I recently sent out a survey to my email list to try and understand what their current challenges were and how I can serve them better.
While there were many and varied answers to the survey, there were quite a few similar issues, ones you will all be familiar with and that affect us all (even those of us who should know better 😉
I decided to put together the list of the most common challenges and give people some quick tips for overcoming these issues.
I don’t delve into a huge amount of detail on habit building as you will find more information on habit building and habit breaking in my latest book Rise Before Your Bull and other habits of successful people and I will be sharing more information on all of these items in my upcoming 3 month coaching programme starting in January 2020 but for now here are some quick tips that work.
Learning to be productive is just like the weight loss industry we all know what we should be doing but we keep seeking easier and shorter ways to do the things that we know will make a difference. While some will say there is no quick fix, sometimes there is. Sometimes it is about changing how you do one thing and everything else changes with it. Very often it is about changing your mind-set, changing how you see things and everything around you starts to change.
So check out these most common challenges and see if you can start making small changes that might just give you stunning results!
1. Finding Time, being too busy
Often when I am in a room of busy professionals teaching them how to become more productive, they will all complain that they just don’t have the time to firstly get organised and then fit in the things that they want to be doing.
The truth is there is always time, how we choose to spend that time dictates how happy we are with our lives and our productivity. When I get the opportunity to work with people on a one to one basis, I will always help them find time. It could be the time that previously they used watching Netflix, or when they stay in bed an extra couple of hours at the weekend, or the time that they spend feeling sorry for themselves or the hours on social media comparing yourself to others.
Very few people don’t have time to fit in their goals.
The thing most people fear is the loss of what they are currently doing, the idea that it requires a huge amount of discipline or that it is restrictive where in fact the opposite is true. When you find time for your goals everything else feels better. The time spent on Netflix or social media is done without guilt. When you are consciously making your choices life gets better.I fit in writing Productivity For Dummies after I had signed up to do a Masters in Business. There is always time, as long as you prioritise the activity. If you want some thing badly enough you will find the time.
Another thing to remember is (especially if you work for yourself ) you don’t have to work 9 to 5 Monday to Friday or even if you work in a corporate environment you could fit in your exercise or gym time at lunchtime or some other time during the day. Often finding time requires looking at things differently than you have before. But the most important thing to remember is to stop using the language of busyness. Eliminate from your life the words, I don’t have time, I’m too busy, life is crazy, chaotic or whatever other language you use to describe your current world. Frame all of these sentences in a more positive way and watch how your world changes too.
It’s important to start with the distinction between two different types of procrastination. The first type is the deadline driven procrastination, you know you have to do something and you put it off until the last minute to do the task that needs doing. Some will say this is the only way they can get things done. They describe themselves as a last minute person. Most of you will have experienced at some stage in your life how a deadline can focus you, and help you achieve your goal. The problem here can be one of two things. One is that we create stress in our lives, with a deadline looming we have probably not given ourselves sufficient time to complete it, we will have to work late or get up early to find the time to do it. The second issue is that we may end up doing work that is far from perfect because we didn’t allocate sufficient time to do our best work.
So the deadline driven procrastination while not ideal, isn’t the worst because we are still getting things done.
It’s the other sort of procrastination that is more dangerous. The non deadline driven procrastination, this is the type of procrastination that is open ended, it has no deadline to push us to take action. The non deadline procrastination is the sort that prevents you from achieving anything. When we procrastinate on our goals and dreams we end up living lives that don’t fulfil us, lives that lack purpose and direction, and unfortunately for some this ends in depression for others just unhappiness or dissatisfaction with life. Along with the two types of procrastination there are also individual reasons for it. Here is an article I wrote for Lifehack some years ago that will help you identify your blocker and hopefully show you how to overcome it.
3. Maintaining Focus
The ability to focus on the right thing at the right time is a skill too few people have mastered. There are so many distractions in modern life that it is difficult to kept our mind present on what we should be doing. One of the main reasons for lack of focus can be lack of clarity about what you need to be doing. When we are a bit fuzzy about our priorities we can wander from task to task trying to do everything and not doing anything well.
Get really clear about your goals and priorities and then schedule time for them in your calendar. It’s the simplest of solutions that many find so difficult to do because they don’t believe it can be so simple. We often want to overcomplicate things. We feel uncomfortable when things flow too easily, we are always expecting things to go wrong. When they are difficult and we master them we feel more justified in their achievement. Accept that things can be easy sometimes, life doesn’t have to be a struggle. Get clear, prioritise and plan and watch how you feel calm, organised and in control.
4. Silencing the Inner Critic
For many years I have been interested in Goal Setting and getting things done but I wasn’t as successful at it as I would like to be. I achieved some goals but not others and didn’t understand why some came easy and some seemed to challenge me so much. It was only when I writing my latest book Rise Before Your Bull that I realised that my own mind was sabotaging my success. The things I was telling myself were standing in the way of me doing the things I wanted to do and believing in my ability to do them.
I speak a lot more about this in my online course but for now know that your inner voice can often be the thing that is holding you back. When you listen to your inner dialogue is it uplifting and supportive or negative and critical?
Start to become aware of what the voice is saying and then take control of your thoughts and replace the dialogue with more empowering words. Its your mind you are in control of what it says.
5. Falling back into old habits
This was my biggest issue for years, I would think I had mastered a habit only to drop it after a couple of weeks or months. There were two things that helped me to avoid this continuing. The first was number 4 above, it was recognising how my inner voice was preventing me from getting back on the horse. “You’ve messed up now , what’s the point?” “You’ve missed so many workouts or you have eaten so much chocolate, you’ve ruined it now”! When I started to monitor the inner voice, I could more easily stop it and remind myself there is a point, all is not lost, keep going, etc etc.
The other factor which was huge was when I learnt to forgive myself. I’m not perfect, far from it and I will make mistakes but I will no longer let my mistakes dictate who I am. I think too much of myself now to wallow in self pity or to live with prolonged bad habits. I will fall off the wagon like everyone else, but I no longer beat myself up about it. I acknowledge it and get back on track.
Finding Space for important projects
Finding space usually means your mind is overloaded or your are feeling overwhelmed with your tasks and responsibilities. One exercise that has worked very well for me over the years is to do a Mind Download. The idea is to dump everything out of your head onto paper so you can start to organise and plan the work that you want to do.
When you get everything out of your head, your head will feel calmer and you won’t be worried about forgetting important tasks or projects. It is important to plan time for the tasks that come out of your head by using your calendar. Here is an article which outlines the steps required after your mind download.
7. Sticking to the Good habits
The last challenge you pointed out was the challenge of sticking to good habits. If you haven’t already taken my habit questionnaire take it now so that you know where you are starting from in relation to the three essential habit areas for high performance. My book will also walk you through my Habit Method for creating and sticking to good habits. While this process works I know some of you will struggle implementing it alone for that reason I have created my online group coaching programme starting in January. If you are not already on my mailing list sign up now so that you won’t miss out.