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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 September 24, 2020

17 Ways Learn New Skills Faster and Enjoy the Process

17 Ways Learn New Skills Faster and Enjoy the Process

In the movie The Matrix, everyone was intrigued with the ability that Neo and his friends possessed to learn new skills in a matter of seconds. With the incredible rise in technology today, the rapid learning in the movie is becoming much more of a reality than you realize.

The current generation has access to more knowledge and information than any before it. Through the internet, we are able to access all sorts of knowledge to answer almost every conceivable question. To become smarter, it’s more about the ability to learn faster, rather than being a natural born genius.

Here are 17 ways to kickstart your Matrix-style learning experience in a short amount of time.

1. Deconstruct and Reverse Engineer

Break down the skill that you want to learn into little pieces and learn techniques to master an isolated portion. The small pieces will come together to make up the whole skill.

For example, when you’re learning to play the guitar, learn how to press down a chord pattern with your fingers first without even trying to strum the chord. Once you are able to change between a couple of chord patterns, then add the strumming.

2. Use the Pareto Principle

Use the Pareto Principle, which is also known as the 80 20 rule. Identify the 20% of the work that will give you 80% of the results. Find out more about the 80 20 rule here: What Is the 80 20 Rule (And How to Use It to Boost Productivity)

Take learning a new language for example. It does not take long to realize that some words pop up over and over again as you’re learning. You can do a quick search for “most commonly used French words,” for example, and begin to learn them first before adding on the rest.

3. Make Stakes

Establish some sort of punishment for not learning the skill that you are seeking. There are sites available that allow you to make a donation toward a charity you absolutely hate if you do not meet your goals. Or you can place a bet with a friend to light that fire under you.

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However, keep in mind that several studies have shown that rewards tend to be more motivating than punishment[1].

4. Record Yourself

Seeing yourself on video is a great way to learn from your mistakes and identify areas that you need to improve. This is very effective for any musicians, actors, speakers, performers, and dancers.

5. Join a Group

There are huge benefits to learning in a group. Not only are you able to learn from others but you’ll be encouraged to make progress together. Whether it’s a chess club, a mastermind group, or an online meet-up group, get connected with other like-minded individuals.

6. Time Travel

Visit the library. Although everything is moving more and more online, there are still such things called libraries.

Whether it’s a municipal library or your university library, you will be amazed at some of the books available there that are not accessible online. Specifically, look for the hidden treasures and wisdom contained in the really old books.

7. Be a Chameleon

When you want to learn new skills, imitate your biggest idol. Watch a video and learn from seeing someone else do it. Participate in mimicry and copy what you see.

Studies have shown that, apart from learning,[2]

“Mimicry is an effective tool not only to create ties and social relationships, but also for maintaining them.”

Visual learning is a great way to speed up the learning process. YouTube has thousands of videos on almost every topic available.

8. Focus

Follow one course until success! It’s easy to get distracted, to throw in the towel, or to become interested in the next great thing and ditch what you initially set out to do.

Ditch the whole idea of multitasking, as it has been shown to be detrimental and unproductive Simply focus on the one new skill at hand until you get it done.

9. Visualize

The mind has great difficulty distinguishing between what is real and what is imagined. That is why athletes practice mentally seeing their success before attempting the real thing[3].

Visualize yourself achieving your new skill and each step that you need to make to see results. This is an important skill to help when you’re learning the basics or breaking a bad habit.

Take a look at this article to learn how to do so: How to Become a Person Who Can Visualize Results

10. Find a Mentor

Success leaves clues. The best short cut to become an expert is to find an expert and not have to make the mistakes that they have made.

Finding out what NOT to do from the expert will fast-track your learning when you want to learn new skills. It is a huge win to have them personally walk you through what needs to be done. Reach out and send an email to them.

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If you need help learning how to find a mentor, check out this article.

11. Sleep on It

Practice your new skill within four hours of going to sleep.

Josh Kaufman, author of The Personal MBA, is a noted rapid learning expert. He says that any practice done within this time frame causes your brain to embed the learning more rapidly into its neural pathways. Your memory and motor-mechanics are ingrained at a quicker level.

12. Use the 20-Hour Rule

Along with that tip, Kaufman also suggests 20 as the magic number of hours to dedicate to learning the new skill.

His reasoning is that everyone will hit a wall early on in the rapid learning stage and that “pre-committing” to 20 hours is a sure-fire way to push through that wall and acquire your new skill.[4]

Check out his video to find out more:

13. Learn by Doing

It’s easy to get caught up in reading and gathering information on how to learn new skills and never actually get around to doing those skills. The best way to learn is to do.

Regardless of how unprepared you feel, make sure you are physically engaged continuously. Keep alternating between research and practice.

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14. Complete Short Sprints

Rather than to force yourself into enduring hours upon hours of dedication, work in short sprints of about 20-30 minutes, then get up and stretch or take a short walk. Your brain’s attention span works best with short breaks, so be sure to give it the little rest it needs.

One study found that, between two groups of students, the students who took two short breaks when studying actually performed better than those who didn’t take breaks[5].

15. Ditch the Distractions

Make sure the environment you are in is perfect for your rapid-learning progress. That means ditching any social media, and the temptation to check any email. As the saying goes, “Out of sight, out of mind.”

Before you sit down to learn new skills, make sure that potential distractions are far from sight.

16. Use Nootropics

Otherwise known as brain enhancers, these cognitive boosters are available in natural herbal forms and in supplements.

Many students will swear by the increased focus that nootropics will provide[6], particularly as they get set for some serious cramming. Natural herbal nootropics have been used for thousands of years in Ayurvedic traditions to improve the mind and learning.

Find out more about brain supplements in this article.

17. Celebrate

For every single small win that you experience during the learning process, be sure to celebrate. Your brain will release endorphins and serotonin as you raise your hands in victory and pump your fits. Have a piece of chocolate and give yourself a pat on the back. This positive reinforcement will help you keep pushing forward as you learn new skills.

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The Bottom Line

Learning a new skill should be exciting and fun. Whether you use online courses, real world experience, YouTube videos, or free online resources, take time to learn in the long term. Keep picturing the joy of reaching the end goal and being a better version of yourself as continual motivation.

More Tips on How to Learn New Skills

Featured photo credit: Elijah M. Henderson via unsplash.com

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