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Productivity is a subjective term. While your job or schooling may require you to hit certain milestones, each person sees their achievements in a different light. Some people are not satisfied until everything on their to do list is complete, whereas others are happy with fulfilling their major outer obligation for the day (e.g. going to work).
Regardless of the gauge, it’s pretty reasonable to assume that most people want to feel productive. We want to feel that we have achieved our goals and contributed, no matter how big or small. We also probably don’t mind the feeling of getting things done. Any achievement provides a small hit of dopamine in our brains, making us feel even more motivated to do more.
So how do we increase our productivity? Several science-based methods may help you in your quest:
- Scheduling may seem like a lot of work up front, but it’s been proven time and time again that the most successful folks have almost every minute of each day planned (check out Deep Work by Cal Newport)
- To easily implement this into your life, try picking a day of the week – perhaps Sunday evening or Monday morning – where you take 15 minutes to schedule your week on a paper or electronic calendar. Include items for work, home, self-care, and pleasure. Making a plan can remove the anxiety surrounding those items.
- To do lists are also a great motivating tool. Deemed the ‘Zeigarnik effect‘, we tend to remember things we need to do more than things we have already done. By creating a list, we’re even more likely to not forget. Additionally, the simple act of crossing off an item on the list fills us with a sense of accomplishment and even more importantly, is a visual of what we have achieved.
- Set attainable goals with reasonable deadlines.
- While it may seem hard to break down big goals into meaningful pieces, it is critical for making progress. We won’t lose 50 pounds over a month’s time, we won’t write a novel in a week. These things take effort and incremental steps are important for getting us there.
- Take the largest goal you have and break it into timely pieces. Set sub-goals each week to achieve that big goal in XX months.
- Deadlines are arbitrary. We need to understand our own capabilities and give ourselves grace & time when life throws curveballs into our plan. Don’t beat yourself up if you miss a step. Goals aren’t all or nothing and timelines can typically always shift.
- Reward yourself.
- Like the ‘treat yoself’ paradigm made popular on Parks & Recreation, it’s ok to reward ourselves if we’ve achieved what we set out to do. In fact, it can help us be even more motivated to do it.
- Rewarding doesn’t mean exuberant shopping or doing the opposite of what we achieved. For example, if you’re trying to stop smoking and doing a great job, rewarding yourself with a pack of cigarettes isn’t the best strategy.
- Choose something you like to do. Perhaps listening to a great podcast or soaking in a tub. Once you’ve completed your goals (or sub-goals) for the day, give yourself a reward of a nice hot bubble bath and a 30 minute podcast episode. Hold yourself to it (and don’t give in if you HAVEN’T achieved your goals for the day) and you’ll be more inclined to do what you need to in order to jump into that inviting bubbly.
If you’re ready to boost your productivity, let’s chat!