Let’s talk about a few small changes we can make to create a more productive tomorrow.
Small changes today can result in a more productive tomorrow
As I’m recording this we in the northern hemisphere are wrapping up the school year and moving into the summer months. It feels like a time to look at my life and think about what I want to do with the coming months. I started thinking about a few small changes we can make in our daily lives to set us up for even more productivity in the days and weeks to come.
One: Corral your tasks
When we want to make good use of our time and get things done, it’s crucial that we think ahead rather than simply reacting to what comes. A couple of things I encourage you to try for the next week or two:
Spend 10 minutes at the end of the day to put on paper the things you need or want to accomplish tomorrow.
Try limiting your list to 3 things that must get done–your MITs (Most Important Tasks) for the day. These are the tasks that will make the day a good one if you get them done. If possible, make one of them something for you. Maybe have a second section of the list where you put other tasks that you will get to if you can.
Pick one task each day to delegate.
Delegate to your spouse, to kid(s), to colleagues, to an assistant if you have one.
If you’re thinking the only way to get it done right is to do it yourself, ask yourself if that’s really the truth. It might be that the way to get it done the way you want it you’d need to do it yourself, but for most tasks there’s more than one way to get it done, and relinquishing micromanagement might just buy you both some time and some peace.
I’ve seen a lot of posts and videos recently from women talking about how overwhelmed they are with managing all the things and expressing frustration or resentment because their partner isn’t doing his fair share (it’s always a male partner in these discussions). If you are feeling that way I want to gently encourage you to begin to unload some of the tasks that someone else can do. I hear you saying they won’t do it right or won’t do it when I want it done. I invite you to let go of that. Better to let the task go undone than to let it be a source of resentment and conflict.
Keep it simple.
We’ve discussed in recent episodes various tools to help us with managing the things we need to do. Choose one and work with it, but maybe for this week focus on cultivating this one simple habit with a to-do list pad or a simple piece of paper.
Two: Cultivate Mindfulness
According to an article in Psychology Today, “Mindfulness is the practice of observing, discovering, and letting things be as they are.” The article also notes that “mindfulness meditation is essentially dropping everything to just notice what is already here.” It is the opposite of–and maybe the antidote to–mindless busyness.
“It is an underused form of intelligence that can promote psychological freedom instead of the automatic productivity and burnout we’ve often promoted instead. After all, what’s the point of productivity if we’re not present and intentional in our being, and don’t live with sufficient simplicity, ease, joy, and patience? Also what’s the true quality of our productivity or non-stop doing if we rarely rest? Resting actually can enhance creativity and productivity.”
Valeri Hall Little, a leadership coach, defines mindfulness as “paying attention on purpose” and says, “When you’re mindful, you’re fully present in the moment, rather than dwelling on the past or fretting about the future.”
Another writer, in a post on the Zapier blog, says, “In essence, mindfulness is the practice of being especially conscious or aware of what’s happening in the current moment.”
There’s plenty of research on the correlation between mindfulness and productivity.
According to an article in the business journal Inc., “Components like rational thinking, decision making, employee engagement, and creativity all impact efficiency when completing tasks. And there’s plenty of research to prove how mindfulness can improve all of these components.”
The article goes on to say cite “Research from INSEAD Business School found that doing just 15 minutes of mindfulness-based meditation such as concentrating on breathing can lead to more rational thinking when making business decisions. The study investigated the effects of mindfulness on a phenomenon known as sunk-cost bias. Sunk-cost bias occurs when you’ve invested so much into a hopeless project, you can’t bring yourself to stop for fear of losing all that was invested. . . . The study found that mindfulness reduces the tendency to allow prior unrecoverable costs to influence future business decisions.”
Although this article is talking specifically about business decisions, but the same would be true of decisions about relationships, investments, household matters, career, and more.
This same article also talks about research showing that mindful people are more creative, and that mindfulness can foster empathy (leading to better teamwork)
Another article cites other research that “has documented the success of mindfulness in a wide range of practical applications, from mental health treatments like PTSD recovery to helping us have a more positive self-perception.” The writer also mentions a 2005 study that showed that meditation can increase brain density in the prefrontal cortex and others that have shown mindfulness training might improve memory and decision-making.
Leadership coach Valeri Hall Little, in the LinkedIn post I mentioned earlier, says, “Working mindfully heightens your focus and leads you directly into flow, that powerful state of complete connection to your brilliance as you are fully immersed in an activity.”
