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Determine Never to Be Idle: A Simple Productivity Strategy

Determine Never to Be Idle: A Simple Productivity Strategy
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Determine never to be idle. No person will have occasion to complain of the want of time who never loses any. It is wonderful how much can be done if we are always doing.
Thomas Jefferson

We lack time not because there is not enough time but because we lose too much of it. That’s why I believe this quote represents a simple but effective strategy to boost our productivity. If we determine never to be idle, we will minimize lost time and make every moment valuable.

Looking at myself, I often waste time by being idle without realizing it. So “determine never to be idle” is a good strategy for me. It helps me recognize idle time and bring me back to the state of doing. While I still have idle time here and there, I learn to minimize it. Someday I hope I can eliminate it.

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First of all, let’s define what is meant by “idle”. In my opinion, idle time is the time we spend on something other than what we are supposed to do. We know we should do something, but we procrastinate doing it or get distracted by something else. That is idle time.

There are three simple steps to minimize idle time:

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1. Plan what you want to do each day

The first step is to have a clear idea of what are considered “not idle”. Plan what you want to do each day. For this purpose, I have some routines that cover most of what I need to do daily. I also set a few most important tasks of the day, though in some cases they are already covered by my daily routines. All these give me a clear idea of what is “not idle”.

2. Watch for idleness

The next step is watching for the signs of idleness. Since you already have a plan, it should be easier to do that. Ask yourself every now and then: “Am I now idle?”

The simple clue of idleness is anything that is outside of your plan. The exceptions are unexpected things which have higher priority, such as family-related tasks.

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Here are some examples of idleness to help you recognize them:

  • Random browsing
  • Reading email when it’s time to do something else
  • Unnecessary conversations
  • Too much thinking before taking action
  • Watching TV more than you should
  • Lying on the bed, unless you decide that it’s time for rest

3. Get back to doing whenever you are idle

Whenever your answer to the question “am I now idle?” is yes, you should go back to the state of doing as soon as possible. Stop being idle and start doing what you are supposed to do. Your plan in #1 should help you decide the right thing to do without spending too much time for thinking.

***

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These three steps are simple, but they are not easy to apply. In my case, the problem is usually #2 and sometimes #3. I may not realize that I’m idle, or when I do, sometimes I’m too lazy to go back to doing. But making a conscious effort to never be idle improves my situation over time.

You can also see this strategy from a different point of view. Instead of seeing it as minimizing idle time, you can also see it as maximizing doing time. What you should do is maximize your share of doing time each day. Let’s say you are awake 17 hours a day. You should aim to have as much as possible of it in the state of doing. If the current rate is 50%, you should increase it to 60%, 70%, and so on.

What do you think? Do you have other tips to not be idle? Feel free to share them in the comments.

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Donald Latumahina

Donald Latumahina is the founder of Life Optimizer, a self-improvement blog to help people reach their full potential.

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Last Updated on November 5, 2020

How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

Have you gotten into a rut before? Or are you in a rut right now?

You know you’re in a rut when you run out of ideas and inspiration. A rut can manifest as a productivity vacuum and be a reason why you aren’t getting results. Even as you spend more time on your work, you can’t seem to get anything constructive done. Is it possible to learn how to get out of a rut?

Over time, I have tried and found several methods that are helpful to pull me out of a rut. If you experience ruts too, whether as a working professional, a writer, a blogger, or a student, you will find these useful. Here are 12 of my personal tips to get out of ruts:

1. Work on Small Tasks

When you are in a rut, tackle it by starting small. Clear away your smaller tasks that have been piling up. Reply to your emails, organize your documents, declutter your work space, and reply to private messages.

Whenever I finish doing that, I generate positive momentum, which I bring forward to my work.

If you have a large long-term goal you can’t wait to get started on, break it down into smaller objectives first. This will help each piece feel manageable and help you feel like you’re moving closer to your goal.

You can learn more about goals vs objectives here.

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2. Take a Break From Your Work Desk

When you want to learn how to get out of a rut, get yourself away from your desk and go take a walk. Go to the bathroom, walk around the office, or go out and get a snack. According to research, your productivity is best when you work for 50 minutes to an hour and then take a 15-20 minute break[1].

