How often do you get that lazy feeling? You know the one. It’s that heavy feeling that weighs down your entire body so the only things you really feel like doing is watching TV, surfing the Internet, or playing your Wii. Or, maybe you just feel like doing something fun instead of working, when you know you really need to get some serious work done. These are serious productivity killers, especially for home-based business owners…but there are ways to fight back. Use these tips to get back to work and see your productivity soar.
First, plan ahead. You can’t always predict your moods, but you can plan ahead so you start out with the right state of mind. If you wake up without a concrete plan for your day you can easily waft into checking e-mail and social networking sites before doing any actual work. This is the sort of time-sucking activity that can eat up half of your workday (if not all of it!). If you develop a plan of action and go to bed with a strong commitment to wake up the next morning and get to work, you’ll do exactly that.
Second, as part of your plan, wait until late morning or early afternoon to open your e-mail software or check any social networking sites. This is something that Tim Ferriss, author of The Four-Hour Workweek, recommends. If you check your e-mail, there’s a strong chance that there will be something in your Inbox that will require action on your part, and you can bet you’ll feel compelled to deal with that e-mail before you get to work on the tasks you had planned for the day. Talk about derailing your productivity! Even more importantly (especially if your work requires you to check e-mail first thing), keep your personal and work e-mail accounts separate, and only check your personal accounts when your work is done for the day.
Third, once you’re ready to work, minimize distractions. Turn off the TV and the phone ringer and disable any chat or text/instant messaging software. I have a client whose productivity is regularly disrupted by phone calls from friends and family members throughout the day. It’s especially important when you work from home to make sure your friends and family know when you are working, so you can maintain a consistent, productive environment.
Fourth, if you’re trying to work and keep getting distracted by thoughts of something else, take care of whatever is distracting you and then come back to work. If it’s “fun” that’s distracting you, take a half hour out to go do something enjoyable. My husband and I regularly break to take walks outside on a pleasant day, or to bake a loaf of bread. Sometimes you just can’t focus, and if that happens, it’s best not to try to force it. In fact, the stress and pressure can make it even harder to focus and you may end up doing poor work. So take some time out, have a little fun, relax, and then come back with a fresh, new perspective.
Fifth, for some, it works well to build in a system of rewards and punishments. Generally, most people recommend positive stimuli only. But sometimes you want to avoid something just as much as you want to gain its opposite. So the reward and punishment can actually be two sides of the same coin: if you accomplish your task, you get to do a particular fun activity and if you don’t accomplish your task, you don’t get to do that activity. This can be a powerful motivator (but if you really are struggling for motivation, see my article from last week).
Finally, there’s the powerful “just do it” strategy. Once you start working and getting in the groove of productivity, you’ll find that it’s much easier to stay in that “productivity zone.” And once you’re in that zone, you may find that you can get more accomplished in an hour than you might normally get done in a entire day. Sometimes you may have to do some real self-direction to get to this place. One technique that works well to get you into the productivity zone is the “act as if” exercise. In this exercise, you think of someone who you respect and admire who is good at whatever it is that you want to accomplish. Then, you envision what that person is feeling at that moment, step into their shoes, and “act as if” you are them. It’s not enough to act like them, you actually want to act as if you are them. This enables you to temporarily leave the you that isn’t “in the mood” to work behind and in essence, be someone else for awhile.
Use these tips and your productivity will be high with consistency. You’ll avoid the time-sucking, distractions and derailing attitudes and “I can’t believe the day is over and I didn’t get anything done,” will be a thing of the past.