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How To Manage A Post-College Productivity Dip

How To Manage A Post-College Productivity Dip

It may have come as a shock. As a college graduate, you entered the workforce to discover that your new colleagues are… well… a bit slow.

Not that they aren’t smart. They have the credentials and the experience to prove they are an impressive bunch. It’s just that they have become accustomed to a slower pace of working that, compared to what you just left behind at college, is leaving you bored.

People tell you to “be patient” and that you have to “spend time learning the ropes.” Of course they are right, but does it have to happen so slowly that you lose interest and start to fill your life with other interests?

Relax for just a moment. There is a way out. You don’t have to force yourself to adapt to a style of work that resembles elementary school rather than college.

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Step 1: Own Your Type A Tendencies

In a recent article here on Lifehack, I gave some good reasons to own the productive side of Type-A tendencies. If you have some of these traits, you are probably organized, time conscious, internally demanding, driven, and likely to commit to more than you can comfortable handle.

Even though people around you (especially at work) cannot understand your Type A productive behaviors, it’s OK… you are different. Own this fact and move on to the next step. It’s good news.

Step 2: Stop Winging It

Your ability to push yourself hard, while ignoring adverse symptoms such as physical and mental fatigue, is a plus. However, it needs to be harnessed in the right way as to not waste a single, precious ounce of motivation.

Like lots of other Type A individuals, you chase down tips, tricks, and shortcuts, as long as they promise a scintilla of improvement. You are a veritable expert compared to the average person in the office who probably couldn’t care less.

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However, there is a more efficient method. Instead, establish a baseline for your current, core practices and a custom plan for steady, continuous improvement. The idea is to pour your improvement energy into the  handful of areas that will yield the greatest improvement, rather than directing it at random at the latest idea in a flashy infographic, cool video, or listicle. The result will be more progress for less effort in a shorter time. It’s the difference between following a custom improvement plan that fits your existing habits, practices, and rituals, rather than something generic.

Step 3: Follow The Pathway To Managing More Tasks

The most important tasks for Type A individuals are those which are self-generated. They are called “time demands,” and each one is an internal, individual commitment to complete an action in the future.

Research shows there is a path that must be followed in order to deal with an increase in time demands, much in the same way that you might upgrade the engine of your car in order to achieve faster speeds. Here’s a summary in a nutshell.

You can probably remember being a preteen who managed time demands using your memory, but at some point, like most Type A individuals, you graduated to using written lists. If you attended college, however, and faced an even bigger time crunch, it’s likely that you switched over (or tried to switch over) to using a calendar to manage all your non-habitual tasks.

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Unfortunately, you may have realized the hard truth: it’s hard to keep such a calendar viable. Even if you kept it on a smartphone, it was still difficult because inevitable, daily disruptions made the ambition impossible. (A few people do power through, teaching themselves the custom habits required, but most quit somewhere along the way.)

However, once you graduated and joined the workforce, you discovered that some of your colleagues didn’t even keep a written list — they were back to using their memories to manage time demands… just like kids do. At that point, like all recent college graduates, you had a choice.

When your new colleagues asked you “Why are you working so hard?” in a tone that was a bit unfriendly, did you buckle to peer pressure and delete your calendar and To-Do list, joining the “Hakuna Matata” club of memory users? Or did you resist?

Thankfully, downgrading your capacity isn’t the only feasible choice. Your colleagues have just forgotten what it’s like to willingly put oneself under high pressure. Instead of limiting or slowing down the time demands you create, like they do, keep on creating just as many. You’ll still have the problem you had before, but the good news is that there are better tools available to help be as productive as you want to be.

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Remember that problem you had of trying to put all your time demands in a single calendar? Well, there is a new class of tools that’s tailor-made for Type A individuals who routinely create lots and lots of tasks… far more than can be fit in a day or a week.

