We find ourselves talking about how many tasks we have on our to-do lists more than we work on completing them. These tasks could range from household projects, like organizing a closet or building a shelf. To more active ventures like starting a new fitness plan or creating a new business. Everything from work, school, commuting, errands, and managing a household (kids, pets, plants, bills, etc.). These can all get in the way of the projects we’ve wanted to start and complete, anywhere from weeks up to years. We tell ourselves we will work on it after work or on our days off. But after a busy week, more often than not, we instead spend the little free time we do have relaxing and treating ourselves- not that there’s anything wrong with that.
So why is it important to finally check off things from your to-do list?
One good reason to check off some tasks from your to-do list is that it can help reduce stress. The more you have on your mind, the more stressed out you become. If you think one of the projects you keep pushing off may make your life a little more manageable or possibly even help with additional income, you may mentally beat yourself up for all the times you did have free time to work on it and decided to push it to the side instead.
Another good reason to start up some projects that have been on the back-burner for a while is to clear up some mental energy. Even if it doesn’t seem like a big deal, having too many ideas and unfinished tasks floating around your mind muddles your thoughts and makes it more challenging to focus on the present.
When I started writing this, there was (and currently still is) a worldwide pandemic. Communities around the world started asking citizens to stay home as much as possible. Many people are still at home: bored and looking for things to do. This is the perfect opportunity for many people to work on their unfinished projects. However, when there is no sense of urgency and no short-term deadlines, we are more likely to choose to stay relaxed than work.
Newton’s Law of Inertia relies on movement (or lack thereof) to maintain a consistent momentum. You may have heard the saying, “A body in motion stays in motion. A body at rest stays at rest.” This means it’ll take a bit more drive to motivate someone to break out of their stagnant routines to be more productive. Here are some tips to help you break out of an unproductivity slump.
1) Start Your Day with A Clean Slate
Unless your task involves getting sweaty or dirty and you would rather postpone it for after, a good way to start any day is by taking a shower. Not only is it practicing good personal hygiene, but water is an important element in our lives. Water is the element of flow and change. Water is also how we refresh and recharge ourselves physically and mentally, whether it’s through drinking it or bathing in it. A morning shower helps wake you up, relax tense muscles, open up your pores and sinuses, and, in a sense, resets you to prepare for a new day by symbolically washing away anything that remains of the previous day.
Sticking with the water theme, just as a morning shower will wake up your body, starting your day with at least one large glass of water will help wake up your brain. Most of the time, if you wake up tired, groggy, sore, or with a slight headache (even after a full night’s sleep), you could be dehydrated. If your task isn’t too physically or intellectually challenging, staying hydrated will help with concentration, productivity, and mood.
That’s not to say you can’t follow that water with coffee or juice, but keep in mind that too much caffeine can dehydrate you. Sugar can also affect your hydration, as well as your blood sugar. Too much sugar, especially first thing in the morning, can cause your blood sugar to spike too quickly. This can affect your mood and energy, especially when your blood sugar level begins to drop back down after a few hours, which can cause your momentum to slow down, leading to mid-day drowsiness.
If plain water is too bland, some decaffeinated tea or natural add-ins like mint, honey, or slices of lemon, ginger, and/or cucumber (or a combination of them) can be a refreshing option. All options can be either hot or cold. Some may argue the benefit of the water temperature. Still, whichever way is easier for you to consume water is better than no water. Starting your day off with water before eating will also help you better control food cravings, which will allow you to stay more on task and less likely to slack off.
3) Properly Fuel Yourself
Often, to get started on a task, or we are in a rush, we skip one of the most important meals of the day: breakfast. Part of it may be that we fear we will overindulge and get too full, thus be too tired to work. Another reason could be the habit of rushing and getting used to skipping breakfast. The key, however, is to start with something sensible and light. Just enough to satisfy for a few hours until your next meal.
As previously mentioned, too much sugar can cause quick spikes and drops in your blood pressure, affecting your mood and ability to focus. Regularly indulging in high sugary foods and drinks like doughnuts, syrups, and sodas can cause mid-morning blahs. If your typical breakfast tends to be quick sugary foods, you may notice you manage to get tired within an hour or two of eating. Consider choosing foods with less added sugar or artificial flavors in favor of more fiber (like fruits or whole grains). Or foods higher in protein and healthy fats (eggs, nuts, avocados, etc.).
If you practice intermediate fasting, try to make healthier food choices for your last meal the day/night before to avoid headaches and low energy.
Disclaimer: I am not a doctor. More importantly, I am not YOUR doctor. Always check with your personal healthcare provider before drastically changing your diet or activity levels. Especially if you have any preexisting health conditions.
