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The 6 Step Plan to Get Out of Your Productivity Rut

The 6 Step Plan to Get Out of Your Productivity Rut

I have a confession to make.

95% of the time I’m on it. I’m either writing, connecting, researching, learning, or doing something to better myself and my life. But, there are some days when I don’t get a whole lot done.

I’m not necessarily a “Type A” naturally driven and productive person. I’ve just become that way over time. Sometimes that old me that wants to lay around and do nothing comes out and shows its ugly face, and it rains all over my otherwise flowing exuberant productivity parade.

Don’t feel bad if that’s you too from time-to-time. There are times when everyone has their off days, even me.

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What’s important is that you don’t let it happen too often. Most of the time you’ll take a break from your fast-paced life, then get right back on your horse and go back to getting things done.

But What Happens When You Don’t?

What happens when you get in a productivity rut?

Maybe you get sick. Maybe you’re a bit tired. Maybe you just get overwhelmed. All of these things can lead to a productivity rut and can lead to your to do list piling up until you can’t put anything else on it. Bad things indeed.

The longer you don’t do something, the more likely you are not going to do it. When you get in a productivity rut, a few days or more of not getting things done, you are in danger of developing bad habits of putting things off for good. You’re in danger of becoming… ‘gasp’… lazy…

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I feel dirty just saying it. Don’t be that four letter word. Here’s how to escape that downward spiral of productivity smashing doom before it completely turns your world upside down.

Climb Out of That Productivity Rut

1.) Awareness – First, to recognize that you’re in a rut. The telltale signs are things like feelings of getting behind, feelings of overwhelm, feeling stressed out, having low energy levels, and tasks piling up. It’s pretty easy to spot, but first you have to be aware. That’s your trigger that you need to do something more than just start doing more. You need to get back on track with a system.

2.) Make a Quick “Catch Up” List – Lists are a great way to commit yourself to getting things done. Grab a piece of paper and write down the things you need to do to feel like you’re caught up. It’s ok to put other things off in the meantime. What’s important here is eliminating those feelings of overwhelm. Be careful not to let trivial things creep into your list. Focus on the big payoffs.

3.) Look Forward – Give yourself some motivation to get caught back up. What are those things you really want to do? What is your rut holding you back from getting accomplished? Identify this and use it to keep moving towards getting your list finished.

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4.) Just Get Started – Newton says objects at rest tend to stay at rest unless acted upon by a force. But on the other hand, objects in motion tend to stay in motion until acted upon by a force. Just get started, and you’ll find it a lot easier to keep things going.

5.) Chip Away at It – Now that you know you’re behind and you know what you’ve got to do to get caught up, you have to recognize that you can’t do everything at once. Looking at a big list of tasks can often spur feelings of heavy overwhelm. Don’t let all of this scare you. Set aside an extra hour a day, 30 minutes a day, whatever you need to do to get caught up. Don’t try to do everything all at once. Do a few things here and there, and cross them off your list as you progress.

6.) Finish It – This is vital. You’re almost there. Often times when you’re overwhelmed its easy to give in to all of the things you have to do. Keep your eye on that goal from Step 3 and use it to motivate yourself to finish getting out of your rut.

Now that you’re out of your rut, use that motivation and energy to keep things moving forward in your life. Use it to move towards your ultimate goals and continue to improve your life and your level of success.

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Let’s Hear Your Stories

Have you ever been in a productivity rut? Share with the community what you did to get out of it in the comments below. What was your thinking process? How did this differ from your normal routine? What did this allow you to get done afterwards?

(Photo credit: Design element useful for concepts such as mental breakdown via Shutterstock)

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Last Updated on October 22, 2019

How to Focus and Concentrate Better to Boost Productivity

How to Focus and Concentrate Better to Boost Productivity

We live in a world of massive distraction. No matter where you are today, there is always going to be distractions. Your colleagues talking about their latest date, notification messages popping up on your screens, and not just your mobile phone screens. And even if you try to find a quiet place, there will always be someone with a mobile device that is beeping and chirping.

With all these distractions, it is incredibly difficult to concentrate on anything for very long. Something will distract you and that means you will find it very difficult to focus on anything.

So how to focus and concentrate better? How to focus better and produce work that lifts us and takes us closer towards achieving our outcomes?

1. Get Used to Turning off Your Devices

Yes, I know this one is hard for most people. We believe our devices are so vital to our lives that the thought of turning them off makes us feel insecure. The reality is they are not so vital and the world is not going to end within the next thirty minutes.