These tools are called “auto-schedulers.” Back in the 1970s, a few programmers had the idea that you could use computing power to reschedule your tasks. It was an impossible dream at the time and the first attempts were quite limited. Now, recent advances in artificial intelligence, cloud computing, and the existence of multiple calendars on platforms like Outlook and Google are changing the game for Type A personalities.

Last year, Lifehack.org covered Timeful, one of the first of these apps, just before it was purchased by Google in a deal worth several million dollars. They immediately took it off the market. I use an app that’s in Beta called SkedPal, and it’s one of a few emerging programs that do the same thing — allow you to get over that problem you faced trying to schedule everything. SkedPal and other apps do the job for you.

Now, as a Type A personality, you have the tools to manage a dramatically increased number of tasks. Instead of lowering your capacity just to fit in, you can prepare yourself for what is likely to come: marriage, owning a home, managing your finances, and having children. Plus promotions at work as you climb the career ladder.

At the moment, you are in the post-graduation dip, but it won’t last forever. Rather than dipping like everyone else, stay as productive as you want to be using this new kind of app, while preparing yourself for the future. Others may not understand, but that’s OK — these three steps aren’t meant for them. They are meant for you, and match your high energy and extraordinary commitment.

Featured photo credit: picjumbo.com via picjumbo.com

More by this author

Francis Wade

Author, Management Consultant

How To Manage A Post-College Productivity Dip Why You Need to Understand and Accept Your Productive Type A Tendencies The New Lifehacking #7 – Why You Should Be Open to New Stuff, But Wary About Using It The New LifeHacking #6 – Staying Away from Harmful Gadgets The New Lifehacking #5 – Tricking Yourself into Making the Changes You Need

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Last Updated on June 26, 2019

How to Create Your Road Map to Success (A Step-By-Step Guide)

How to Create Your Road Map to Success (A Step-By-Step Guide)

Everyone has their own definition of what success means to them. Well, at least we all should by the very fact that no two individuals are created 100% alike.

Our road map to success should be different to the person standing next to us. But we can get caught in the dangerous trap that someone else’s ideas of success should also be ours. Be careful.

Regardless of whether or not we’re talking about your working career, business or personal life, it is truly hard to resist the contagious excitement surrounding those fantastic dreams and goals you allow yourself to explore.

The ‘come-down’ after attending a euphoric state-inducing personal development seminar can often result in you feeling the slump of post-seminar blues. Worse still, your everyday circumstances don’t accommodate the changes you swore to make that weekend. Nothing changes.

Get ready to kiss goodbye the post-seminar blues and skip to each destination on your roadmap to your successes. By repeating over and over these simple steps, the quality of your life will improve.

You will want to use these steps as standard strategies to carry you toward further success in whatever shape or form you choose.

1. Define What Success Means to You

Is it just having enough money or more money than you might ever need that allows you to feel and judge yourself a success? Is it about having a beautiful house worth more than $2,000,000 on the upper east side of Manhattan?

Is it about having a loving partner who supports you in your endeavors? Do you equally support each other?

Is it through the tertiary education roadmap that you only feel valid you can make a meaningful and successful contribution to help the world economy turn? Is that your definition of success or is it someone else’s? Maybe your mom’s or your dad’s?

When her daughter Christina found her on the floor of her office, in a pool of blood having hit her head and breaking her cheekbone as she fell, CEO of Thrive Global and celebrated author of Thrive, Ariana Huffington had a wake-up call in more ways than one.[1]

The exhaustion and overwhelming stress which had led to her fainting drove Huffington to radically introduce new work ethics, values and rules at the editorial.

Ten years on from her accident, Huffington still leads the conversational charge amongst global leaders to change the badge of honor that successful people need to work 24/7, and give everything of themselves and more, even it means compromising their health.

As opposed to letting power and money be the two measurements of success, she explains wisdom, well-being, wonder and giving will give you greater success by nurturing your psychological well-being.

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We can’t argue with Huffington that without that, we are proverbially dead in the water.

Warren Buffet stated the way he defines success nowadays has nothing to do with money:

“I measure success by how many people love me”.

