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18 Ways to Find Direction Over Your Holiday Break

18 Ways to Find Direction Over Your Holiday Break
    Photo credit: *clarity* (CC BY 2.0)

    Many times a month, week, or day you feel directionless.

    I can totally relate, so you don’t have to worry; you aren’t a freak or loser that doesn’t know what they want to do with their life. You just may be stuck.

    But, good news, “directionless one”. The holidays are a great time to step back from your work-life and rethink what and how you are trying to get things done.

    Rather than give you some of the reasons that you feel directionless in the first place, let’s just dive into the 18 ways that you can find your direction so you can be on the path again to get things done faster and better over this holiday break.

    1. Mind map

    We have talked about mind mapping in the past at Lifehack. If you sit down and spend a little bit of time connecting thoughts and ideas to each other either paper or digitally through mind mapping you may start to see how all the pieces fit together and feel some sort of direction.

    2. Learn what you don’t want to do

    If you don’t know what you’re supposed to do, sometimes it’s a good idea to find the things that you aren’t supposed to do. This can clear up your vision of your project or business model and help you move forward.

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    3. Day dream and doodle

    Over the past few months since I’ve graduated from college, I haven’t daydreamed and doodle as much. But, I know that this is one of the best ways for me to find new ideas on topics that I was stalling on. We sometimes need to just let our minds wander and not put so much pressure on ourselves. Day dreaming and doodling allows us to have some “no-pressure” creative time.

    4. Find some “non-technology” time

    Sometimes we lose our direction on projects because we are buried in our work. And with most of us being knowledge workers, being buried in our work means being buried in our computers and technology devices. It’s a good idea to step away on a daily basis from these devices and work on some of your own personal creative time. Over the holiday break is a great time to do this.

    5. Read

    Reading is a great way to find inspiration. But, you have to make sure that you aren’t just reading to avoid what you’re supposed to be working on.

    6. Reach out to friends and other creatives

    If you’re having trouble coming up with ideas for your new project, a good way to get some is to talk to other people that are like-minded as well as friends and family. Sometimes these people can be a little bit strong in their criticisms, but it may just be what you need to find your direction.

    7. Free Write

    This goes back to my favorite thing to do every single day; write 750 words. Writing every single day helps free thoughts from your mind, making them more concrete. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had something in my mind but haven’t been able to express it until I wrote for that day.

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    8. Simplify things

    I’m sometimes a little weary of the whole minimalist movement, but, simplifying and going “minimal” can be a really great way to concentrate on what you’re trying to work on.Cut out everything that you don’t need and concentrate on only the things that you do to find some direction.

    9. Change up your tools and processes

    I’m a staunch proponent of keeping with your tools and productivity processes for the long haul, but every once in a while you may just need to switch things up, especially if there is something about your process that is holding you back.

    10. Exercise

    I’ve gotten some great ideas on projects that were “stuck” when I was out walking, biking, or running. Make a habit of exercising and you will get ideas on a regular basis to keep you unstuck and moving in the right direction.

    11. Meditate

    Being mindful is an important thing to do whether or not you need to find your direction. Sitting in silence can help you clear your mind and be in the moment, opening you up to new ideas and helping create motivation for something that is stagnating in your life.

    12. Create rituals and blocks of work

    Block out times during your day where you work on the the things that are important to you. If you don’t schedule your time diligently, it will possibly be lost to something that isn’t as important to you.

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    Also, having lists of things to do every day is a great way for you to keep “treading water”, allowing you to concentrate on the bigger picture.

    13. Force yourself to create ideas

    Sometimes you just have to force yourself to come up with new ideas to get a project back on track. Make ideas happen is part of being a knowledge worker.

    14. Stop analyses paralyses and get started

    Sometimes we already know what we want and have to do to get something moving forward. Instead of actually doing it though, we think that we need more information to get it done. You probably don’t.

    If you think you know enough to start or keep a project moving then put down the tutorial or the book and get to work.

    15. Follow a framework

    If you feel no direction on a project try running through something like David Allen’s 5 Phases of Productivity. Maybe you just need to know what “wild success” looks like to make it over the hump.

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    16. Spend quality time

    Some people that are consumed with projects and getting the next thing done forget to have a life. Instead of stressing and struggling, how about spend some quality time with your family and friends and try to remember why you do what you do?

    17. Step away from the problem

    Stepping away from the problem can sometimes give you instant direction on what to do to solve the problem. Once you stop thinking so hard about something, new ideas and direction can come easier.

    18. “White knuckle it” and get to work

    While meditation and free writing and all the other “nu-nu-na-na” stuff can help you find your direction, most times you just need to sit down, white knuckle it, and work hard. There is no replacement for hard work.