So turn them off. Your battery will thank you for it. More importantly though is when you are free from your mobile distraction addiction, you will begin to concentrate more on what needs to get done.

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You do not need to do this for very long. You could set a thirty-minute time frame for being completely mobile free. Let’s say you have an important piece of work to complete by lunchtime today. Turn off your mobile device between 10 am and 11 am and see what happens.

If you have never done this before, you will feel very uncomfortable at first. Your brain will be fighting you. It will be telling you all sorts of horror stories such as a meteorite is about to hit earth, or your boss is very angry and is trying to contact you. None of these things is true, but your brain is going to fight you. Prepare yourself for the fight.

Over time, as you do this more frequently, you will soon begin to find your brain fights you less and less. When you do turn on your device after your period of focused work and discover that the world did not end, you have not lost an important customer and all you have are a few email newsletters, a confirmation of an online order you made earlier and a text message from your mum asking you to call about dinner this weekend, you will start to feel more comfortable turning things off.

2. Create a Playlist in Your Favourite Music Streaming App

Many of us listen to music using some form of music streaming service, and it is very easy to create our own playlists of songs. This means we can create playlists for specific purposes.

Many years ago, when I was just starting to drive, there was a trend selling driving compilation tapes and CDs. The songs on these tapes and CDs were uplifting driving music songs. Songs such as C W McCall’s Convoy theme and the Allman Brothers Band’s, Jessica. They were great songs to drive to and helped to keep us awake and focused while we were driving.

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Today, we can create playlists to help us to focus on our work. Choose non-vocal music that has a low tempo. Music from artists such as Ben Böhmer, Ilan Bluestone or Andrew Bayer has the perfect tempo.

Whenever you want to go into deep, focused work, listen to that playlist. What happens is your brain soon associates when you listen to the playlist you created with focused work and it’s time to concentrate on what it is you want to do.

3. Have a Place to Go to When You Need to Concentrate

If you eat, surf online and read at your desk, you will find your desk a very distracting place to do your work. One way to get your brain to understand it is focused work time is, to use the same place each time for just focused work.

This could be a quiet place in your office, or it could be a special coffee shop you use specifically for focused work. Again, what you are doing is associating an environment with focus.

Just as with having a playlist to listen to when you want to concentrate, having a physical place that accomplishes the same thing will also put you in the right frame of mind to be more focused.

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When you do find the right place to do your focused work, then only do focused work there. Never surf, never do any online shopping. Just do your work and then leave. You want to be training your brain to associate focused work with that environment and nothing else.

If you need to make a phone call, respond to an email or message, then go outside and do it. From now on, this place is your special working place and that is all you use it for.

Every morning, I do fifteens minutes of meditation. Each time, I sit down to do my meditation, I use the same music playlist and the same place. As soon as I put my earphones in and sit down in this place, my mind immediately knows it is meditation time and I become relaxed and focused almost immediately. I have trained my brain over a few months to associate a sound and a place with relaxed, thoughtful meditation. It works.

4. Get up and Move

We humans have a limited attention span. How long you can stay focused for depends on your own personal makeup. It can range from between twenty minutes to around two hours. With practice, you can stay focused for longer, but it takes time and it takes a lot of practice.

When you do find yourself being unable to concentrate any longer, get up from where you are and move. Go for a walk, move around and get some air. Do something completely different from what you were doing when you were concentrating.

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If you were writing a report in front of a screen, get away from your screens and look out the window and appreciate the view. Take a walk in the local park, or just walk around your office. You need to give your brain completely different stimuli.

Your brain is like a muscle. There is only so much it can do before it fatigues. If you are doing some focused work in Photoshop and then switch to surfing the internet, you are not giving your brain any rest. You are still using many of the same parts of your brain.

It’s like doing fifty pushups and then immediately trying to do bench presses. Although you are doing a different exercise, you are still exercising your chest. What you need to be doing to build up superior levels of concentrated focus is, in a sense, do fifty pushups and then a session of squats. Now you are exercising your chest and then your legs. Two completely different exercises.

Do the same with your brain. Do focused visual work and then do some form of movement with a different type of work. Focused visual work followed by a discussion with a colleague about another unrelated piece of work, for example.

The Bottom Line

It is not difficult to train your brain to become better at concentrating and focusing, but you do need to exercise deliberate practice. You need to develop the intention to focus and be very strict with yourself.

Set time aside in your calendar and make sure you tell your colleagues that you will be ‘off the grid’ for a couple of hours. With practice and a little time, you will soon find yourself being able to resist temptations and focus better.

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Featured photo credit: Wenni Zhou via unsplash.com

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