How to Get Out of an Unproductive Cycle
Falling into an unproductive loop can cause severe problems within the workplace and in your personal life. We all want to accomplish something great each day, but when stress and other distractions get in the way of our motivation to complete our work, we must take action to stop our unproductive tendencies. Sometimes, waking up in the morning and telling ourselves, “I am going to complete my to-do list today,” isn’t enough. When making a plan to revive your motivation, you must follow actionable steps that will lead you in the right direction.
Take That First Step
When determining how to stop being unproductive, many people are not sure where to start. The key is to remember that there is no perfect time; you have to start doing something. If you have 15 things you need to complete within a specific time frame, try tackling the most unpleasant tasks first. Although you may not want to do those tasks first, it gets them out of the way right from the start. It also gives you a more relaxing day to complete less daunting tasks.
Remember to reward yourself for each difficult task you complete. You can choose any reward you find satisfying: a quick break to eat your favorite donut, a stroll through the park to get some fresh air or a short reading session to enjoy a couple of chapters of an anticipated book.
It can be challenging to stay on track when you are feeling unproductive and unmotivated. It is helpful to have some idea of a direction to go in, so setting goals that inspire you can help get your brain moving. Take a few moments at the beginning of your workday or workweek to write down some goals you would like to achieve. Don’t just jot down, “Finish that project that my client is waiting for.” Instead, go with something more inspirational and specific, such as “Make my client’s life a little easier by finishing her project before the deadline.” Wording it like this helps you tie the task to helping out another individual.
Self-care should also be one of your top priorities. Tasks such as exercising, getting enough sleep, eating healthy meals throughout the day, and having some downtime for yourself are all things that help with productivity. Although not all of these tasks occur during your workday, they get you into the right frame of mind to do your best work.
Exercising improves your overall energy level. Getting enough sleep allows your brain to process information more effectively. Fueling your body with the right foods can improve the way you feel. Make sure to maintain a work-life balance as working too much can make you feel like you’re not getting anything done.
Make Sure You’re in the Right Environment
When considering your productivity level, it is crucial to consider your workplace culture. Perhaps it is expected that people who work for your company get distracted by co-workers, supervisors who are not effective, or other workplace distractions. If possible, ask your supervisor to allow you to work from home with fewer distractions or find a quieter workplace in your office. Communication is vital, and your supervisor should be aware if you find co-workers disruptive. If your supervisor is not addressing the issues, you can go up the chain until you find a solution.
Tap Into Neuroscience
Neuroscience tells us a few things about our minds and their relation to productivity. By making these productivity improvements in your life, you try to reach a Zen-like state where you have no distractions, and your mind is relaxed. In this state, three neurochemicals work together to keep you there: dopamine, noradrenaline, and acetylcholine.
Dopamine involves your reward system, so making sure you have a small reward for yourself for getting work done can trigger this chemical. Noradrenaline comes from the pressure to get something done. If you focus on helping out that client and reminding yourself that the client expects the work done by a specific deadline, noradrenaline produces in your brain.
Acetylcholine involves our ability to remember things. If you don’t have enough of this in your brain, it can cause memory loss and potentially lead to Alzheimer’s disease. Being productive in a positive way can help increase this chemical in your brain and yield additional benefits.
Getting out of an unproductive loop can be challenging, but it can also be gratifying. Focus on keeping a motivating goal list right by your desk to remind yourself of the goals you want to achieve. Cross them off your list as you accomplish them, and remember always to reward yourself with something special when you achieve those goals. It would help if you also had a quiet, inspirational workspace where you can reach a Zen-like state to be productive at work. For more advice on finding your productivity again, reach out to me at the Leonard Productivity Intelligence Institute.