    Feeling directionless can be a horrible way to go through your workday and life. But, the holidays are a great time to rethink your work strategy and to make sure that you have everything that you need in your productivity framework to move forward on projects. Finding your direction on a stalled project may only be one free-writing or mind mapping session away, so give these above recommendations a try if you are feeling directionless.

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    CM Smith

    A technologist and writer who shares advice on personal productivity, creativity and how to use technology to get things done.

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    Last Updated on January 6, 2021

    14 Ideas on How to Measure Productivity to Make Progress

    14 Ideas on How to Measure Productivity to Make Progress

    Everyone has heard the term productivity, and people talk about it in terms of how high it is and how to improve it. But fewer know how to measure productivity, or even what exactly we are talking about when using the term “productivity.”

    In its simplest form, the productivity formula looks like this: Output ÷ Input = Productivity.

    For example, you have two salespeople each making 10 calls to customers per week. The first one averages 2 sales per week and the second one averages 3 sales per week. By plugging in the numbers we get the following productivity levels for each sales person.

    For salesperson one, the output is 2 sales and the input is 10 sales: 2 ÷ 10 = .2 or 20% productivity. For salesperson two, the output is 3 sales and the input is 10 sales: 3 ÷ 10 = .3 or 30% productivity.

    Knowing how to measure and interpret productivity is an invaluable asset for any manager or business owner in today’s world. As an example, in the above scenario, salesperson #1 is clearly not doing as well as salesperson #2.

    Knowing this information we can now better determine what course of action to take with salesperson #1.

    Some possible outcomes might be to require more in-house training for that salesperson, or to have them accompany the more productive salesperson to learn a better technique. It might be that salesperson #1 just isn’t suited for sales and would do a better job in a different position.

    How to Measure Productivity With Management Techniques

    Knowing how to measure productivity allows you to fine tune your business by minimizing costs and maximizing profits:

    1. Identify Long and Short-Term Goals

    Having a good understanding of what you (or your company’s) goals are is key to measuring productivity.

    For example, if your company’s goal is to maximize market share, you’ll want to measure your team’s productivity by their ability to acquire new customers, not necessarily on actual sales made.

    2. Break Down Goals Into Smaller Weekly Objectives

    Your long-term goal might be to get 1,000 new customers in a year. That’s going to be 20 new customers per week. If you have 5 people on your team, then each one needs to bring in 4 new customers per week.

    Now that you’ve broken it down, you can track each person’s productivity week-by-week just by plugging in the numbers:

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    Productivity = number of new customers ÷ number of sales calls made

    3. Create a System

    Have you ever noticed that whenever you walk into a McDonald’s, the French fry machine is always to your left? 

    This is because McDonald’s created a system. They have determined that the most efficient way to set up a kitchen is to always have the French fry machine on the left when you walk in.

    You can do the same thing and just adapt it to your business.

    Let’s say that you know that your most productive salespeople are making the most sales between the hours of 3 and 7 pm. If the other salespeople are working from 9 am to 4 pm, you can potentially increase productivity through something as simple as adjusting the workday.

    Knowing how to measure productivity allows you to set up, monitor, and fine tune systems to maximize output.

    4. Evaluate, Evaluate, Evaluate!

    We’ve already touched on using these productivity numbers to evaluate and monitor your employees, but don’t forget to evaluate yourself using these same measurements.

    If you have set up a system to track and measure employees’ performance, but you’re still not meeting goals, it may be time to look at your management style. After all, your management is a big part of the input side of our equation.

    Are you more of a carrot or a stick type of manager? Maybe you can try being more of the opposite type to see if that changes productivity. Are you managing your employees as a group? Perhaps taking a more one-on-one approach would be a better way to utilize each individual’s strengths and weaknesses.

    Just remember that you and your management style contribute directly to your employees’ productivity.

    5. Use a Ratings Scale

    Having clear and concise objectives for individual employees is a crucial part of any attempt to increase workplace productivity. Once you have set the goals or objectives, it’s important that your employees are given regular feedback regarding their progress.

    Using a ratings scale is a good way to provide a standardized visual representation of progress. Using a scale of 1-5 or 1-10 is a good way to give clear and concise feedback on an individual basis.

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    It’s also a good way to track long-term progress and growth in areas that need improvement.

    6. Hire “Mystery Shoppers”

    This is especially helpful in retail operations where customer service is critical. A mystery shopper can give feedback based on what a typical customer is likely to experience.

    You can hire your own shopper, or there are firms that will provide them for you. No matter which route you choose, it’s important that the mystery shoppers have a standardized checklist for their evaluation.

    You can request evaluations for your employees friendliness, how long it took to greet the shopper, employees’ knowledge of the products or services, and just about anything else that’s important to a retail operation.

    7. Offer Feedback Forms

    Using a feedback form is a great way to get direct input from existing customers. There are just a couple of things to keep in mind when using feedback forms.

    First, keep the form short, 2-3 questions max with a space for any additional comments. Asking people to fill out a long form with lots of questions will significantly reduce the amount of information you receive.

