How can I be more productive in life?

Did you know that parts of our brain exist simultaneously in our past, present, and future? No? Until I became a coach and therapist, neither did I. But think about it. As human beings, we talk about our past, present and future all the time, so why would our brains – their structure and functionality – not reflect this? Ok, I hear you ask, what does this have to do with productivity? Well, here’s what. You see, these past, present and future parts talk to each other, and what they talk about is whether our lives are on track – or not. Each day, they monitor our thoughts, behaviours, feelings and relationships for evidence that we have a life plan and the strategies to carry it out.

And this is where productivity comes in, for, without it, our life plan remains on the drawing board, gathering dust. And this is something our past, present and future parts don’t like one single bit. Productivity is how we make our lives happen, and in my blog, How can I be more productive in life, I share six ways you can be consistently productive.

1) How can I be more productive in life? Have the right conversations

How can I be more productive in life? The first way to be productive is to ensure that your conversations, those you have with yourself and with others, are consistent with you getting stuff done. When we grind to a halt or procrastinate, our conversations will be missing important qualities and characteristics, but when we rattle through our to-do lists, they will include them. It follows that conversations, which are critical or negative in some way or lacking valuable knowledge, are likely to undermine productivity. In contrast, the opposite will be true for those that are supportive, positive and insightful.

Activity: start by listing the key conversations in your life. Include those you feel are the most relevant to your personal or professional circumstances, remembering to include those you have with yourself. Then, using a 0-10 scale (0=very unhelpful, 10=very helpful), choose a number that represents the contribution you feel each conversation makes to your productivity levels. While there are no right or wrong scores:

  • Conversations scored four or below are likely to be harmful or very harmful to your productivity levels
  • Conversations scored five or six are likely to make no difference either way to your productivity levels
  • Conversations scored seven or above are likely to be helpful or very helpful to your productivity levels

What did you discover about the relationship between your productivity levels and your conversations? Which conversations do you need to maintain or improve, and which need to be changed? And if your productiveness is really on the floor, do you need someone new to talk to who can get you back on track?

2) Knowing why you are or are not being productive

A second way to be productive requires us to understand when we are or are not productive. To achieve this, we need good levels of self-awareness. If we are unaware, then we might conclude there is nothing wrong in the first place! Luckily, human beings possess an in-built ‘awareness’ tool that can penetrate to even the deepest levels of unawareness – our emotions. Emotions are really messages sent from what I call our ‘emotional self’, and some of their messages will be about our productivity levels.

Difficult emotions such as stress and anxiety can be interpreted as possible expressions of concern by our emotional self that our productiveness is inconsistent with the life plan we have for ourselves. Conversely, positive emotions such as contentment and inspiration are expressions of happiness by our emotional self that our productivity is consistent with our life plan. What our emotional self really needs is for us to be in dialogue with them. They want to know that we know:

  • the causes of our productivity or the lack of it
  • how to remain productive when we are
  • how to address matters when we are not productive

How can I be more productive in life? Imagine you were having a conversation about this with your emotional self. How would that conversation sound right now?

Activity: using a 0-10 scale (0=very unproductive, 10=very productive), choose a number that reflects how productive you are at present. Then tune in to your dominant emotional states – are they positive or negative? Can you see a connection? Is your emotional self feeling concerned or reassured about how productive you are being? How can you keep them inspired or reassured?

3) Laying down helpful patterns of productivity

The third way to be productive is to ensure that our patterns of thought, behaviour, feeling and relating are as positive as they can be. For example, if you are out of bed, showered and breakfasted by 8am, then your behaviour patterns are consistent with your goal of getting through your daily to-do list. But they won’t be if you are still in bed at 10am, scrolling through your social media feeds. Building up a detailed picture of your patterns can help you create a blueprint of positive ones that, once in place, can lay down the foundations for sustained productivity levels.

Activity: answer the questions below to build up a detailed picture of your patterns.

  • Where are you most productive or unproductive?
  • When are you most productive or unproductive?
  • What stressors or changes in your routine do you know make you less productive?
  • What positive elements or changes in your routine do you know make you more productive?
  • How often do your high levels of productivity occur, and how long do they last?
  • How often do your low levels of productivity occur, and how long do they last?
  • What significant persons are present or absent when you are productive?
  • What significant persons are present or absent when you are unproductive?
  • What are the steps you go through when being productive? And can you identify the steps you go from not being productive to being productive and the other way around?
  • What do you think other people know about your ability to be productive or unproductive, e.g. friends, family or colleagues? Do they overestimate what you are capable of or underestimate?
  • What are your thoughts and beliefs about your ability to be productive or unproductive? Are they negative, e.g. I will never be productive or don’t know how to be. Or are they positive, e.g. I am good at getting stuff done, or I accept I won’t get things done at times, but these periods will be short-lived.

In my experience, this activity can be highly revealing. The social media example above is an actual example from a client. She genuinely had not realised that she was falling behind in her business because of her patterns of behaviour. What did you discover?

4) The benefits of acceptance in being productive

As I suggested in my introduction, productivity is how we make our lives happen. While self-evident, this presents us with an undeniable truth: keeping our life plans on track and seeing them through to completion at different stages of our lives requires sustained periods of productivity. But no one remains productive all of the time, not unless they are a robot. We all enter unproductive periods that we have to sit tight through until we find our mojo again. So, like it or not, the fourth way to remain consistently productive is by accepting that we can’t be all of the time.

