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The 3 Step Productivity Slump Reversal

The 3 Step Productivity Slump Reversal
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    I’m blissfully basking in my productive flow; last week was spent de-cluttering. From the cellar to the attic; it all got the treatment. The mice no longer have a place to hide and the dust mites go hungry. After a spout of qualifying for numerous awards such as good housekeeper of the year, most generous charity donor and recycling Queen, the clear house, office and mind give way to positive things. Firstly I feel good, I feel light, clear and in control, but more importantly in one way or another getting organized and taking control leads to a more productive and creative me.

    Step 1: De-clutter your space

    The week prior to my eclectic productive state, I was low, I had fallen off the wagon, my creative juices were absent and I had forgotten what were the productivity beliefs I wholeheartedly agreed to. But then there was a shift. It started by revisiting my goals. I reminded myself of the things that I want from my life. I thought of the goals that excite me; the ones that challenge me and I repeated to myself all the reasons why I want to achieve them.

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    Step 2: Remind Yourself of your Goals

    Next I took restock of my positive habits, the yoga and meditation that calm and clear my mind, the exercise that invigorates me, and the healthy food that nourishes my body. I do have good habits but it wasn’t always this way.

    My youth was chaotic. I liked to refer to the chaos as spontaneity and I clung to this title for many years feeling like it represented my “Libertad”. Throughout the years and with each additional offspring I reluctantly adopted routines and habits to help assist me with my parenting, then gradually in my career and throughout my life.

    Step 3: Re-engage Positive Habits

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    What I discovered was that spontaneity and living life without the structure of routines may be fine when backpacking across Australia but try to run a household, a business, have meaningful relationships, study, write, exercise, meditate with this attitude. And that’s just Monday’s tasks!

    I’m afraid I only know one way, and that way involves systems, routines and good positive habits!

    Go with the Flow

    Please don’t get me wrong. If opportunity comes knocking and the change to do something out of the routine, away from the norm, I’ll go all in and happily break the routine to feel the freedom and wind in my hair. Having children can regularly induce this state of non-conformity; I make my plans and set my goals and BAM! Someone is sick and needs their mama. Or someone is bored and needs a playmate. Or someone is naughty and invades ones workspace.

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    These are the times you use Branson’s words and say, “screw it let’s do it” and I get an opportunity to be spontaneous again.

    So what am I saying?

    I’m saying it’s ok to break the rules and go with the flow of the moment, but then what? Then jump right back on that wagon with your goals set and your positive habits installed. It’s a lot easier to get back on track after life throws a curve-ball or a little marble of interruption in your day when you have your goals and habits to support you. Strive for your goals but don’t forget to be present and smell the roses every once in awhile. This will ensure that you achieve what you want to achieve as well as enjoy the journey.

    In Summary: Productivity Slump Reversal

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    1. De-clutter. A clean sweep will always get things going in the right direction.

    2. Remind yourself of your goals and why you want to achieve them.

    3. Re-engage positive habits that support and encourage you.

    Life is the journey people, don’t forget to enjoy each day.

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    More by this author

    Ciara Conlon

    Productivity coach, speaker, blogger and author of Chaos to Control, a Practical Guide to Getting Things Done

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    Last Updated on July 21, 2021

    The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

    The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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    No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

    Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

    Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

    A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

    Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

    In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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    From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

    A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

    For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

    This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

    The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

    That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

    Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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    The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

    Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

    But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

    The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

    The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

    A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

    For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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    But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

    If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

    For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

    These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

    For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

    How to Make a Reminder Works for You

    Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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    Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

    Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

    My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

    Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

    I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

    More on Building Habits

    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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    Reference

    [1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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