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18 Ways to Find Direction Over Your Holiday Break

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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.

    More by this author

    CM Smith

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

    How to Beat Procrastination: 29 Simple Tweaks to Make 5 Project Management Tools to Get Your Team on Track To Automate or not to Automate Your Personal Productivity System Design Is Important: How To Fail At Blogging 7 Tools to Help Keep Track of Goals and Habits Effectively 6 Unexpected Ways Journaling Every Day Will Make Your Life Better

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    Last Updated on October 7, 2021

    Are You Addicted to Productivity?

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    Are You Addicted to Productivity?

    “It’s great to be productive. It really is. But sometimes, we chase productivity so much that it makes us, well, unproductive. It’s easy to read a lot about how to be more productive, but don’t forget that you have to make that time up.”

    Matt Cutts wrote that back in 2013,[1]

    “Today, search for ‘productivity’ and Google will come back with about 663,000,000 results. If you decide to go down this rabbit hole, you’ll be bombarded by a seemingly endless amount of content. I’m talking about books, blogs, videos, apps, podcasts, scientific studies, and subreddits all dedicated to productivity.”

    Like so many other people, I’ve also fallen into this trap. For years I’ve been on the lookout for trends and hacks that will help me work faster and more efficiently — and also trends that help me help others to be faster. I’ve experimented with various strategies and tools . And, while some of these strategies and solutions have been extremely useful — without parsing out what you need quickly — it’s counterproductive.

    Sometimes you end up spending more time focusing on how to be productive instead of actually being productive.

    “The most productive people I know don’t read these books, they don’t watch these videos, they don’t try a new app every month,” James Bedell wrote in a Medium post.[2] “They are far too busy getting things done to read about Getting Things Done.”

    This is my mantra:

    I proudly say, “I am addicted to productivity — I want to be addicted to productivity — productivity is my life and my mission — and I also want to find the best way to lead others through productivity to their best selves.

    But most of the time productivity means putting your head down and working until the job’s done.” –John Rampton

    Addiction to Productivity is Real

    Dr. Sandra Chapman, director of the University of Texas at Dallas Center for BrainHealth points out that the brain can get addicted to productivity just as it can to more common sources of addiction, such as drugs, gambling, eating, and shopping.

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    “A person might crave the recognition their work gives them or the salary increases they get,” Chapman told the BBC.[3] “The problem is that just like all addictions, over time, a person needs more and more to be satisfied, and then it starts to work against you. Withdrawal symptoms include increased anxiety, depression, and fear.”

    Despite the harmful consequences, addiction is considered by some experts as a brain disease that affects the brain’s reward system and ends in compulsive behavior. Regardless, society tends to reward productivity — or at least to treat it positively. As a result, this makes the problem even worse.

    “It’s seen like a good thing: the more you work, the better,” adds Chapman. “Many people don’t realize the harm it causes until a divorce occurs and a family is broken apart, or the toll it takes on mental health.”

    Because of the occasional negative issues with productivity, it’s no surprise that it is considered a “mixed-blessing addiction.”

    “A workaholic might be earning a lot of money, just as an exercise addict is very fit,” explains Dr. Mark Griffiths, distinguished professor of behavioral addiction at Nottingham Trent University. “But the thing about any addiction is that in the long run, the detrimental effects outweigh any short-term benefits.”

    “There may be an initial period where the individual who is developing a work addiction is more productive than someone who isn’t addicted to work, but it will get to a point when they are no longer productive, and their health and relationships are affected,” Griffiths writes in Psychology Today.[4] “It could be after one year or more, but if the individual doesn’t do anything about it, they could end up having serious health consequences.”

    “For instance, I speculated that the consequences of work addiction may be reclassified as something else: If someone ends up dying of a work-related heart attack, it isn’t necessarily seen as having anything to do with an addiction per se – it might be attributed to something like burnout,” he adds.