You can’t but fall in love with the wisdom and nobility these words seem to reflect, but keeping it as your only definition of success is probably dangerous. Lacking today’s wisdom at 20 years of age, would Buffet have had the same definition of success?

Think about where you are on your journey. You are likely to have different goals and different measures of success as you navigate your roadmap. Huffington and Buffet explain non-tangible ideas of success are crucial for our overall success.

Let’s also not forget though that through tenacity, persistence and many other success habits, these business leaders also rate extremely high on the power and money metrics. However, that’s not all there is to it.

If you are not sure how you would answer if someone asked you what your definition of success is, here are some clues to get you thinking and feeling.

As your head hits the pillow and before you close your eyes, what’s most important is that you can internalize that you have chosen your definition of success and you can full responsibility and accountability for deciding upon it.

2. Review Your Progress and Satisfaction in Life

Review the main areas of your life. Not just those where you feel you need to make changes. Review all of them:

  • Your career vocation or business life;
  • Your relationships – your intimate or life partner, family and friends;
  • Money health and financial management strategies;
  • Commitment to your faith or religion and spiritual personal development;
  • Your physical and mental health;

What leisure or recreational activities you pursue for fun to energize your spirit and enrich your soul.

Do you have ideas of what success looks like for you in each of these areas?

Neglecting to look at even one area is like trying to restore function to a beautifully crafted Swiss watch, whilst failing to attend to a rusty-looking cog in the tiny internal workings that needs attention. Turn one cog, the others all turn. Ignore a damaged one, the system malfunctions.

For each area, give yourself a rating out of ten – one signifies the least satisfaction and ten signifies the most – and ask yourself the following questions to help you start identifying what’s important to you:

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  • How satisfied or content with this area of my life am I presently?
  • Where would I like to live this current level of contentment to?
  • What would that new level of satisfaction look like, feel like?
  • How important is this area compared with the other areas of my life?

Regardless of what areas you recognize need to be your core focus, consider making personal development and improvements to your physical and mental health, and well-being a constant feature of your action plan.

You will need to continually recognize obstacles you’ll face from your outside world, as well as those internal psychological battles that will arise from within.

Without your mental and physical health intact, it’s unlikely the rest of the ‘cogs’ are going to turn properly.

3. Get to Know Your Values and Priorities

Don’t make the mistake of thinking goal setting can be done in one sitting. You want to make sure the pursuits you put down on paper aren’t fly-by-night moments of excitement that ebb and flow with the rise and fall of tidal trends.

Become better at identifying your priorities by exploring how you feel about each of your life areas. Think about the ratings of satisfaction you might have denoted for each. And now write down what you want to be, do and have.

Put aside your initial literary ramblings and revisit them in a couple of weeks or one month. Without looking at your initial thoughts, do the process again and see what consistencies show up. What keeps coming up as feeling important? Around what ideas is there the same yearning or emotional pull?

If you’re unsure about what you feel you wish to head towards, be in allowance of this. Don’t be jumping to quickly fill the void. The desperation is likely to have you catching the tail of the last exciting concept in fear of missing out, or trying to fill the void of excitement you yearn for.

Increase your practice of pausing and asking yourself:

Why does this resonate with me? Could this be a distraction which complicates the route I have mapped out? Am I becoming that person who proverbially chases two rabbits and catches none?

In his book The Heart of Love, Dr. John Demartini explains how becoming strongly aware of your values and priorities helps you understand why you are and where you are in your life at any given moment.

If you don’t know what you feel you stand for, look at where you direct your time, energy and attention. Look at your behavior and work backward.

You might think making money and creating financial wealth is high on your radar. However, if you spend more than you earn and allocate money to depreciating objects as opposed to appreciating assets, your behavior is inconsistent with those typical of someone who is financially astute.

Look back to your areas of life and ask yourself if the goals you have set are in alignment with your values. Look at your daily behaviors and ask yourself if the way you operate satisfies steps which take you further toward those goals.

