How to be more productive…the no BS way.
Do you find yourself asking why you cannot do as much in a day or in a week as you would like to? No matter how much you try to motivate yourself, you cannot seem to increase your productivity?
The answer lies not in buying a new planner, getting up at 5am or yelling at yourself. The answer lies in focusing on self-care.
Let’s get real here: you cannot get out of yourself what you do not put in.
Productivity is your output: what you get done, what you produce, what you create, what you do in your day. Your output. I say output because we are all basically machines. We have output, we have input and we need maintenance.
Without remembering these things, the output is going to be a problem. You can’t work properly without proper care. You wouldn’t expect your car to keep running continually without an MOT or a service or an oil change or, at the very least, some fuel. You would know that your car was going to break down, stop working for you, start showing warning lights, something would fall off – you know that’s going to happen if you don’t take care of your car. The same goes for all the appliances in your house. You get your boiler regularly serviced, you keep an eye on your appliances, you know that after a certain amount of time, if they don’t have any maintenance, they’re probably going to need to be replaced … we know this. This is how machinery works.
We forget it when it applies to us. Your output is dependent upon your input and the maintenance you do for yourself. Without those, we cannot create more or better productivity. It just can’t be done.
If you were a machine, what would it say in your operating manual?
Is there a particular form of exercise that you know is going to make you feel better? Do you need time by yourself, peace and quiet and a bit of headspace? Do you get stressed when you don’t see people enough? What kind of rest do you need: a full night’s sleep every night, a good lie-in at the weekends, a cat nap in the day? Do you need regular sex – with or without anybody else involved? That is one of our needs, and if that need isn’t being met, we are a stress ball of irritability and a general pain in the arse to be around. These are the things that need to be in the operating manual that we keep in our heads or that we write down somewhere.
If thinking about what you actually need is new to you, write it down. I have a list of my needs written down, some that are basic and some that are unique to me, and I need those things to happen or for those needs to be met or for me to do those things if I am going to perform at my best. What is your manual and what do you personally need?
The next step is understanding your processes.
It is not just about what puts you in the best position to perform, it is also about when can you perform at your best? Are you a morning person? Do you work best in the evenings? If you have something really hard to do, is it best to do it in private, in peace, or do you find it best to do really hard things when you have somebody with you? It is really important that you understand your personal processes and then work with them. Rather than booking meetings for the mornings if you know that’s your most productive time, make sure that’s the time you set aside to do the really hard stuff. Then have the meetings at three o’clock in the afternoon when you’re in a bit of a slump, because we don’t need to be at our best for just talking to people. Or maybe that’s not true for you: maybe you are an introvert and talking to people is the hardest part of your day, in which case do you need to schedule that for the time when you are at your optimum?
Finally let’s talk about forgiving ourselves.
We all have unique needs; we all have our own operating manual and our own processes. So often, we get tangled up because we feel bad about those realities. If you are a person who doesn’t really get going until eleven o’clock in the morning, there is no point spending your life feeling guilty for not being one of those up-at-seven-and-out-the-door kind of people. Just forgive yourself! You are you. It’s fine. It’s totally acceptable. Rather than spending days thinking, I must be better at this, I must get up earlier, I must be better in the mornings … you just need to set up your day so that you can be productive at a time that works for you. The biggest barrier to having a productive day and a working pattern that really works for us is our guilt and our self-loathing and the stories we tell ourselves about what we should be able to do. Forgive yourself for being you. Don’t expect your machine to work without maintenance. Look after yourself and prioritise yourself.
Remember, there is no magic formula for making an exhausted person productive. You have got to stop and take a reset. You are not lazy. You are not crap. Stop with those stories. You do, however, need to take responsibility for your machine. It turns out that the answer to being more productive is to look after yourself. You will be amazed at what you can achieve and how much more you can get done when you are actually looking after your machine.
Helen Calvert is The No Bullsh*t Coach who has been running the successful business support agency Clear Day since 2018. A divorced mum of two boys, Helen has twenty years of experience in admin and organisation, and also knows well the personal challenges of anxiety, family health problems and just trying to get it all done! She qualified as a life coach via The MOE Foundation in 2020 and her passion is in helping business owners to treat themselves with excessive kindness as the best strategy for gaining confidence and making progress. You can follow her podcast – The No Bullsh*t Guide To A Happier Life – and connect with Helen on Instagram; Twitter; LinkedIn; and Facebook. Helen is also found on her website, clear-day.co.uk