Productivity Quicksand Traps

All of us want to be more productive, even those who others hold up as their efficiency idols.  This is true because no one is 100% productive 100% of the time.  There are ebbs and flows to everyone’s life, the good days and the bad days.  The thing that really differentiates the most efficient people from the average is how they handle the bad days.

What do you do when you find yourself dragging or procrastinating on the things you know need to be done?  Are you someone who grinds it out until you get back on track or do you stage a personal intervention?  At times it may be necessary to slug away at the task to get it done.  Other times it may be much more effective to step away for a short period of time, this will allow you to refocus and come back refreshed.

I’ve struggled with this regularly, particularly on the ugly items that are necessary and just are not really my cup of tea.  When I plug away at these even when I’m not really tuned into what needs to be done, they become an even bigger chore and the next time it comes around I dread it even more.  It becomes a vicious cycle that I have to break quickly.  I’ve found the following things can help me get past the drag of these items:

  1. Take 15 minutes.  If I take 15 minutes to do something totally unrelated, something I enjoy doing then I’m in a better frame of mind.  Now I’m feeling positive and the task seems less daunting. 
  2. Set a time limit.  When I tell myself I’ll spend the next 30 minutes working on the ugly task I know it will end soon.  This keeps it from becoming something that I will “have” to do for the rest of the day. 
  3. Create a positive atmosphere.  I like to have music I like on while I’m doing routine tasks that I dread.  It creates an upbeat background to what I’m doing.  This isn’t always possible in an office, so I’ve had small pictures of scenes I love within easy sight lines.  A visual cue of a happy place.
  4. Reward yourself.  When you spend the time you allot on the dreaded task reward yourself.  Get up and take a couple of minutes to reflect on getting it done.  Get a cup of coffee, a drink of water anything to break away from the task and breathe.  Stretch to relieve the tension in your muscles.  Enjoy the satisfaction of knowing that task is DONE!

These four things provide me with the productivity intervention I need to get back on track.  Even though it takes time away from the work up front to stage the intervention I end up getting more done and it’s all done better so the return is there. 

What do you do to pull yourself out of a productivity quicksand trap?

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