    There Are Three “Distinct Extreme Productivity Types

    Cyril Peupion, a Sydney-based productivity expert, has observed extreme productivity among clients at both large and medium-sized companies. “Most people who come to me are high performers and very successful. But often, the word they use to describe their work style is ‘unsustainable,’ and they need help getting it back on track.”

    By changing their work habits, Peupion assists teams and individuals improve their performance and ensure that their efforts are aligned with the overarching strategy of the business, rather than focusing on work as a means to an end. He has distinguished three types of extreme productivity in his classification: efficiency obsessive, selfishly productive, and quantity-obsessed.

    Efficiency obsessive. “Their desks are super tidy and their pens are probably color-coded. They are the master of ‘inbox zero.’ But they have lost sight of the big picture, and don’t know the difference between efficiency and effectiveness.”

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    Selfishly productive. “They are so focused on their own world that if they are asked to do something outside of it, they aren’t interested. They do have the big picture in mind, but the picture is too much about them.”

    Quantity-obsessed. “They think; ‘The more emails I respond to, the more meetings I attend, the more tasks I do, the higher my performance.’ As a result, they face a real risk of burnout.”

    Peupion believes that “quantity obsessed” individuals are the most common type “because there is a pervasive belief that ‘more’ means ‘better’ at work.”

    The Warning Signs of Productivity Addiction

    Here are a few questions you should ask yourself if you think you may be succumbing to productivity addiction. After all, most of us aren’t aware of this until it’s too late.

    • Can you tell when you’re “wasting” time? If so, have you ever felt guilty about it?
    • Does technology play a big part in optimizing your time management?
    • Do you talk about how busy you are most of the time? In your opinion, is hustling better than doing less?
    • What is your relationship with your email inbox? Are you constantly checking it or experience phantom notifications?
    • When you only check one item off your list, do you feel guilty?
    • Does stress from work interfere with your sleep?
    • Have you been putting things off, like a vacation or side project, because you’re “too swamped?

    The first step toward turning around your productivity obsession is to recognize it. If you answered “yes” to any of the above questions, then it’s time to make a plan to overcome your addiction to productivity.

    Overcoming Your Productivity Addiction

    Thankfully, there are ways to curb your productivity addiction. And, here are 9 such ways to achieve that goal.

    1. Set Limits

    Just because you’re hooked on productivity doesn’t mean you have to completely abstain from it. Instead, you need to establish boundaries.

    For example, there are a lot of amazing productivity podcasts out there. But, that doesn’t mean you have to listen to them all in the course of a day. Instead, you could listen to one or two podcasts, like The Productivity Podcast or Before Breakfast, during your commute. And, that would be your only time of the day to get your productivity fix.

    2. Create a Not-to-Do List

    Essentially, the idea of a not-to-do list is to eliminate the need to practice self-discipline. Getting rid of low-value tasks and bad habits will allow you to focus on what you really want to do as opposed to weighing the pros and cons or declining time requests. More importantly, this prevents you from feeling guilty about not crossing everything off an unrealistic to-do list.

    3. Be Vulnerable

    By this, I mean admitting where you could improve. For example, if you’re new to remote work and are struggling with thi s, you would only focus on topics in this area. Suggestions would be how to create a workspace at home, not getting distracted when the kids aren’t in school, or improving remote communication and collaboration with others.

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    4. Understand Why You Procrastinate

    Often, we procrastinate to minimize negative emotions like boredom or stress. Other times it could be because it’s a learned trait, underestimating how long it takes you to complete something or having a bias towards a task.

    Regardless of the exact reason, we end up doing busy work, scrolling social media, or just watching one more episode of our favorite TV series. And, even though we know that it’s not for the best, we do things that make us feel better than the work we should do to restore our mood.[5]

    There are a lot of ways to overcome procrastination. But, the first step is to be aware of it so that you can take action. For example, if you’re dreading a difficult task, don’t just watch Netflix. Instead, procrastinate more efficiently,y like returning a phone call or working on a client pitch.

    5. Don’t Be a Copycat

    Let’s keep this short and sweet. When you find a productivity app or technique that works for you, stick with it.

