How to Increase Your Productivity with 1 Easy Step (No, Really!)
Being productive is hard, but it doesn’t have to be. I know how easy it is to feel like being “busy” is the same as being “productive” but I’m here to tell you that it isn’t. If you find yourself saying, “I’m just too busy to get organized. Or, “I’m too busy to accomplish XYZ big life goal (like writing a book or starting a business or volunteering for a cause you believe in).” Or, “I’m too busy to lose weight,” then read on. I have a super simple way to increase your productivity.
I know so many super productive women. They set up their priorities, make the time to accomplish their goals, and then get it done. I also know a lot of women who are busy. And, so often, they’re too busy to be productive. They’re too busy to even set priorities, then too busy to make the time to get anything accomplished, and then give “I’m too busy” as the reason why they haven’t actually accomplished anything.
I need to admit something to you: I used to procrastinate. Wanting everything to be perfect, I’d put off until tomorrow all of the important things that I should have done today. Not out of laziness. But because tomorrow always had a special allure. I felt like, somehow, tomorrow it would be easier to get (insert task here) done.
This applied to term papers, exercise, eating right, decluttering my room, you name it! To avoid those big tasks that I felt like I could (somehow) do perfectly tomorrow, I filled my days with trivial tasks or time-wasters (like watching TV).
After “tomorrow” kept coming and going, and I found myself frantically doing things at the last minute (hello writing my 100 page honors thesis in one week!). I decided that enough was enough. I needed to shed myself of this “perfectionist” mentality, and just get things done.
Now, I’m not going to lie: I didn’t procrastinate only because of perfectionism. I also (cough cough) just didn’t want to do it. Those important, mundane, and/or difficult tasks. Perfectionism and just plain-old-fashioned dislike of the task prevented me from getting things done.
Flash forward to today. Now, I have a mantra that goes, “Do It Anyway.” Shed the perfectionism, shed the dislike for the task, shed the feelings of inferiority (for those difficult tasks) and just…do it anyway.
So what is my 1 easy step to increase your productivity?
It’s… stop being busy. Yep. That’s it. Eliminate all of the things you do to stay busy. Being busy is standing directly in the way of being productive, and your best self is waiting for you on the other side.
How to Stop Being so Busy
At this point you're probably thinking 'But how do I stop? There's so much to do!'. I’m not talking about eliminating your responsibilities. Obviously, you can’t quit your jobs or set your kids in front of the TV for 8 hours a day. But you can stop scrolling on social media. You can stop or reduce your TV watching. You can reduce how much you text your friends. You can have a smaller garden, or craft less, or cook easier meals.
There are so many ways in which the tasks that make us feel busy really just end up draining us. And stand in the way of being productive.
So, pick your priorities. Think about your day and how much time you spend being “busy.” Think about the things you wish you had time to do. The things that will help you achieve your big goals. And, spend time doing THOSE THINGS instead of the things that make you feel busy.
For me, this didn’t just look like eliminating tasks, but also outsourcing some of the tasks that were draining my productivity but still needed to get done - like cleaning my house and doing laundry. This meant cutting expenses in other areas (like canceling some of our TV apps, which also happened to help my productivity). It also meant saying ‘no’ to more volunteering (I already serve as the Chair of a non-profit board) and turning down more social plans.
A top priority for you could (and probably should) be organizing. This falls squarely into the category of things people don’t do because they want it to be perfect (aka, don’t know where to start) and it’s one of those things people don’t want to do…so they don’t do it. Layer in that it’s something that nobody (a boss, your kids, a friend) is telling you to do! And, since women so often prioritize the things that other people want us to do, we don’t do the things that would make our own lives easier. Like organizing!!
Check out this blog post about getting started organizing. It will change your life.
So, let’s say you’ve eliminated all of the things that make you “busy” and you’ve prioritized your life around your big goals. Awesome!! That feels great!
Now, the new problem is: you could find yourself in a rat race. You could get into feeling like you always have to be productive. You may feel like any time spent relaxing or enjoying yourself is a waste.
Don’t do that.
Don’t trade staying busy with hyperproductivity. Instead, embrace what I’m calling “Gentle Adulting.” This is where we set a reasonable goal for each day, achieve it and then…
We’re happy that we were productive today, we got our tasks done, and now we enjoy whatever it is we want to enjoy.
We find a balance in our lives that works. That feels great. We don’t procrastinate anymore, we don’t seek perfection anymore. Instead, we set reasonable goals each day, achieve them and then be happy!
To truly increase your productivity, you need to shed all of the things that are keeping you too busy to get anything done. Then, employ some gentle adulting where you’re happy about your productivity!
Balancing the Scale of Productivity and Self-Care
I want you to spend some time figuring out (for yourself) the perfect balance between being productive and just enjoying yourself.
It’s really hard to do both. There’s an intensity to productivity. You need to feel some sense of urgency that comes from some source, and then use that urgency to get the things done that you don’t want to do.
After you’ve accomplished that goal and were productive, it can be tough to turn OFF that intensity. Sometimes, we feel compelled to keep going. To be productive ALL DAY.
But, I would argue that doing that (using the urgency for too long and accomplishing all the things each day) leads to a need to just “stay busy.” Over time, you get burnt out and become too tired to think about your priorities. So, instead, you use that urgency you felt when being productive, and attach it to busy tasks.
For example, after a long day of writing blog posts (wink), I check my email. No emails. I check my DM’s. No urgent DM’s. But I haven’t come down from that urgent feeling of getting things done, so I scroll on Instagram, looking for… what, exactly?
It has the same urgency as does being productive. But, it’s NOT. It’s a mindless dopamine surge that wastes my time and leaves me feeling even more exhausted.
Do you do this, too? Let’s stop!
Let’s eliminate all of the things that make us feel “busy” but are unproductive, and replace them with a few productive tasks and then time to just relax. Let’s learn to “gentle adult” together so that we can live the happy, fulfilling lives we were meant to.
If you want to get a jump start on getting organized, download my FREE Roadmap to Organizing Your Home below!