Acceptance stops us from panicking when we have to down tools for self-preservation and repairs those ‘productive’ tools while we take time out. Acceptance is only an issue if we see it as a form of resignation, whereas its value becomes clear if we see it as a stage of transformation. If acceptance is ‘unacceptable’ to us and we believe that we can never let our productivity levels drop for a moment, then we are living a ‘fantasy’. And unrealistic fantasies never end well.

Activity: consider the following scenarios and answer the questions:

  • You are committed to a significant period of Personal and Professional Transformation, such as a period of study or training. Early on, you struggle to keep up, and your productivity levels drop. Do you stick your head in the sand? Complain at the unreasonable demands being asked of you? Or do you accept you are struggling and develop a plan to get back on track?
  • Your life is good, the planets are aligned, and productivity comes effortlessly to you. Unexpectedly, events send your life off course, and your ability to remain productive takes a significant hit. How accepting are you of this moment of rupture? Do you accept it as an expected part of life and, with kindness and compassion, give yourself the time you need to regroup? Or do you allow resentment to grip you tightly, angrily criticise yourself for failing, and pile more pressure on yourself to catch up?

What did you discover? How accepting are you of the need to remain productive most or all of the time? Do you expect productive perfection of yourself, or do you accept this is an unachievable fantasy?

5) How can I be more productive in life? Embrace the challenge

The fifth way to keep our productivity levels high is by making the concept of challenge work for us, not against us. Although I have not explicitly used the term yet, being and remaining productive is a challenge. Many people mistake an inability to be usefully productive as evidence that they can’t be, whereas, in reality, they can; it’s just that their level of challenge is either too high or too low. An idea I use to help people find a supportive level of challenge is The Goldilocks Principle of Challenge: not too little challenge, not too much, but just right. Using The Goldilocks Principle, someone can establish a supportive level of challenge that results in desired productivity levels by conducting what I call a Challenge Audit.

Activity: low or high levels of challenge can result from us not having the right resources. In the nine categories below, ask yourself what resources you need to find to achieve a helpful level of challenge.

  • Resources such as information, knowledge and technology: do I have what I need? If I don’t, can I acquire them myself, or does someone else have what I need?
  • Skills and abilities: do I have the necessary skills and abilities? If I don’t, can I develop them myself, or will I need support?
  • Confidence and belief: do I have enough? If I don’t, can I build these qualities independently, or will I need support?
  • Wellbeing: do I feel resilient enough? If I don’t, is boosting my wellbeing something I can do by myself, or will I need to involve someone else?
  • Support: do I have the help I need? If I don’t, who will provide it?
  • Motivation: do I feel motivated enough? If I don’t, can I motivate myself, or will I need encouragement from someone else?
  • Time: do I have enough time? If I don’t, how can I find the time I need? Is this the right time? If it isn’t, when will it be?
  • Environment: am I in the right environment? Or do I need to be somewhere else?
  • Strategy: do I have the right strategies? If I don’t, how will I acquire them? By myself or with support?

What did you discover? Will your answers help you to be more productive by finding a helpful level of challenge? And if your level of challenge has been too high or too low, can you see why?

6) Productive transformation

Finally, the sixth way to be productive is by having what I call a helpful approach to transformation. Having a helpful approach to transformation creates a virtuous circle. It puts us on the right journey for our desired destination by creating the conditions we need to be productive. And by helping us to be productive, it makes our journeys successful maximising our chances of reaching our desired destinations. So what does a helpful approach to transformation look like, one that maximises our chances of being highly productive? Below are listed the qualities and characteristics of a helpful approach and underneath those of an unhelpful approach (so you can compare the two).

A helpful approach to transformation

  • Acceptance of one’s current reality and a commitment to doing what it takes
  • Time and patience
  • Positivity – towards oneself and from others
  • Self-belief and trust in one’s abilities
  • Turning setbacks into opportunities
  • Useful ideas, sound knowledge & effective resources
  • Skills – practice and repetition
  • Alignment of realistic goals with effective strategies
  • The right type of support and encouragement
  • Positive emotions that help rather than hinder
  • A resilient mindset

A unhelpful approach to transformation

  • Impatience and the need for a ‘quick fix’
  • Unrealistic goals and expectations
  • Low self-esteem/self-worth
  • Perfectionism, self-sabotage & self-criticism
  • A lack of knowledge, information and resources
  • Erroneous ideas
  • A lack of self-belief
  • Poor motivation
  • The right goal, but the wrong strategy
  • Not enough support or the wrong type of support
  • Difficult emotions such as fear, anxiety or depression

Getting support to be more productive in life

I hope you have enjoyed my blog, How can I be more productive in life? If you would like support to be more productive, I’d love to hear from you. My IMPACT Model and IMPACT Programmes can help you be as productive in life as you need and want to be.

To book an initial consultation, visit my Make a Booking page. You will have the opportunity to tell me about what you are going through and find out how I can support you. Even if you choose not to work with me, I promise your consultation will give you more ideas, knowledge and insight than you had before.