Your mind may be too bogged down and will need some airing. By walking away from your computer, you may create extra space for new ideas that were hiding behind high stress levels.

3. Upgrade Yourself

Take the down time to upgrade your knowledge and skills. Go to a seminar, read up on a subject of interest, or start learning a new language. Or any of the 42 ways here to improve yourself.

The modern computer uses different typefaces because Steve Jobs dropped in on a calligraphy class back in college[2]. How’s that for inspiration?

4. Talk to a Friend

Talk to someone and get your mind off work for a while. Relying on a support system is a great way to work on self-care when you’re learning how to get out of a rut.

Talk about anything, from casual chatting to a deep conversation about something you really care about. You will be surprised at how the short encounter can be rejuvenating in its own way.

5. Forget About Trying to Be Perfect

If you are in a rut, the last thing you want to do is step on your own toes with perfectionist tendencies. Perfectionism can lead you to fear failure, which can ultimate hinder you even more if you’re trying to find motivation to work on something new.

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If you allow your perfectionism to fade, soon, a little trickle of inspiration will come, and then it’ll build up with more trickles. Before you know it, you have a whole stream of ideas.

Learn more about How Not to Let Perfectionism Secretly Screw You Up.

6. Paint a Vision to Work Towards

If you are continuously getting in a rut with your work, maybe there’s no vision inspiring you to move forward.

Think about why you are doing this, and what you are doing it for. What is the ultimate goal or vision you have for your life?

Make it as vivid as possible. Make sure it’s a vision that inspires you and use that to trigger you to action. You can use the power of visualization or even create a vision board if you like to have something to physically remind you of your goals.

7. Read a Book (or Blog)

The things we read are like food for our brain. If you are out of ideas, it’s time to feed your brain with great material.

Here’s a list of 40 books you can start off with. You can also stock your browser with only the feeds of high quality blogs and follow writers who inspire and motivate you. Find something that interests you and start reading.

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8. Have a Quick Nap

If you are at home, take a quick nap for about 20-30 minutes. This clears up your mind and gives you a quick boost. Nothing quite like starting off on a fresh start after catching up on sleep[3].

Try a nap if you want to get out of a rut

    One Harvard study found that “whether they took long naps or short naps, participants showed significant improvement on three of the four tests in the study’s cognitive-assessment battery”[4].

    9. Remember Why You Are Doing This

    Sometimes we lose sight of why we do what we do, and after a while we become jaded. A quick refresher on why you even started on this project will help.

    What were you thinking when you thought of doing this? Retrace your thoughts back to that moment. Recall your inspiration, and perhaps even journal about it to make it feel more tangible.

    10. Find Some Competition

    When we are learning how to get out of a rut, there’s nothing quite like healthy competition to spur us forward. If you are out of ideas, then check up on what people are doing in your space.

    Colleagues at work, competitors in the industry, competitors’ products and websites, and networking conventions can all inspire you to get a move on. However, don’t let this throw you back into your perfectionist tendencies or low self-esteem.

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    11. Go Exercise

    Since you are not making headway at work, you might as well spend the time getting into shape and increasing dopamine levels. Sometimes we work so much that we neglect our health and fitness. Go jog, swim, cycle, or whatever type of exercise helps you start to feel better.

    As you improve your physical health, your mental health will improve, too. The different facets of ourselves are all interlinked.

    If you need ideas for a quick workout, check out the video below:

    12. Take a Few Vacation Days

    If you are stuck in a rut, it’s usually a sign that you have been working too long and too hard. It’s time to get a break.

    Beyond the quick tips above, arrange one or two days to take off from work. Don’t check your (work) emails or do anything work-related. Relax, do your favorite activities, and spend time with family members. You will return to your work recharged and ready to start.

    Contrary to popular belief, the world will not end from taking a break from your work. In fact, you will be much more ready to make an impact after proper rest.

    More Tips to Help You Get out of a Rut

    Featured photo credit: Ashkan Forouzani via unsplash.com

    Reference

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