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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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Cody Wheeler

Cody is a self-improvement blogger at Academy Success, the place to learn life skills you don't learn in school.

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Last Updated on July 8, 2020

How to Prevent Decision Fatigue From Clouding Your Judgement

How to Prevent Decision Fatigue From Clouding Your Judgement

What is decision fatigue? Let me explain this with an example:

When determining a court ruling, there are many factors that contribute to their final verdict. You probably assume that the judge’s decision is influenced solely by the nature of the crime committed or the particular laws that were broken. While this is completely valid, there is an even greater influential factor that dictates the judge’s decision: the time of day.

In 2012, a research team from Columbia University[1] examined 1,112 court rulings set in place by a Parole Board Judge over a 10 month period. The judge would have to determine whether the individuals in question would be released from prison on parole, or a change in the parole terms.

While the facts of the case often take precedence in decision making, the judges mental state had an alarming influence on their verdict.

As the day goes on, the chance of a favorable ruling drops:

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    Image source: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

    Does the time of day, or the judges level of hunger really contribute that greatly to their decision making? Yes, it does.

    The research went on to show that at the start of the day the likelihood of the judging giving out a favorable ruling was somewhere around 65%.

    But as the morning dragged on, the judge became fatigued and drained from making decision after decision. As more time went on, the odds of receiving a favorable ruling decreased steadily until it was whittled down to zero.

    However, right after their lunch break, the judge would return to the courtroom feeling refreshed and recharged. Energized by their second wind, their leniency skyrockets back up to a whopping 65%. And again, as the day drags on to its finish, the favorable rulings slowly diminish along with the judge’s spirits.

    This is no coincidence. According to the carefully recorded research, this was true for all 1,112 cases. The severity of the crime didn’t matter. Whether it was rape, murder, theft, or embezzlement, the criminal was more likely to get a favorable ruling either early in the morning, or after the judges lunch break.

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    Are You Suffering from Decision Fatigue Too?

    We all suffer from decision fatigue without even realizing it.

    Perhaps you aren’t a judge with the fate of an individual’s life at your disposal, but the daily decisions you make for yourself could hinder you if you’re not in the right head-space.

    Regardless of how energetic you feel (as I imagine it is somehow caffeine induced anyway), you will still experience decision fatigue. Just like every other muscle, your brain gets tired after periods of overuse, pumping out one decision after the next. It needs a chance to rest in order to function at a productive rate.

    The Detrimental Consequences of Decision Fatigue

    When you are in a position such as a Judge, you can’t afford to let your mental state dictate your decision making; but it still does. According to George Lowenstein, an American educator and economy expert, decision fatigue is to blame for poor decision making among members of high office. The disastrous level of failure among these individuals to control their impulses could be directly related to their day to day stresses at work and their private life.

    When you’re just too tired to think, you stop caring. And once you get careless, that’s when you need to worry. Decision fatigue can contribute to a number of issues such as impulse shopping (guilty), poor decision making at work, and poor decision making with after work relationships. You know what I’m talking about. Don’t dip your pen in the company ink.

    How to Make Decision Effectively

    Either alter the time of decision making to when your mind is the most fresh, or limit the number of decisions to be made. Try utilizing the following hacks for more effective decision making.

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    1. Make Your Most Important Decisions within the First 3 Hours

    You want to make decisions at your peak performance, so either first thing in the morning, or right after a break.

    Research has actually shown that you are the most productive for the first 3 hours[2] of your day. Utilize this time! Don’t waste it on trivial decisions such as what to wear, or mindlessly scrolling through social media.

    Instead, use this time to tweak your game plan. What do you want to accomplish? What can you improve? What steps do you need to take to reach these goals?

    2. Form Habits to Reduce Decision Making

    You don’t have to choose all the time.

    Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but it doesn’t have to be an extravagant spread every morning. Make a habit out of eating a similar or quick breakfast, and cut that step of your morning out of the way. Can’t decide what to wear? Pick the first thing that catches your eye. We both know that after 20 minutes of changing outfits you’ll just go with the first thing anyway.

    Powerful individuals such as Steve Jobs, Barack Obama, and Mark Zuckerberg don’t waste their precious time deciding what to wear. In fact, they have been known to limiting their outfits down to two options in order to reduce their daily decision making.

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    3. Take Frequent Breaks for a Clearer Mind

    You are at your peak of productivity after a break, so to reap the benefits, you need to take lots of breaks! I know, what a sacrifice. If judges make better decisions in the morning and after their lunch break, then so will you.

    The reason for this is because the belly is now full, and the hunger is gone. Roy Baumeister, Florida State University social psychologist[3] had found that low-glucose levels take a negative toll on decision making. By taking a break to replenish your glucose levels, you will be able to focus better and improve your decision making abilities.

    Even if you aren’t hungry, little breaks are still necessary to let your mind refresh, and come back being able to think more clearly.

    Structure your break times. Decide beforehand when you will take breaks, and eat energy sustaining snacks so that your energy level doesn’t drop too low. The time you “lose” during your breaks will be made up in the end, as your productivity will increase after each break.

    So instead of slogging through your day, letting your mind deteriorate and fall victim to the daily abuses of decision making, take a break, eat a snack. Let your mind refresh and reset, and jump-start your productivity throughout the day.

    More Tips About Decision Making

    Featured photo credit: Kelly Sikkema via unsplash.com

    Reference

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