4) Dress for Success
This may seem obvious if you are working out or going out of the house. But even if your project is at home and doesn’t require a certain dress code, it’s easier to get in the momentum of working if you switch out of your pajamas into something a little more versatile. Remember the old saying, “Dress for the job you want, not the job you have?” Well, dress for the task you want to finish, not for a movie marathon followed by a nap on the couch.
I’m not saying you must dress in your nicest clothes or even put on a bra to assemble furniture in your living room. But, if you are going to go through the trouble of bathing, you might as well change into clean clothes that motivate you to do something more than sleep. Just wear something comfortable, and you wouldn’t mind if it got a little dirty. But also aim for something you would be just as likely to wear outside, like a pair of loose pants, shorts, or a clean shirt.
5) A Plan
For some projects, it’s nice to have a plan before you get started. Ensure you have all the materials you need beforehand, read any necessary instructions, and even delegate jobs for group projects. For example, if a group of 3 people is cleaning the house: one person can do bathrooms, another can do the living room, and the third person can take charge of the kitchen. Each person may also require different cleaning supplies.
If you wish to start a new personal regime, such as getting more fit, it’s easier to stick to it if you have a plan to keep you on track. You’ll need workout clothes and shoes, a meal plan, a workout plan (including pre-workout stretches and cool-down exercises), any equipment you may need access to, and a workout schedule. If you choose to workout outside (such as jogging), it’s best to have a planned route or a backup indoor activity when the weather isn’t ideal.
For changing your eating habits, it’s easier to stick to a healthier diet with prepped meals and a meal plan. You can make a list of food you enjoy that can be included in your diet, as well as planned cheat days so that you can indulge in cravings occasionally. Unplanned cheat days have a way of turning into cheat weeks before falling off the wagon completely. If you are changing your eating habits, you’ll want to keep it to no more than 1 of 2 cheat days a week, especially if you want to see results. As well as following reasonable portion sizes on those cheat days.
The right environment can help you get in the right mindset to complete any task. If you wish to catch up on reading, find a quiet area where others won’t bother you. Find a comfortable enough spot to sit or lie down for a while, but it won’t make you sleepy. In such a case, a comfortable chair might be better than a bed. If you are working on writing your own book, working at a desk with a sturdy chair would be ideal for most. Natural light from a window or even going to a comfortable space outside during the day could also provide more energy than working by artificial light or in a poorly lit space that could be too harsh on the eyes.
Having a clutter-free space will make it easier to concentrate by opening the room’s flow and having less visual clutter. A clean space will also be one less thing to worry about. Even if your project isn’t cleaning-related, consider straightening up your work area a little, if applicable, to clear up any stagnant physical energy in the room. Reorganizing furniture or moving around some decor can also create a shift and rejuvenate the room to give it a breath of fresh air.
Adding some natural elements to your space can also invigorate the space for inspiration. In most cases, having a well-ventilated area (even a little fresh air from opening a window) can keep you staying alert, preventing sluggishness. Involving other natural elements into your space can also help set the right mood and mentality. Indoor plants, candles, a small fountain, a fan, humidifiers, or essential oil diffusers can add an element of freshness to your space to make it more pleasant and inspiring for creative projects.
Some light music or background noise can help some people, while others may prefer a quiet work environment. If your task involves more focus and concentration, instead of your favorite songs with lyrics that can distract you, try experimenting with instrumental music of different sounds and frequencies or different nature sounds and see what works for you.
7) Set a Routine
Not all goals can be completed in one day. If you have a long-term goal such as losing weight, writing a book, or creating a business, it’s going to take time and consistency. Because these take a longer time to see results, many people put off tasks for long-term goals longer due to the lack of instant gratification, especially since most adults have jobs and responsibilities that take up most of their time. Starting by slowly chipping away at your long-term goals goes a lot further than doing nothing at all.
Look at your daily and even weekly routine. See when you can dedicate at least 10 to 20 minutes a day to work on something related to your goal. Do you have 10 minutes during breaks at work to research information about an industry you are interested in? Can you wake up earlier to work out? Or stay up a little later to write? Do you have 1 hour a week to watch a tutorial or two? Regular baby steps will get you one step closer every time.
Overall, you want to make sure to switch it up and try different things to inspire you to get started. It might take time and patience when trying to get more productive. But the best thing is to make sure you keep going. Some projects may take longer than others, but any progress is still progress- as long as you don’t get stuck at repeating the first steps and keep taking them to the next level every so often. If you keep putting things you want to do off for too long, the next thing you know, it will be 5 or even 10 years later, and you are no closer than when you first thought of the goal you want to accomplish. Tomorrow is guaranteed to no one; take advantage of the time you have now.
Let me know in the comments if you found this helpful. Do you have any of your own routines or tricks that help you stay productive? Are there any tasks or goals you used to put off that you eventually completed? Share your experiences with procrastination.