Last week, I wrote about how we all have days with low productivity and why you shouldn’t beat yourself up too much if you have a single off day once in a while. If, however, all your days are starting to look like a chore, you may need to ask yourself a few questions. Some of the reasons you suddenly find yourself unable to finish scheduled tasks could be:
How much sleep have you been getting lately? Did you get the recommended 8 hours a night? If you have been pulling a couple of all night sessions hoping to beat a deadline, your inability to focus long enough to finish tasks might be your body telling you to rest. You should take a day off and catch up on sleep.
The tasks worth doing often tend to be the ones that aren’t easy. These are the tasks most people delay, secretly hoping for a better day to get them done. If you have been working on a series of high value tasks for some time without enough breaks, it is normal to want to do nothing. This is particularly true if you are trying to build a new habit such as sticking to a daily exercise regimen or quitting smoking. After a few days, the joy you felt at being in control starts to wane and you slip back into your old patterns. The best way to beat depleted willpower is to have a powerful why statement, something you can write down and read anytime you start asking yourself “Why am I doing this?” If your why statement can’t motivate you, then you need to ask yourself if you have a good reason for doing a task. Perhaps you are just doing it because everyone else is.
This should be obvious. Unfortunately, people will surprise you. A lot of people view being sick as a sign of weakness. We all know that colleague who woke up feeling sick and instead of taking sick leave to see a doctor popped a few pills and showed up at work. This might be funny if you also haven’t had a colleague that collapsed in the middle of a meeting because they were sick and forced themselves to attend. Listening to your body is part of good productivity. Pay attention to it. If you are sick, accept your productivity will decline until you get better. Your A-task during that time is to get appropriate healthcare. Everything else can wait.
Taking on too much at once
Any goal you set for yourself will have to be realistic. Similarly, when breaking goals down into tasks, you have to accept there is a limit to the number of tasks you can finish in a day. There is no magic figure but the ideal number should be one that will force you to just stretch yourself a little bit without being too challenging. Adding 20 high value tasks on your to-do list for the morning will be setting yourself up for failure.
We are human. We will have good and bad days. There will be days when you won’t be as productive as you had planned. One bad day might not be a problem. What you want to avoid is a situation where a bad productivity day is the normal for you. Take some time to figure out why you aren’t being as productive as you would like today. What can you do to get your zeal back?