a burning desire to check your texts or Twitter feed, challenge yourself to do 5 minutes more of work before reaching for your phone. It’s not about how long you challenge yourself in the beginning; it’s about challenging yourself and succeeding, period. Work your way up to bigger numbers as you go.

5. Prioritize the tasks you have to do.

Since you have already written out your tasks, you now need to prioritize them. I like to prioritize them based on an “and/but not” mix of urgency and importance. If a task is urgent and important, it takes Priority Level 1. If it is urgent but not important, it will get Priority Level 2. For tasks that are important but not urgent, Priority Level 3 is assigned; leaving tasks that are not urgent and not important at Priority Level 4.

To give an example of how the system works, the task Pick up the kids is both urgent and important (Level 1), while something like Laundry is important but can certainly wait (Level 3). You may assign Level 4 to a task like Vacuuming, while Check calendar for wedding dates may receive a Level 2. It appears to be a time sensitive task, but nothing will crumble if it doesn’t happen today.

Be kind to yourself if you can’t work on the most important right away. It’s understandable. Choose a menial task to begin, and see if completing this gives you the motivation to start the more important task.

6. Give yourself a target when possible.

Another great tip to help you feel more productive is giving yourself a target deadline for a task. This one was especially hard for me. Timed events usually increase my anxiety, so to counter this, I came up with 3 self-explanatory categories to try and implement: short-range, mid-range, and long-range targets. 

A short-range target would be best if you are hoping to exercise in the morning, but you don’t want to lock yourself into a time. You could commit to completing your workout before 9:00am or noon the next morning. For a list of household chores, you may set a mid-range target and allow yourself the day to complete them. But if you have something like a new business project that you want to get off the ground, you may use a long-range target to allot yourself a month to complete the setup stage before reassessing.

7. Actively cross out or archive your tasks as you complete them, as best as you can.

On the road to productivity, there will be some steps that are more important for your mind than they are for you. These are steps filled with intention– and this is one of them! Be vigilant in crossing items off of your list as they are completed. Not only does this scratched-up list become a physical representation of your productivity, it also provides you with another serotonin boost and chemically encourages more similar behaviors.

Photo via Gratisography

8. Make and remake your work plan.

If any of you are perfectionists, please keep all hands and feet inside the ride and hold on to any personal belongings because Here We Go! There is always a moment when your day is on the downswing, and you realize that you may not finish everything. Anxiety goes up, focus and quality go down, and that is totally normal. How we respond is what matters here. Revisit the drawing board and try to remember that change is your friend here. 

When we do this, it encourages the mind to be okay with iterations. According to Merriam-Webster, an iteration is “a procedure in which repetition of a sequence of operations yields results successively closer to a desired result.” This does not throw your entire plan away and start fresh; you are simply reassessing the plan using information that you may not have had when you began.

It is unrealistic to believe that you will complete everything in one wave– especially if this is unusual for you. So if for some reason you are unable to complete all the tasks that you set for yourself, go ahead and move some to the next day. The most important thing to remember here is: Prioritize, prioritize, prioritize! If there is an urgent task on the list, it is a better idea to leave the less pressing tasks for the next day.

9. Remember to be kind to yourself: celebrate your wins, but try again when you fail.

Celebrating your wins is super important– especially in the beginning! This step acknowledges your accomplishment, but it also reminds your brain that it is time to shift focus to another task. It is similar to completing the chapter of a book. You’ve passed a milestone, but the book isn’t necessarily finished.

If you were unable to complete your entire task list, don’t worry about it. The shame serpent will try to creep in and taint your view of what you’ve done, but I’d encourage you to remember that this is a practice; just like basketball or chess. You have good days and bad days in a practice, but the time you put in pays off while you aren’t looking. Remind yourself of the things that you DID, and reassure yourself that the rest will get completed tomorrow because they are already written down.

I really hope this helps you out if you are struggling with moving forward. Try to remind yourself that You’ve Got This! If you have any tips that aren’t mentioned here, or if you have other topics you’d like to know about, let me know in the comment section below. I’d love to hear what you have to say.
 
Main photo courtesy of Words as Pictures in Typography

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