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If not, all is not lost. You’ve simply got some harsh truths and reality checks to face before you can go any further on your roadmap to success.

4. Make Room Deliberately to Work with a Coach

You have to come to terms with the fact that you’re likely to be swimming against the tide.

Once you make clear unwavering decisions about what goals you’re aiming for, prepare to be un-liked, unpopular, criticized and potentially ostracized. There’s a high possibility you’ll lose the friendship and support of some however you will gain new friends and the support of others.

Regardless of what area/s of life your goals pertain to, make room to work with a coach. Choose wisely who that person will be to encourage and walk beside you.

Whether it be a certified coach, a family friend/mentor or qualified therapist, find someone who knows how to work with the specific issues and challenges that lay ahead without any agenda other than your success.

Having that impartial guide can be an invaluable constant. This helps keeps you on the straight and narrow even if other areas of your life aren’t going swimmingly.

5. Get Highly Familiar with Your Habits and Behaviors

Despite the scientific evidence in support of it, we’re not recommending you need to start getting up at 5:00 am and exercising for an hour before you even think about starting your day.

You should start asking yourself these questions far more frequently:

  • How well do you know your habits and routine ways of operating?
  • Do you know what choices and patterned behaviors help or hinder you?

You know what you want to work on. Greater clarity on your values has enabled you to discern which priorities are high on your list and which ones are low. It’s now time to reinforce and reward the habits that carry you forward on your roadmap to success, and adjust those habits which delay or divert you staying on course.

Remember though that part of the joy of the human experience is to be fallible, so don’t suddenly shelve all those character-building ‘vices’. Your flaws are a necessary part of your unique success jigsaw puzzle; they are the inspiring reasons you’re going on this journey in the first place.

Demartini and New York Times journalist and author Charles Duhigg both explain in their books how recognizing your unhelpful behavioral patterns needs to take place first. You identify the emotional and psychological rewards which rule over whether you sustain, break or make a habit.

When you know the rewards that light you up like a Christmas tree, you link them to new or modified habits that support values you want to make a higher priority.

Say you love eating out. You love artisan cuisine and get giddy at watching the episode of Heston Blumenthal create chocolate water in his food chemistry laboratory. As much as you say you want to increase your investment in appreciating assets, your spending habits speak otherwise.

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So, you might start looking for discount opportunities on your higher-end dining. The dishes may not rival Heston’s masterpieces, but your taste buds still enjoy a culinary roller coaster AND you also now to get feel-good allocating the discounted amount to a saving’s program.

Your tummy is singing as is your bank account. The whole experience goes well beyond short-term gratification and satisfies several values and goals.

Tweaking habits and forming new ones isn’t hard; it’s just a matter of finding a happy marriage. Take time to find it. There will always be ways.

6. Celebrate the Wins and Monitor Your Progress Along the Way

You must become good at deliberately rewarding yourself when you make changes that take you further along your roadmap to success.

Professor of cognitive neuroscience Dr. Tali Sharot explains how the brain responds and adapts far better to rewards than punishment when it comes to learning behavior and creating new habits.[2]

When we apply punishment, we reinforce the traumatic memory as being more important than the actual lesson we might have been meant to learn in the first place.

When we gamify rewards on our success journey, we inject fun and humor. We also reduce the stress that often comes with learning new things, habits and adjusting to new ways of being, doing and having.

Final Thoughts

If you hit a progress plateau at any point, you might need to allow yourself to plateau and switch your attention to another priority.

The switch may allow you to think more freely and clearly about how to move past your roadblock. Or it might simply be a good time to stop and smell the roses.

Your muscles grow stronger in their resting phase after a workout. Animals hunt profusely to build up their energy stores before going into hibernation.

Remember that continually forging ahead is not a natural rhythm. Repeat the cycle of rest, recovery and rallying forward then…start again.

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Featured photo credit: Tabea Damm via unsplash.com

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