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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 March 23, 2021

Manage Your Energy so You Can Manage Your Time

Manage Your Energy so You Can Manage Your Time

One of the greatest ironies of this age is that while various gadgets like smartphones and netbooks allow you to multitask, it seems that you never manage to get things done. You are caught in the busyness trap. There’s just too much work to do in one day that sometimes you end up exhausted with half-finished tasks.

The problem lies in how to keep our energy level high to ensure that you finish at least one of your most important tasks for the day. There’s just not enough hours in a day and it’s not possible to be productive the whole time.

You need more than time management. You need energy management

1. Dispel the idea that you need to be a “morning person” to be productive

How many times have you heard (or read) this advice – wake up early so that you can do all the tasks at hand. There’s nothing wrong with that advice. It’s actually reeks of good common sense – start early, finish early. The thing is that technique alone won’t work with everyone. Especially not with people who are not morning larks.

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I should know because I was once deluded with the idea that I will be more productive if I get out of bed by 6 a.m. Like most of you Lifehackers, I’m always on the lookout for productivity hacks because I have a lot of things in my plate. I’m working full time as an editor for a news agency, while at the same time tending to my side business as a content marketing strategist. I’m also a travel blogger and oh yeah, I forgot, I also have a life.

I read a lot of productivity books and blogs looking for ways to make the most of my 24 hours. Most stories on productivity stress waking up early. So I did – and I was a major failure in that department – both in waking up early and finishing early.

2. Determine your “peak hours”

Energy management begins with looking for your most productive hours in a day. Getting attuned to your body clock won’t happen instantly but there’s a way around it.

Monitor your working habits for one week and list down the time when you managed to do the most work. Take note also of what you feel during those hours – do you feel energized or lethargic? Monitor this and you will find a pattern later on.

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My experiment with being a morning lark proved that ignoring my body clock and just doing it by disciplining myself to wake up before 8 a.m. will push me to be more productive. I thought that by writing blog posts and other reports in the morning that I would be finished by noon and use my lunch break for a quick gym session. That never happened. I was sleepy, distracted and couldn’t write jack before 10 a.m.

In fact that was one experiment that I shouldn’t have tried because I should know better. After all, I’ve been writing for a living for the last 15 years, and I have observed time and again that I write more –and better – in the afternoon and in evenings after supper. I’m a night owl. I might as well, accept it and work around it.

Just recently, I was so fired up by a certain idea that – even if I’m back home tired from work – I took out my netbook, wrote and published a 600-word blog post by 11 p.m. This is a bit extreme and one of my rare outbursts of energy, but it works for me.

3. Block those high-energy hours

Once you have a sense of that high-energy time, you can then mold your schedule so that your other less important tasks will be scheduled either before or after this designated productive time.

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Block them out in your calendar and use the high-energy hours for your high priority tasks – especially those that require more of your mental energy and focus. You also need to use these hours to any task that will bring you closer to you life’s goal.

If you are a morning person, you might want to schedule most business meetings before lunch time as it’s important to keep your mind sharp and focused. But nothing is set in stone. Sometimes you have to sacrifice those productive hours to attend to other personal stuff – like if you or your family members are sick or if you have to attend your son’s graduation.

That said, just remember to keep those productive times on your calendar. You may allow for some exemptions but stick to that schedule as much as possible.

There’s no right or wrong way of using this energy management technique because everything depends on your own personal circumstances. What you need to remember is that you have to accept what works for you – and not what other productivity gurus say you should do.

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Understanding your own body clock is the key to time management. Without it, you end up exhausted chasing a never-ending cycle of tasks and frustrations.

Featured photo credit: Collin Hardy via unsplash.com

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