There’s an old joke about personal development – maybe you’ve heard it. “How many psychologists does it take to change a light bulb?”
Photo by Bruma Mihai
The answer is “just one” – but the light bulb has to want to change.
Productivity is more than just something you do. It is more than just a mindset. Productivity is a lifestyle choice, a lifestyle change, and an entire personal philosophy. It will affect everything you do and every way you do it.
In the first part of this series, I demonstrated how we are our own worst enemies through our personal standards and our insistence on working against our own natural rhythms and needs.
In this second and final part, you will learn how to apply those standards and work with whatever flow is natural for you. However, knowing how and actually doing it are two completely different things – and I’ll talk about that too.
Photo by “Lioness”
Remember the goal of your multi-tasking – you are trying to find a task to switch off to when you get stuck which provides insight and inspiration on the original task.
For example, I get stuck more often than not when I’m working on an especially long and inspiring writing project – like a 2,000 word viral article or the next chapter in my book on working with virtual assistants. Usually my problem is one of logic – I have too many ideas and I don’t know how to present them in an orderly fashion.
So when I get stuck (and only when I get stuck!) I switch to another window and look for an image to go with my text – any part of my text. It doesn’t have to relate to the text I’m writing right then. In other words, I exercise my creative side to give my logical side a moment to figure out the problem.
If the problem is creative – like word choice for a headline or opening few paragraphs – usually I do something logical or mindless and physical. However, I tend to find doing something mindless and physical (like cooking or cleaning) usually provides insight on creative problems, whereas doing something logical is just a de-stresser.
So the mindless and physical solution is better for me since I return to the creative problem with a solution, instead of doing something logical and coming back to the creative problem with little benefit outside of being calm. You will just have to test each solution to find which one gets the most productive results.
Set Limits and Boundaries
Photo by Zsuzsanna Kilian
The single greatest challenge to being an entrepreneur of any kind – whether you work from home or not – is keeping work at work and home at home. If you work outside of the home, you’re at a slight advantage, but it is only a slight advantage. You still have to set limits and boundaries and apply them effectively.
Even and especially if you don’t have anything time-specific or pressing to do besides work, you should set a time frame in which to work – and stick to it like white on rice.
That means no work-related anything on personal time. No e-mails, no instant messages, and no phone calls from clients and associates who are not involved in your personal life.
However, that also means no personal-related anything during business hours. No games, no personal social networking, and no unnecessary or unrelated reading while you are supposed to be working.
Setting boundaries doesn’t just apply to work and home life though – it also applies to every single type of task you hope to accomplish. There is a time and a place for everything – including chat, e-mail, phone calls, reading, writing, creating, relaxing, and even using multi-tasking to productively distract yourself.
Set a goal for everything you do so you know when it is time to stop. For example, if you’re reading an article, define what you hope to gain from it or achieve. Then skim the article to find exactly what you need and stop when you have achieved that goal. This can be applied to absolutely everything you do.
Don’t give unwanted interruptions or distractions a chance to invade when it is not their time. You can remain available yet uninterruptable by setting your IM clients to “away” or “busy”, setting your phone to ignore (or leaving it at “the office”) and closing your e-mail altogether.
Remember the personal standards I talked about in the first part of this series. All of these boundaries stem from those standards – but are by no means the end-all be-all. Work through each standard individually and figure out every way you can use a boundary to meet that standard in your own life.
The Best Laid Plans Of Light Bulbs and Psychologists
Photo by Andronicus Riyono
With all this talk about the way our mind works and productivity self-sabotage, I really don’t think this would be complete without at least touching on the psychology of self-sabotage in applying what we know is best for us.
There are half a dozen reasons we may tell ourselves to excuse inaction, but they all boil down to one thing – a lack of self-esteem. Maybe you don’t feel you know enough, or have read enough, or own enough of the tools you need to get the job done, but all the while you’re just telling yourself you’re not good enough.
I’ll tell you what – there is only one thing you need to be good enough for anything. Desire. Do you have any idea how rare it is to be a person who desires something better for themselves – let alone a desire to be a better person?!
I know you have seen the person who doesn’t have a care in the world so long as they get their beer and TV after work. You are not that person. You want something more. Therefore, you are worthy of something more – because that desire is what sets you apart from more than half of the world’s population.
Nevertheless, that part about not knowing enough could well be a valid problem. The desire is only half of the solution. The other, and often more challenging half, is the how.
Getting over that hurdle is again a matter of philosophy. Just accept the fact it is impossible to know everything. Accept the fact you will make mistakes, and the fact it is OK to make mistakes – you may even learn more from the mistake than knowing and doing the right thing the first time. Accept that although you may not know all you need to know, you know enough to take the next step.
…and then take that next step.