Covid-19 has been a challenging time for us all, filled with uncertainty, unprecedented change and an unpredictable future. What have you learned during this period? I have experienced shifts in my perspective and ways of thinking and living. Most notably, the pace at which I was running was unsustainable, and the only person who can give me permission to slow down and embrace life is me!
Here are three productivity hacks I have acquired during this “Corona-Coaster” period. Some days I feel amazing, and some days I feel really anxious. These are a few of the tools I rely on to keep me feeling productive, purposeful and positive. They boost my motivation and feelings of satisfaction at the end of each day.
1. Losing your shit? Take a break every 90 minutes
Suppose you get to the end of the day and the first thing you want to do is skull a bottle of wine, or do a shot of tequila, or cry in your pillow, or just scream at the top of your lungs. In that case, this is a clear indication of your failure to take enough breaks throughout the day. Overwork is overrated. It affects your ability to make sound decisions, makes you prone to cutting corners and even leaves you more susceptible to chronic diseases and dementia later in life.
Science has shown our brains function most effectively in 90minute increments, then it’s time to take a break. These breaks don’t need to be very long, only about 2-3 minutes! Just long enough to make a cuppa, or have a bathroom break or refill your water bottle. Long enough to distract your focus and give your subconscious mind time to discover solutions that are alluding your conscious effort. Taking a break helps clear and calm our mind, enhance our mood and improve productivity.
The alternative is to work through, push through, pound through, and at the end of the day, lose your shit, grab a bottle of something, numb the pain, wake up exhausted and do it again tomorrow!! Does that sound reasonable or sustainable? Take it from me, it is not! So, take a break every 90 minutes!
2. Overwhelmed / procrastinating – timebox your day!
I am the Queen of Procrastination and often struggle to prioritize my tasks. I’m easily distracted, I have several to-do lists, an open-door policy and a hyperactive phone. My dance card is full, yet I often arrive at the end of the day and ask myself “What have I accomplished today?” Not one single project has been completed, fuelling my sense of overwhelm and belief that I need to work 12-hour days. Have you ever heard of timeboxing? Grab a calendar that has time slots in it, write down all the things you want to do today, according to the time it’s going to take, then you do it!
For example, I have the luxury of scheduling my day according to the surf forecast. Today, it was going to be best around mid-morning, so I time-boxed a surf from 10.30-12. When the clock hit 12pm, my fun in the water was up, and it signalled time to get back to the office to complete the remainder of my tasks assigned for the day. Timebox the most essential items of the day in your calendar & do your best to stick to the schedule you have set yourself. James Martin suggests ‘To Do Lists’ are killing our productivity because how often do we tick off everything on our to-do lists? Of course, we get the joy of ticking things off sometimes, but when you don’t tick things off, you’re actually saying “it’s okay if I don’t get stuff done” which fuels your procrastination!
Now I’ve started time boxing, I get to the end of the day feeling more productive because I’ve done everything on my timebox list (not my ‘to-do’ list)! Phone calls, meetings, dinner and leisure time, timeboxing has been a game-changer for me. Structure creates freedom, and by putting this little timebox tip into your day, you may be amazed by how much more productive you feel at the end of every day! I no longer feel like I have let myself down because I have fulfilled everything I said I was going to do! Forget the ‘to do lists’, start timeboxing!
3. Easily distracted? Follow the 10 minute rule!
When you’re not enjoying what you’re doing, what happens? If you’re anything like me, when I get distracted, I start scrolling through my social media, think about what I’m going to eat or when I’m going to go surfing. Basically, I entertain myself with thoughts and activities that make me feel good at the moment because we want to feel good most of the time. Introducing the 10-minute rule.
Say, for example, you want to quit smoking. While you’re working, you’re thinking about having a cigarette break in 10 minutes, until you remember you want to quit. Enter the internal debate. “I really want a cigarette, but I really want to quit! But I really want a cigarette, but I really want to quit”. “No! I just want to have a cigarette because it’s the only time I get for myself”!! Put an end to the debate by setting your stopwatch for 10 minutes. Complete the task at hand and when the watch alarm sounds, ask yourself “Do I still want that cigarette?”. If the craving still exists, go and have it. 9 times out of 10 you will find the cravings have dissipated, if not gone completely.
Unhealthy habits are the result of poor choices. Choose to apply the 10-minute rule. It is an effective way to enhance your discipline and your overall wellbeing. This rule has prevented me from succumbing to my distractions while helping me maintain my sense of purpose and boosted my motivation to finish the job, especially if it’s been timeboxed!
Avoid the nightly meltdown by working for 90 minutes, then take a break for a couple of minutes to clear your mind.
Timebox your day to free yourself of the endless To-Do list and the procrastination that accompanies the feeling of being overwhelmed.
Not enjoying your current task? Craving something that isn’t good for you? Set the stopwatch for 10mins, do something meaningful with the time and experience a dramatic shift of discipline.
These tools have helped increase my productivity, happiness and overall sense of wellbeing. I trust they will do the same for you.
Give it a go and let me know how it works for you.
This link will provide you an in-depth guide to timeboxing.