On a scale of 1 to 10, how productive were you last month?
If you think that number is too low, this article is all about how to get stuff done without making life into a route march.
We all have things that we want to achieve – from making real our beautiful dreams of an ideal future through to changing the lightbulbs in the hall (why do they keep burning out?).
Last month saw me reach new peaks of personal productivity (starting from a low baseline).
Somehow I’ve managed to market and sell our flat, find a house to buy, get plans and a builder to renovate this house, find a place to rent, start moving our flat, prepare for our baby to arrive, write my first e-book and keep growing the coaching practice.
I’ve probably been somewhere between a 7 and 8 out of 10 for most of this time. It’s felt like quite a trek and fun has gone a bit by the wayside.
Frankly I’m a bit knackered now, and this week, productivity is probably down closer to a 4. More time has been spent sitting in the park in the sunshine, or looking at a blinking cursor (it took 28 minutes for this article to get started).
This period of frenetic productivity followed by a lull has taught me a couple of important things about getting things done:
1) Action leads to confidence (leads to action)
I’ve never felt very confident about picking up the phone, particularly to ask someone to do something they might not want to do.
Our house move couldn’t happen without calling virtually hundreds of estate agents, lawyers, surveyors and other people. It forced me to take action.
Each call got a little less horrendous and by the fiftieth one, I was quite enjoying it. My mobile phone bill testifies to the fact that I now love picking up the phone. Taking action built my confidence and allowed me to do even more.
2) Self-discipline feels good
Self-discipline is a slippery creature to pin down. It allows us to do the dirty work and tough challenges that can move us forward to our goals.
Yet it can disappear in the blink of an eye. Suddenly the Come Dine with Me omnibus becomes the most important televisual event of all time, certainly more important than sending those vital documents to the lawyers.
I’ve found that self-discipline is like going to the gym. You have to start where you are and you can’t suddenly lift three times your own body weight. By building up slowly and getting a little more done each day and week (and forgiving yourself when you screw up), self-discipline can get stronger.
Like exercise, it also feels good. When you make a commitment to yourself and keep it (despite the temptation to read the sport section of the newspaper again), your self-esteem takes a little boost.
3) All work and no play makes Phil a dull boy
Having spent a lot of my life doing just enough to get by, it was intriguing to be a super-achiever.
Frankly, it probably made me into quite a boring person. When you are building gant charts for moving your stuff at 11pm, you know you have a problem.
I think I may have neglected some of the activities and people that bring fun into my life over the summer.
Finding this balance and time to recharge can actually make you more productive (and certainly keeps you sane).
If you want to get more stuff done, here are some suggestions for ways to build up your productivity:
1. Identify your number one time-wasting tactic. Tomorrow morning when you wake up, make a commitment to yourself to reduce or eliminate it from your day (eg I won’t check Facebook today). Keep this promise to yourself and you’re showing respect for yourself.
2. Set yourself three monthly goals for October that you’d really like to achieve (be discrete and tangible). Identify your reward for doing them. Ask someone you trust to hold you accountable. Commit and make them happen.
3. Commit to something new and fun – a course, time with friends each week, just reading a book for 30 minutes each evening. Keep that promise to yourself.
4. If you are being held back by an untidy office or house, put together a plan to clear it up. Even 10 minutes a day can clear a problem quickly
5. Keep track of how much real work you do in the office this week. Aim for a 10% improvement the week after.
6. Set and commit to some goals you’d like to achieve before Christmas and make a plan for making it happen. Keep your goals somewhere prominent and tick them off as they get done.
7. If you’ve been overachieving for a long time and it’s starting to wear you out, think about what you can de-prioritze and replace with something more fun.
Go take and action and get stuff done!
Photo courtesy of orcmid (Flickr Creative Commons)