Are you one of those who hit the ground running and don’t stop until the day is done?
If you are not, then you certainly know someone like that. Do you wish you could be like that?
Don’t do that.
That person, even if that person is you, is heading for burnout.
And, they are not quite as productive as they seem to be.
In my last job, I worked in the office next door to that person. She came trotting past in the morning, carrying the ream of paperwork she took home each day. She never stopped for coffee. She never stopped for lunch. At the end of the year, she left most of her paid vacation on the table.
I needed to work on her computer, and one day I was finally able to. I say finally because she had been having problems with it for months. A couple of days a week, she would ask me when I could look at it.
“Whenever you can let me have it for an hour or two.”
“Oh, no. I can’t do that today, maybe tomorrow.”
Tomorrow finally came when it crashed. Eventually, she crashed.
Productivity isn’t about going full steam ahead all day. Productivity is about productivity. About getting things done. Many people like to appear as if they are getting things done. They run around a lot and make busy motions. They answer emails immediately and send out a ton of their own.
But at the literal end of the day, what have they accomplished?
If you want to be truly productive, you have to do nothing occasionally. Or at least appar to do nothing. You are actually doing one of two things that will absolutely send your productivity to the next level.
Take a Break
This is the part that really looks like you are doing nothing. But that is far from the truth. At the very least, you are doing one thing.
Yeah, I know, you are breathing all the time. But in this case, I mean breathing as an active exercise. Breathing intentionally. Deep breaths, in and out. Calming, relaxing, mind-refreshing breathing.
Then, get up out of that damn chair and walk around. Stretch your legs and back and breathe some more. A few minutes once an hour will do more to boost your productivity and give you renewed energy than anything else. You will more than make up for the time spent on your break by increased productivity.
I wrote about this in another article, but for some, every 20 minutes may be asking too much. But just for one day, give that a try. You will take a one-minute break every 20 minutes and a five-minute break once an hour. Doing so will ramp up your productivity immensely, and you will finish the day as fresh as when you started it.
Evaluate Your Day
Two or three times a day, you need to stop going full speed and evaluate what you are doing. Are you making progress? Are you working on what you need to be working on? Are your priorities in order?
Things change. They change all day, every day. But too often, we don’t change with them. We have a path carved out at the start of the day, and we follow that path no matter what.
But things change. And you have to change with them. You need to be flexible. And this requires reavauating your day. Things come up that require your immediate attention. And by this, I mean real things that really need your prompt attention. Not something somebody threw at you because they think it is crucial. Or they don’t want to deal with it. When I say evaluate your priorities, I mean just that. Don’t let other people’s lack of planning become your emergency.
If your day begins running behind, don’t go faster to try and catch up. Stop. Figure out what went wrong. What took longer than it should. What have you spent time on that wasn’t on your list when you started. Reevaluate your priorities. Is that thing something you really need to do today? What is on your list that can be put off until another day?
That one simple task can make a huge difference in the rest of your day. Simply sliding a few things into tomorrow. It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking you need to finish everything on your list today. It would be nice, but it’s not always possible. And it’s not always desirable.
Why would you not want to finish everything today? Because you never intended to. Your day shouldn’t be booked solid with emergencies. If that is the case, then something else is wrong, and you need to figure out what that is. Part of your day’s to-do list should be things you would like to do today but aren’t essential. Or even one or two things from your someday list, things you want to do someday, but it isn’t important which day.
There are two types of people. Those who appear to be busy and those who are actually getting things done. Figure out who is in that first group in your office. Hopefully, it isn’t you. Now take a real look at what they really accomplish each day. My guess is, not much. They may touch a hundred things in a day, but do they ever finish any of them. Does anything truly get checked off that to-do list?
The other type is the person who gets things done. They are easy to identify because they are the person everyone goes to. When they need something done. Because they know that person will get it done. That person isn’t running around the office tossing paper in all directions. They are calm. They are deliberate. They are intentional. And they get things done.
Be that person.