Productivity, or lack of it, is a major issue for most people. I was recently at a two-day intensive conference with hundreds of attendees. When asked what they most wanted to change, some people said they wanted to lose their fear of visibility; others wanted to boost their confidence; however the majority of folks said they wanted to be more productive. At a annual planning workshop, similarly, most people’s blocks to success were “laziness”, “productivity” and “procrastination”.
Interesting. After all, productivity is not something we are burdened with or lack. It’s not a state we’re in.
Productivity levels are a symptom; an effect.
As a competency, productivity is not a challenge in itself; rather it’s simply a measurement of effectiveness; measured in terms of the rate of output per unit of input. It’s about accomplishing what you want to in any given amount of time. Many of us see being productive as getting our work done when it’s what we intend to do.
For example, if you’re spending 8-hours in front of your computer in a day, are you producing 8-hours worth of work? Maybe, maybe not. When you spend 40 hours at the office in a week, are you completing all tasks set out to accomplish in those hours, week after week? For the majority of people, I would say, probably not.
So what is the real challenge? What is it that is really blocking our success?
Again, lack of productivity is a symptom. It’s easy to say we want to be more productive ~ that is, get more done in the least amount of time, however it’s important to look at and ‘treat’ the bigger problem(s).
Look at the following list and see if you can relate to some of these common causes of low output aka Productivity Drains:
1. Lack of inspiration
2. Lack of direction/priority
3. Low physical energy
4. Disorganized work flow
5. Lack of efficiency systems
6. Low or stressed mental energy
8. Bad habits
9. Lack of knowledge or skill
10. Unrealistic goals and/or deadlines
[ Notice how I didn’t add ‘lack of time’ to this list? Time management is a definitely a major challenge, however this list of ten productivity drains can also be applied to our quest for optimal time management as well. ]
“Give me 6 hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first 4 sharpening the axe.”
– Abraham Lincoln
As a professional coach, I guide people to be more productive. No, not because I am an expert – far from it. As also a work-from-home parent and entrepreneur, I am definitely constantly needing to manage my own input and output.
What I do is guide others to take an intentional approach to productivity.
After all, the goal is not to work more or work harder.
On the contrary; my approach is to lay out the bigger picture; to explore the ten items above, and to integrate personal strengths and objectives to be more efficient – to get what needs to get done without all the dilly dally time wasting that would be better used elsewhere.
Now I can easily write for days about dealing with all the productivity drains. They are all very potent barriers and effective success blocks. However, in this post I’m going to look at what I feel is the most important to address which is low mental energy.
Time is an important resource, sure – however mental energy is our greatest asset.
Mental energy encompasses our mindset, our determination, our outlook, and resilience. Sometimes we need mental energy to strategize and make critical decisions; other times we need it for inspiration and creativity. We require mental energy to manage multiple tasks and deal with stress, and we also require the skill to turn it off to restore and recharge.
By first managing our mental energy, it gives us the capacity to then deal with things like distraction, lack of focus, discouragement, stress, lack of clarity, and motivation. Tending to and protecting it should be priority #1, and this includes figuring out it’s cycles and it’s kryptonite.
There are so many ways to master our mental energy. Some include:
+ getting enough physical exercise to increase blood flow to the brain and trigger “energy” brain chemicals
+ fueling our brains and bodies with nourishing foods, minerals and vitamins
+ eliminating energy draining, negative people and situations from your life
+ meditating to rest and recharge
+ switching up our scenery and/or daily routines
+ reducing and/or eliminating our digital media use including social media/tv/YouTube, etc…
+ adapting new habits and systems
+ reducing and eliminating other distractions
Eat the frog, set a timer, download an app…the list of possibilities goes on and on… And while there are several scientific and research-based fundamentals and success stories such as getting enough healthy food and exercise, the key will be to figure out what works for you.
It all starts with intention. With awareness.
For example, when is your energy at it’s highest? For most people, morning is when we have access to our most creative energy. What noticeably drains your energy? Sugar, certain people, fluorescent lights? What feeds your energy? Nature, friendly conversation, music?
Personally, I know that certain foods either rob or fuel my energetic capability. I have figured out a few hacks to give me a boost of focus including jumping on the rebounder for a few minutes and listening to high-energy music while I work. I know that my morning routine is essential in putting me into an optimal mindset for the day, and I’m aware that too much time sitting at my desk results in wasted time.
“Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.”
― Jalaluddin Rumi
Productivity will always be an issue. After all, there is always more that we can be doing. However, if we think more in terms of managing our energy in order to explore and master the real causes of low productivity, we will strengthen our foundations. We will focus on what matters most and learn to be motivated and propelled by purpose. We will optimize, streamline and prioritize. And best of all, we will create more time freedom.
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