“Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible.”—Francis of Assisi, Catholic saint
Have you ever been faced with a large task, whereupon you dismissed everything else from your mind, put your head down, and got to work? How often have you “come to” later, only to find your task is done or near-done—and hours have passed almost without you noticing?
I suspect it’s happened to you more than once. It tends to happen fairly regularly to those of us engaged with our jobs and genuinely interested in doing well. It’s kind of like highway hypnosis, except that instead of just going on autopilot, your mind and body have melded in such a way that you tap into what I call “super-productivity.” Here are five ways to enter…The Super-Productivity Zone:
1. Stop waiting for the right mood to strike. One clever article I recently read suggested “grumpy people” are more productive. The reason? The right mood never strikes. They’re as cranky as Grumpy the Dwarf with Grumpy Cat stomping on his head; so instead of waiting for the right mood, they just start working. As the old saying goes, “Once begun, half done.” Keep rolling through the day focusing on the most important tasks, whether you feel like doing them or not. One hallmark of adulthood, after all, is doing what know you need to do, even if you don’t feel like it.
2. Stop wasting your willpower! According to psychologist Roy Baumeister in Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength (Penguin Books 2011), we all have a limited reservoir of willpower we use up through “ego depletion.” If you use too much of your willpower on minor tasks before you take on more significant ones, your performance on those important tasks will suffer. This represents another reason to “eat that frog” earlier in the day as my friend and colleague Brian Tracy says; your full well of willpower will make the difficult easier.
3. Bursts of attention focus your concentration better. Like a high-tech laser, giving short bursts of attention on a project ensures better focus. When you arrange things so nothing distracts you for 30 minutes to an hour, you can get a surprising amount of work done. This is why a tidy office works best for many of us: part of your mind constantly takes in and automatically processes data coming in through your senses. If it doesn’t have anything new or subliminally exciting to distract it (like an interesting wall color), you can use more of your limited amount of attention for work.
Side note: With discretionary time harder and harder to come by, it’s important that you spend it well. You can learn more about that here: Video – Finding Discretionary Time.
4. Stop fooling your mind into thinking you’re working. No matter what you do, when you’re sitting in your office chair, your brain subconsciously thinks you’re working—even if you’ve been reading the op-ed piece in the New York Times or filling out a timecard. Procrastination, or even doing minor busywork or “housekeeping” chores, can seem like real work. Don’t let your mind assume whatever you’re doing is worthwhile; train yourself to stop regularly and ask, “Hey, am I doing productive work?” (← click to tweet)
5. Ample sleep. You need rest to knit up the ravel’d sleeve of care, as well as to process all the new things you learned during the day. You also need time for your mind and body to recharge, and to give your subconscious mind the opportunity to chew up ideas and knowledge, cross-fertilize, and spit out new concepts. Some will be genius, and most won’t be, but it’s easier to tell the difference when you’re well-rested. Maintain your best sleep habits, and you’ll do better work and think so much better than when you’re fatigued—and you’ll feel more optimistic, too.
A Hit of Super-Productivity
Like the main character in Limitless (movie or TV, your choice), the tips above will help you tap into your maximum productive potential… without having to take a memory drug to do it. They may not always work, but they’ll leave you prepared to strike productivity oil when the well comes in. As the saying goes, fortune favors the prepared. When it comes to productivity, we make our own “luck.”
© 2017 Laura Stack.
About Laura Stack, your next keynote speaker:
Laura Stack, MBA, CSP, CPAE is an award-winning keynote speaker, bestselling author, and noted authority on productivity and performance. Funny, engaging, and full of real life strategies that work, Laura will change mindsets and attitudes so your people can maximize productivity, strengthen performance, and get the job done right. Her presentations at corporate events, sales kick-off meetings, and association conferences help audiences improve output, increase speed in execution, and save time in the office. Stack has authored seven books, including her newest work, Doing the Right Things Right: How the Effective Executive Spends Time (Jan. 2016). To have Laura Stack speak at your next event, call 303-471-7401, email [email protected]
Here’s what others are saying:
“Laura Stack’s session with a group of our seasoned operations managers was eye-opening. We all learned new ways to be more productive with the tools we already have. I’ve never seen each of our seasoned, experienced operations managers so engaged in a session. Many of our senior and mid-level leaders were wowed by what they learned and have already begun using the new techniques with their teams.”
—Mary Pawlowski, Learning Design, Piedmont Natural Gas
“What I enjoyed most about your presentation was that it was not only engaging but also practical in application. I’ve read everything from Covey’s system to “Getting Things Done,” and you presented time management in a way that is the easiest I’ve seen to digest and apply. Thank you for helping our system today!”
—John-Reed McDonald, SVP, Field Operations, Pridestaff
“Laura is an incredible speaker who takes practical information to improve productivity and efficiency and makes it interesting and fun! She has a great sense of humor and completely engaged our corporate and sales team. Laura motivated everyone to take steps to make their lives more productive and efficient.
—Molly Johnson, Vice President Domestic Sales, Episciences, Inc.
“Ms. Laura Stack’s program received the highest scores in the 13-year history of the Institute for Management Studies (IMS) in Cleveland! From the 83 participants, the workshop received a perfect 7.0 for “Effectiveness of the Speaker” and 6.8 for “Value of the Content.” Managers especially valued learning about task management, how to minimize interruptions, organizing with Outlook, prioritizing, effectively saying ‘no,’ how to set boundaries, and recognizing self-imposed challenges to time management.”
—Don Gorning, Chair, Institute for Management Studies Cleveland