    Secondly, be aware that customers are much more likely to submit feedback forms when they are unhappy or have a complaint than when they are satisfied.

    You can offset this tendency by asking everyone to take the survey at the end of their interaction. This will increase compliance and give you a broader range of customer experiences, which will help as you’re learning how to measure productivity.

    8. Track Cost Effectiveness

    This is a great metric to have, especially if your employees have some discretion over their budgets. You can track how much each person spends and how they spend it against their productivity.

    Again, this one is easy to plug into the equation: Productivity = amount of money brought in ÷ amount of money spent.

    Having this information is very useful in forecasting expenses and estimating budgets.

    9. Use Self-Evaluations

    Asking your staff to do self evaluations can be a win-win for everyone. Studies have shown that when employees feel that they are involved and their input is taken seriously, morale improves. And as we all know, high employee morale translates into higher productivity.

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    Using self-evaluations is also a good way to make sure that the employees and employers goals are in alignment.

    10. Monitor Time Management

    This is the number one killer of productivity in the workplace. Time spent browsing the internet, playing games, checking email, and making personal calls all contribute to lower productivity[1].

    Time Management Tips to Improve Productivity

      The trick is to limit these activities without becoming overbearing and affecting morale. Studies have shown that most people will adhere to rules that they feel are fair and applied to everyone equally.

      While ideally, we may think that none of these activities should be done on company time, employees will almost certainly have a different opinion. From a productivity standpoint, it is best to have policies and rules that are seen as fair to both sides as you’re learning how to measure productivity.

      11. Analyze New Customer Acquisition

      We’ve all heard the phrase that “It’s more expensive to get a new customer than it is to keep an existing one.” And while that is very true, in order for your business to keep growing, you will need to continually add new customers.

      Knowing how to measure productivity via new customer acquisition will make sure that your marketing dollars are being spent in the most efficient way possible. This is another metric that’s easy to plug into the formula: Productivity = number of new customers ÷ amount of money spent to acquire those customers.

      For example, if you run any kind of advertising campaign, you can compare results and base your future spending accordingly.

      Let’s say that your total advertising budget is $3,000. You put $2,000 into television ads, $700 into radio ads, and $300 into print ads. When you track the results, you find that your television ad produced 50 new customers, your radio ad produced 15 new customers, and your print ad produced 9 new customers.

      Let’s plug those numbers into our equation. Television produced 50 new customers at a cost of $2,000 (50 ÷ 2000 = .025, or a productivity rate of 2.5%). The radio ads produced 15 new customers and cost $700 (15 ÷ 700 = .022, or a 2.2% productivity rate). Print ads brought in 9 new customers and cost $300 (9 ÷ 300 = .03, or a 3% return on productivity).

      From this analysis, it is clear that you would be getting the biggest bang for your advertising dollar using print ads.

      12. Utilize Peer Feedback

      This is especially useful when people who work in teams or groups. While self-assessments can be very useful, the average person is notoriously bad at assessing their own abilities.

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      Just ask a room full of people how many consider themselves to be an above average driver and you’ll see 70% of the hands go up[2]! Now we clearly know that in reality about 25% of drivers are below average, 25% are above average, and 50% are average.

      Are all these people lying? No, they just don’t have an accurate assessment of their own abilities.

      It’s the same in the workplace. Using peer feedback will often provide a more accurate assessment of a person’s ability than a self-assessment would.

      13. Encourage Innovation and Don’t Penalize Failure

      When it comes to productivity, encouraging employee input and adopting their ideas can be a great way to boost productivity. Just make sure that any changes you adopt translate into higher productivity.

      Let’s say that someone comes to you requesting an entertainment budget so that they can take potential customers golfing or out to dinner. By utilizing simple productivity metrics, you can easily produce a cost benefit analysis and either expand the program to the rest of the sales team, or terminate it completely.

      Either way, you have gained valuable knowledge and boosted morale by including employees in the decision-making process.

      14. Use an External Evaluator

      Using an external evaluator is the pinnacle of objective evaluations. Firms that provide professional evaluations use highly trained personnel that even specialize in specific industries.

      They will design a complete analysis of your business’ productivity level. In their final report, they will offer suggestions and recommendations on how to improve productivity.

      While the benefits of a professional evaluation are many, their costs make them prohibitive for most businesses.

      Final Thoughts

      These are just a few of the things you can do when learning how to measure productivity. Some may work for your particular situation, and some may not.

      The most important thing to remember when deciding how to track productivity is to choose a method consistent with your goals. Once you’ve decided on that, it’s just a matter of continuously monitoring your progress, making minor adjustments, and analyzing the results of those adjustments.

      The business world is changing fast, and having the right tools to track and monitor your productivity can give you the edge over your competition.

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      Featured photo credit: William Iven via unsplash.com

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