Have you found yourself slacking at work or around the house lately? Whether its due to lack of energy, motivation or some other reason, we all go through unproductive spells from time to time. However, as the work piles up and our to-do lists get longer, it becomes increasingly hard to get back on the right track.
Or, maybe you’ve been feeling on track, but need to step it up a notch to achieve a promotion you’ve been eyeing, or to get things on lock-down around the house. In this case, a super-charge in productivity is in order, and may not be the easiest thing to accomplish.
There are many factors that affect productivity, and they are different for each person, but the following are seven steps you can follow to have the best chance of achieving your peak performance at whatever it is you are doing.
Get enough sleep
It probably goes without saying, but you are not going to be doing your best work if you are sleep deprived. This is why those who pull “all-nighters” in order to catch up on work to be more productive often experience the opposite result. Between seven and eight hours of nightly shut-eye is essential to looking, feeling and performing your best – mentally and physically.
Besides keeping you energized, focused and better able to handle the stresses of the day, a good night’s sleep has been shown to boost the immune system, aiding in both preventing and recovering from illness. In contrast, sleep deprivation has been linked to inflammation, and an increased risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease, among other chronic conditions.
If you are having a hard time getting enough sleep at night, try going to bed an hour earlier, removing electronic devices from your bedroom, getting some early afternoon exercise and avoiding caffeine after 12 pm. You may also want to evaluate your diet. Check out our earlier article on foods that help you sleep better.
Which brings us to our next point…
Eat for success
What you eat can have a huge impact – either positive or negative – on your productivity. Eating processed foods and fast foods can greatly impact our moods and energy levels. Ingesting the wide array of preservatives, emulsifiers and other chemicals that these foods contain is like playing Russian Roulette with both your health and your productivity.
Have you ever felt ready to take on the day, stopped for a quick burger for lunch because you were rushed, and then found yourself totally drained and unmotivated? That’s because the artificial cocktail of toxins swarming through you does nothing to actually nourish your body or mind.
Sugar and wheat are two common foods that can make you feel sluggish. Sugar provides a quick energy rush, followed by a crash, often accompanying a craving for more sugar, and modern wheat is inflammatory by nature, and has been linked to potentially inciting or worsening anxiety and depression.
On the other hand, keeping your diet clean of processed garbage, and instead choosing fresh, whole foods from the Earth, provides your body with the energy and nutrients you need to keep going.
Plan and prioritize your time
This may seem obvious, but when you want to be truly productive, it is important to organize your time to accomplish each task in the correct order. When writing your daily to-do list, number the items from the most important to the least important, and start with the important tasks.
If several tasks are equally crucial, start with the most difficult – you will likely have the strongest feeling of accomplishment once it is done – which will fuel you through other tasks with greater ease.
Along with a daily to-do list, you may find it helpful to plan your week, as well. Depending on your line of work, or the tasks you are trying to get done at home, making a general monthly outline may also work to your benefit. With monthly outlines, however, keep them a bit more general, and a bit more flexible, so you can adjust as things come up.
Make a goal/achievement list
If you have been feeling stuck in a rut at work or at home – feeling like you are buried in a mountain of paperwork or a pile of laundry that never gets done, and starting to become apathetic – try making a list of your goals and achievements, which can get you back in touch with your purpose and help you to feel more motivated.
In the case of your career, make a list of the goals that you have within your work – what do you want to accomplish at work, and how will that get you to the next step? Where do you want to be in three years, and how is your current work going to make that happen? Which milestones do you need to reach to make things run more smoothly for you at the office?
If your non-productivity centers around the home, consider and jot down how much more efficiently your household will run if you get on top of the tasks you have been neglecting. Will you feel calmer and happier in your space if you were more productive? Would your family feel calmer and happier if certain things were taken care of?
If family members aren’t pulling their weight, a family meeting to assign certain tasks to others can be greatly beneficial, as it would take some of the pressure off of you, and housework would be more of a team effort. Besides, it is good for other family members to do their fair share as we empower others to be more responsible in the process.
Getting to the root of all the good that will come with your increased productivity can give you both the energy and motivation to succeed.
Turn off social media distractions
How often have you been working on a project, and found yourself clicking over to your Facebook page, or checking personal email? Social media is one of the biggest time-suckers in our modern world, and while these are very useful tools, if they are keeping you from getting work done, you need to disconnect during work hours.
Some distractions are, of course, inevitable – if your children call you at work, or your co-workers need your help, these are things you need to attend to. However, unless your work involves you posting to or surfing on Facebook, it can really do a lot more harm than good keeping your page open. As far as personal emails, take a glance, and if it’s not important, make up your mind to read it later, or ask your friends and family not to email you at work unless it’s urgent.
When it’s too much, take a walk
Sometimes, when we try to do too much at once, it can lead to burnout, and the harder we try to get on the ball and be productive, the less we find we are actually accomplishing. If this is the case, it can do a lot of good to take a short walk, even for five minutes, preferably in the fresh air, to clear your head.
Take deep breaths, maybe listen to a good song on your iPod, and then get back to it. Even if you are in the middle of an important task, taking a breather can be well worth it, as you’ll be more ready to go, and less overwhelmed, when you get back.
If this is simply not possible in your situation, even just standing up and stretching, and taking a few deep breaths for a moment, can at least give your mind and body a momentary break in which to reset.
Take time to re-energize
No matter what your line of work or life circumstances, it is vital to take time free time for yourself in order to stay sane. Even if you’ve got a hectic schedule, pencil in some free time and give it the same importance that you would a meeting. If we run too hard for too long, soon we will be running on empty.
During your free time, do something that really relaxes you, stimulates your mind, or both. For some, it’s a good book, for others, it’s a painting class. Exercise, crucial to everyone’s optimal health, can be invigorating and stress-reducing, so why not take a dance class or a karate class? Some relax best with a partner or a few close friends, and others need some time completely alone.
If you make the most of your “me-time,” you will find yourself much better prepared to go when it’s time to get back to your responsibilities.
Embracing the above-listed steps can really give your productivity, not to mention your health and happiness, a jump start. Another thing we should mention in closing is meditation. Meditating for just five minutes every day, either when you first wake up, before you go to bed, or both, can really help you center yourself for the day ahead, let the worries of the day go and rest easier at night.
This ancient practice can also give you the presence of mind to approach any task mindfully, and perform it as deliberately and efficiently as possible.
-The Alternative Daily