5 Quick Tips To Increase Productivity
I really don’t want to work right now.
Show of hands, if you’ve ever said these words. I’m going to assume it’s safe to say we’ve all been there. No matter how much you love what you do, there are undoubtedly moments, sometimes days, & maybe even weeks where everything feels life more work than normal. Sometimes it’s just more difficult to find the motivation to get things done.
I was just talking about this with a girlfriend the other day. Sometimes I get in these moods where all I want to do is work. I get in the zone, the creative ideas are flowing & I hit my stride. Nothing feels better than knocking stuff out! But, what about the times you find yourself struggling, because this isn’t the case?
Here are five simple tools to help you dig deep & get back on track, when you’re so not feeling it.
1. Know your purpose.
Stop & ask yourself: What is the bigger over-arching purpose of the project you’re working on, & why is it important to you? Knowing why you want something will help you create appropriate goals to hit along the way, then build out your strategy to get you to each one.
Take SignedM., for example… the driving force & purpose behind this blog is my desire to empower women to live their best lives. Whether she finds style inspo via my Instagram feed… encouragement to make healthier choice via my stories… the courage to explore new places through my travels… or, the confidence to live life authentically because she relates with my struggles… I want to empower women to take up the space they deserve!
I find it to be so much easier to work my way out of those moments lacking motivation if I have a personal connection to the purpose of my work. When I find myself stuck, I’ll take a time-out & spend five or then minutes journaling… writing down the reasons why this work matters to me. Knowing your purpose so you can remind yourself why your work matters is the easiest way to get your head back in the game, so to speak.
2. Set clear goals.
I’m all about to-do lists. The satisfaction of crossing off a little box when I’ve completed a project is as good as it gets, in my book. Knowing this about me, it should come as no surprise that setting goals, then building the strategic steps for how I’m going to get there is the type of work that lights me up inside!
I recently sat down with a mentor of mine & she challenged me to get really clear on what the next three years of my life looks like. She prompted me to my big goals in three year increments, because two years goes by so fast… & five years is just little long to try to maintain focus. This made such good sense to me. 36 months it is.
She then challenged me to back-track from that end goal to today. Where do I need to be at the end of years one & two? What about quarterly, monthly… then weekly & daily. To do this work & build this level of detailed strategy, I cleared my calendar for two days. (The first day, to clean my home office, top to bottom, so I wouldn’t be distracted by it not looking exactly how I want it to… The second day I strategized!)
I identified three major areas that I, over the next 36 months, want to move forward in, in really big ways. One is a personal goal… one is a goal for my business… & the third goal is a goal within my marriage. I picked different color Post-Its for each goal & wrote down all the things I need to do in the next two weeks, in order to stay on track & maintain momentum. Friends, it takes the guess work out of what I need to get done for the day. Those Post-Its? They give me the same satisfaction as crossing something off my to-do list. I even make a pile of the completed tasks & sit back in awe of myself, by the end of the week! The champagne pop on a Friday afternoon seems even sweeter…
3. Time block your schedule.
I love my morning routine. I get up & hit the gym, first thing… come home to share a cup of coffee with my husband & check emails… then settle in to the most productive three or four hours of my day. When the house is quiet & the endorphins are still pumping strong after my sweat session, I can go to town on moving those Post-Its to my completed pile! Knowing when my most productive time of the day is & planning my days accordingly has been a game-changer for me.
Admittedly, this is one area where I need to put in a little more work. My anxiety pushes me to be productive… it gives me an “edge” that I love… but, it can also work against me. Knowing I’m at my sharpest before noon makes me go into overdrive to get as much done as possible, before I lose my flow.
While I haven’t been able to completely time block my days, I’m pretty successful in time blocking my weeks. I sit down on Sunday evening & look over the Post-Its I’m working with for the week ahead, & I group them into days: my days at home tend to be focused on growth activities & working ON my business, whereas my days working at The Dostal House are consumed by the daily operations of working IN my business. Every week I commit to one day working from home, two days working from The House, & one day devoted to meetings. Friday’s tend to be the “catch-all” day & I give myself permission to kick the weekend off early, if I so desire!
4. Stay inspired.
Whether you work in a creative industry or not, nothing is more important that staying inspired. This ties back into knowing your purpose, as it’s nearly impossible to stay motivated when there is nothing driving you to do your work. Beyond staying motivated, this ties into your overall happiness… which is obviously the most important!
I have found it to be crucial to work in an environment that makes me feel good. I love quotes, so I have some of my favorites framed in my office. Flipping through glossy pages always gets my creative juices going, so I have stacks of magazines in my office. Along this same thought, I have friends who love making vision boards & displaying them where they can be reminded of what they are working towards. A well-lit room with everything in it’s place also helps to keep me in my best productivity zone. Know what inspires you & surround yourself with those things.
5. Step away.
It’s easy to see that inspiration & productivity go hand-in-hand. When you feel inspired you’re motivated, & find that being productive comes naturally.
There are times when staying inspired, motivated & productive is easier than others – I typically find my inspiration to be strongest after I’ve taken the time to rest & refresh. Getting up & getting outside will often help me. Playing fetch with Osman in the front yard for 20 minutes, or going for a quick walk around the neighborhood, is often enough for me to get back on track. I know that things will not improve if I remain in the negative headspace I have created. Grabbing my laptop & heading to a coffeeshop can help me find my creative workflow. Of course, the caffeine probably has something to do with it, too.
When I’ve been struggling with feeling “stuck” for an extended amount of time, I know it’s time to take a bigger step back & give myself some space from my work. Travel always helps me to clear my mind… by getting out of my regular routine, & immersing myself in a new place. A girlfriend always says, “sometimes you have to slow down to speed up…” & she is so right!