Grinding productivity out

Some days you just have to grind it out. There, I’ve said it.

No matter how enthused you are about your ‘big idea’; no matter how much you love your job; no matter how grand the world changes are that you’re working on; some days you’ll not be on top of your game for any of a huge number of reasons.

And on those days you just need to grind it out! Well, you could just take the day off, I suppose, but that might not be helpful.

So lets take a look at the things you can do to keep moving forwards even on those days when it’s just a grim slog.

Remember why you do it

It much easier to keep slogging away (and keeeeeppppp sloggggiinnngggg awwwaayyyyy) when you know why you’re doing what you’re doing. The thing is though, that on those days when you’re not motivated, you’re also less likely to remember why you’re doing it! Sod’s Law!

I’m sure there are other ways, but here’s a handy little life hack I’ve used very successfully in the past:

  • capture why you do what you do in a tweet: I don’t mean literally a tweet, but something like a tweet so that it’s both very short and self-contained
  • jot that ‘tweet’ down on a post-it note: you can see why it needed to be short, now!
  • put the post-it note somewhere that you don’t see it all the time: ideally it should be anywhere you’re likely to see it on the ‘bad days’ as a reminder.

This last bit is important, because if you see something all the time you’re brain simply filters it out. I’m sitting here in a training room, before my clients arrive, and there’s a hum in the background. I noticed it at first but after only a few minutes it faded out of my consciousness.

It probably won’t come as any surprise to any of you who know me that one of my post-it notes is on the folder with my financial records in, for when I need to work out my VAT, prepare my tax statements, or work out my mileage allowance. Those are my typical ‘grind it out jobs’. I hate them and they suck away my will to live after about ten minutes (on a good day!).

Have some Maintenance Tasks on your productivity list

Maintenance Tasks are those which you need to do in order to do something else. Typically they are what you might call background tasks, such as tidying your office. A tidy office doesn’t achieve anything in itself, but it makes it easier to be productive later.

That way, if you take a hard look at yourself and decide you’ll just screw up any Production Tasks (otherwise known as Active Tasks) because your heart isn’t in it, you’ve got a ready made list of things to do which will increase your productivity in the longer term.

This way, you can still be productive, even when you’re feeling ‘meh’. You might not be creating anything, but preparing to be creative is important.

Have an accountability partner or challenge

I’m not recommending this to you, but here’s one I use… “Dave, here’s £50. Give it back to me next month when you see I’ve finished XXX. If I don’t finish XXX by then, give it to the Donald Trump re-election campaign.”

Now… there is no way in hell I’m going to donate my £50 there. No way at all. Ever. Supposing it kiss me  😉

By the way, I’m not saying your approach should be so radical. Just go with what works for you!

Change to productive downtime

How about this? Instead of trying to work, being rubbish at it, at feeling guilty because your productivity is low, why not consider taking the time off and using it to Restore yourself, so that when you come back to work, you’re fresh and fast?

I’m not saying use this as an excuse to loll about binge-watching the box set of Game of Thrones (am I the only person in the world who thinks this is rubbish?) but there are times in your life when a good rest for a short period of time is better than a half-hearted productive time for longer.

Be honest: what’s better for your productivity – and don’t just think of today or tomorrow, consider the longer term, too! – because sometimes a short rest is better than a long grind.

Over to you

Tell me, tell me!   What do you do when you aren’t inspired to be productive? How do you keep yourself moving forward?

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