Welcome to the final part of our Spring Clean Your Life series for this year. Today we’re focusing on Performance + Productivity, having already looked at Decluttering + Finding Focus, Mental Health + Wellbeing, Relationships, as well as Physical Health.
Amidst our busy lives there are sometimes moments when we feel like we’re going nowhere on a hamster wheel, falling behind further and further, or struggling just to keep our heads above water when it comes to the mountain of work that faces us.
Hold up. That’s the perfect time to do a Spring Clean of your Productivity and Performance. Questions to ask yourself include:
- Is your workload realistic and achievable? Does it give you work/life balance?
- Can you manage your work and personal tasks without feeling overwhelmed?
- Are you effective when you do work, or do you find you end up not doing much with the time that you have available?
- Do your internal feelings (mood, boredom) affect your productivity?
- Are you lacking any knowledge or skills that get in the way of being productive?
If you find yourself answering no to a couple of the above questions, take a closer look at the following steps for a Spring Clean.
Step 1. Declutter and get back to the essentials
Sometimes we fill up our everyday lives and clutter our focus. Perhaps we find ourselves saying yes to things we don’t really have time for because we can’t say no. Or maybe we do more because we’re perfectionistic and want to get things just right.
By decluttering and finding a focus, you can start to chip away at tasks that are time-wasters that don’t get you closer to what really matters to you. In fact, we think this step is so important that we’ve written a whole blog post about this.
Step 2. Understand the obstacles to your performance and productivity.
Obstacles to performance and productivity can be either internal or external. External obstacles may include:
- Competing demands such as family commitments, multiple managers that aren't aware of your overall workload
- Changing deadlines
- A lack of resources (e.g. time constraints, lack of equipment, lack of assistance)
Internal obstacles may include:
- Poor time management skills including underestimating how long a task will take
- Overwhelming feelings (panic, anxiety) that lead to task avoidance
- Perfectionism, including a need to know absolutely everything about a task before you can get started on it
- Procrastination resulting in a last minute rush
- An inability to say no to others leading to taking on far too much
- Poor communication skills means you’re unable to delegate effectively and end up doing all of the work yourself
Whatever the obstacles to your performance and productivity, identifying them is the first step to making a change.
Step 3. Learn new skills
Armed with (i) having decluttered your life, and (ii) identifying obstacles that stand in the way of your productivity and performance, you’ve likely found some gaps in your skills that could really make a difference to your performance and productivity. These may include:
- Learning how to set up better systems and processes to stop you from being swamped by paperwork
- Outsourcing certain tasks that either chew up your time significantly but do not enhance your overall productivity, or are peripheral to your role and are beyond your necessary skillset
- Developing assertive communication skills so that you avoid taking on more than you can realistically manage
- Resisting perfectionistic tendencies that can trip you up and draw out the time you spend on a task
- Learning effective time management skills so that you give yourself enough 'breathing space' and don't constantly feel like you're falling behind
- Addressing procrastination so that you avoid the last minute rush
- Developing ways to manage your fear or anxiety/panic so that they don't interfere with your ability to carry out the task
Whatever skill it is that you learn, give it some time in the implementation phase; all new skills require practice before they become habit.
Step 4. Understand your circadian rhythm and your circumstances
When we think about maximising our productivity and performance, it’s important to acknowledge the influence of your circadian rhythm and your circumstances. Armed with this insight and a bit of forward planning, we can align our daily tasks with our energy levels for peak productivity.
With our circadian rhythm there will be natural peaks and troughs throughout the day, meaning that we will naturally feel more alert (and better able to concentrate) at certain times of the day, and feel far less alert (and less able to concentrate) at other times of the day. Try to identify when you are at your ‘mental best’ during the day, and set aside this period for tasks that require the greatest amount of concentration.
Alongside our circadian rhythm, we are also faced with the reality of our circumstances be it early morning work meetings, or child-rearing duties in the afternoon, that may affect the ‘peak alertness’ times that are available to you. Often just the very awareness of these constraints can help you re-arrange tasks in your diary so that you can optimise your productivity.
Step 5. Prioritise time for recharge your mind + body
Armed with clarity and a shiny new set of skills it can be tempting to fall into the trap of doing even more and pushing yourself even harder. After all, the point is to boost your productivity and performance, right?
Wrong. You cannot push yourself indefinitely, and attempting to do so can actually be counterproductive. Case in point? It’s been shown that performance on cognitive tasks following a prolonged period without sleep can be equivalent to having a Blood Alcohol Concentration level of .05!
So, when you think about boosting your performance, remember that rest is an integral part of being at peak productivity.
That's it from us for the Spring Clean Your Life Series for this year; we hope the five topics we've covered give you a great kickstart to making changes in your life!
See you next month!
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