Last night, as I spent the evening with a few friends, the conversation turned to procrastination and the lack of focus that most of us experience from time to time. You know, we get into the office and know we have these assorted tasks that we need to do that day but we just can’t seem to get our head in the right space to get them done. We would rather watch Youtube videos or play games online.
We find all sorts of other things we would rather be doing other than what we really need to be. Maybe because they are not that pressing and don’t have to be done right away, there is still time before they become urgent. Or maybe they just feel so overwhelming so we don’t know where to start. Or maybe there is something else going on, other problems, that are distracting us.
Sometimes it is just a matter of knuckling down and getting started, getting past the initial inertia. But that is not always effective. So the choice then becomes: “Do I continue to do the work so I can check things off the “to do list” but not really giving them my best effort? Or do I find a way to hit that “reset” button?”
What I have found is usually this behaviour is a result of a bottleneck in one of 3 areas:
So what have I found to be effective, provided there is nothing on that list that must be done immediately, is to literally hit the reset button. To take a break and engage in a different but still productive activity that changes my energy.
First, I look at what I think may be the underlying cause. Am I feeling restless and antsy? Then something physical like a walk outside or a trip to the gym for a workout is in order. Or maybe even, if you work from home, some time in the garden.
Am I feeling stifled, bored or underchallenged? Then it is time to do something creative for an hour or so to feed my creative side. This morning after breakfast, I looked at my “to do list” and saw the writing I had scheduled, and all the emails and follow ups I had but no appointments until much later this afternoon. I sat down to write this very post but I kept coming up short after a sentence or two. So I took an hour and went into my sewing room. When I returned to the computer, I had the whole thing pretty much written in my head.
Am I feeling a mentally or emotionally backed up or overwhelmed? Then it is time to sit down with a pen and paper and do a brain dump. Getting all the garbage out of the way so I can think more clearly. Now many of us have become so dependent on technology for taking notes and keeping lists that we rarely use the old fashioned pen and paper. But having to physically write down our thoughts actually activates a different part of our brain from technology and that is what we are looking for: change.
Change location, change activity, change focus, change your thinking.
When you make these kinds of changes, it does change your energy allowing you to return to the tasks at hand with greater focus and enthusiasm and that means greater productivity. So next time you are feeling a bottleneck, give yourself a break. Everything you want is on the other side.