    That’s not to say that you can’t make adjustments along the way or try new tools or hacks. However, the main takeaway should be that just because someone swears by the Pomodoro Technique doesn’t mean it’s a good fit for you.

    6. Say Yes to Less

    Across the board, your philosophy should be less is more.

    That means only download the apps you actually use and want to keep (after you try them out) and uninstall the ones you don’t use. For example, are you currently reading a book on productivity? Don’t buy your next book until you’ve finished the one you’re currently reading (or permit yourself to toss a book that isn’t doing you any good). — and if you really want to finish a book more quickly, listen to the book on your way to work and back.

    Already have plans this weekend? Don’t commit to a birthday party. And, if you’re day is booked, decline that last-minute meeting request.

    7. Stop Focusing on What’s Next

    “In the age when purchasing a thing from overseas is just one click and talking to another person is one swipe right, acquiring new objects or experiences can be addictive like anything else,” writes Patrick Banks for Lifehack .

    “That doesn’t need to be you,” he adds. “You can stop your addition to ‘the next thing’ starting today.” After all, “there will always be this next thing if you don’t make a conscious decision to get your life back together and be the one in charge.”

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    • Think about your current lifestyle and the person you’re at this stage to help you identify what you aren’t satisfied with.
    • By setting clear goals for yourself in the future, you will be able to overcome your addiction.
    • Establish realistic goals.
    • To combat addiction, you must be aware of what is going on around you, as well as inside your head, at any given time.
    • Don’t spend time with people who have unhealthy behaviors.
    • Hold yourself accountable.
    • Keep a journal and write out what you want to overcome.
    • Appreciate no longer being addicted to what’s next.

    8. Simplify

    Each day, pick one priority task. That’s it. As long as you concentrate on one task at a time, you will be less likely to get distracted or overwhelmed by an endless list of tasks. A simple mantra to live by is: work smarter, not harder.

    The same is also accurate with productivity hacks and tools. Bullet journaling is a great example. Unfortunately, for many, a bullet journal is way more time-consuming and overwhelming than a traditional planner.

    9. Learn How to Relax

    “Sure, we need to produce sometimes, especially if we have to pay the bills, but, banning obsession with productivity is unhealthy,” writes Leo Babauta. “When you can’t get yourself to be productive, relax.” Don’t worry about being hyper-efficient. And, don’t beat yourself up about having fun.

    “But what if you can’t motivate yourself … ever?” he asks. “Sure, that can be a problem. But if you relax and enjoy yourself, you’ll be happier.”

    “And if you work when you get excited, on things you’re excited about, and create amazing things, that’s motivation,” Leo states. “Not forcing yourself to work when you don’t want to, on things you don’t want to work on — motivation is doing things you love when you get excited.”

    But, how exactly can you relax? Here are some tips from Leo;

    • Spend 5 minutes walking outside and breathe in the fresh air.
    • Give yourself more time to accomplish things. Less rushing means less stress.
    • If you can, get outside after work to enjoy nature.
    • Play like a child. Even better? Play with your kids. And, have fun at work — maybe give gamification a try .
    • Take the day off, rest, and do something non-work-related.
    • Allow yourself an hour of time off. Try not to be productive during that time. Just relax.
    • You should work with someone who is exciting. Make your project exciting.
    • Don’t work in the evenings. Seriously.
    • Visit a massage therapist.
    • Just breathe.

    “Step by step, learn to relax,” he suggests. “Learn that productivity isn’t everything.” For that statement, sorry Leo, I say productivity isn’t everything — it’s the only thing.” However, if you can’t cut loose, relax, do fun things, and do the living part of your life — you’ll crack in a big way — you really will.

    It’s great to create and push forward — just remember it doesn’t mean that every minute must be spent working or obsessing over productivity issues. Instead, invest your time in meaningful, high-impact work, get into it, focus, put in big time and then relax.

    Are You Addicted to Productivity? was originally published on Calendar by John Rampton.

    Featured photo credit: Christina @ wocintechchat.com via unsplash.com

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