Mindfulness practices to try:
- Meditation exercises. This isn’t a religious exercise, but a few minutes of quiet presence.
- Get comfortable
- Scan your body for tension, starting at the top of your head and working your way down.
- Notice thoughts, then let them go.
- Single-tasking – doing one thing, and only one thing at a time
How often do we experience our body doing one thing while our mind is somewhere else? Driving home from work and realize we barely remember the trip. Working at our desk or in the house while listening to a podcast or audiobook, and have to rewind because we missed the last 10 minutes?
Practice doing only one thing, and focusing our attention on that one thing. Whether it’s folding clothes or answering emails or drafting a report.
Tips on how to begin incorporating mindfulness practices into daily life.
- Set a timer for every 55 minutes to remind you to pause, even briefly, notice what you’re doing, what you’re thinking, what you’re feeling.
- Tack mindfulness practices onto other things that happen in your day or another habit you already have well established.
- 30 seconds of deep breathing when you hang up from a phone call (before you move on to the next thing)
- Mindfulness practice while you wait for your coffee or tea to brew or the pasta water to boil
- 30 – 60 seconds of stretching and mindfulness when you first wake up, before you pick up your phone
- Take a walk outside without your phone or earbuds and pay attention to the sounds, sights, and smells around you.
Three: Cultivate a Growth Mindset
According to a Psychology Today blog post: “A growth mindset is simply the belief that our basic abilities can be developed and improved through dedication and hard work.”
The opposite is a fixed mindset: a belief that we’re born and raised with an innate set of skills and abilities.
Why does it matter? The Psychology Today blog summarizes it well:
“If we have a “fixed mindset,” we may shy away from challenges because we do not want to feel embarrassed or humiliated in front of others—who does, right?! But this can be problematic because our fear of making mistakes can lead us to avoid challenges and new experiences—experiences that would help us grow, improve ourselves in important ways, and create the life we desire.
If we have a “growth mindset,” we enjoy challenges, despite the risk, usually because we value learning and growth more than others thinking we know what we’re doing. And because we’re always trying new things, we often don’t know what we’re doing. Still, those of us with a growth mindset often build new skills and manifest something more easily because we believe we can and so we really work at it.”
Carol Dweck, Ph.D., has written a book called Mindset about this that’s the most often cited resource–well worth reading.
Ways to develop a growth mindset.
The Psychology Today post I mentioned above identifies 15 ways to develop a growth mindset. Check it out. Their list includes:
- Acknowledge and embrace imperfection.
- Pay attention to your words and thoughts. “Replace negative thoughts with more positive ones to build a growth mindset. Replace judgment with acceptance, hate with compassion. If you are disrespecting yourself or lowering your ethical standards, the outcome of your decisions and their consequences will reflect that. Intend to think higher thoughts and hold yourself to them.”
- Stop seeking approval from others. “Approval from others can often prevent a growth mindset. Cultivate self-acceptance and self-approval. Learn to trust yourself. You are the only person who will always be there for you in your life so you are the only one you need to impress.”
- Value the process over the end result. Mistakes, even failures, happen. They don’t define you. They’re just evidence that you’re trying new things.
I had a lot of other thoughts and ideas of things we can change to make tomorrow more productive, but I decided to take my own advice and limit our focus for now. If we take steps in each of the three areas I’ve talked about–corralling our tasks, practicing mindfulness, and cultivating a growth mindset–we will make progress in our productivity.
What do you think?
Do any of these resonate with you as something you’d like to try? Post your thoughts and suggestions in the comments section below or in The Productive Woman Community Facebook group, or email me.
Resources and Links
- Mindset: The New Psychology of Sucess, by Carol Dweck
- Instructional Coaching – PowerMyLearning
- Growth Mindset: What it is, and how to cultivate one | Academic Success Center | Oregon State University
- 15 Ways to Build a Growth Mindset | Psychology Today
- The Relationship Between Mindfulness and Productivity
- How to use mindfulness to be more productive | Zapier
- (25) The connection between mindfulness and productivity | LinkedIn
- Reexamining Productivity with Mindfulness | Psychology Today
- Can Mindfulness Improve Your Productivity? | Inc.com
- How to Prioritize Workplace Tasks (With 5 Steps and Tips) | Indeed.com
- How to prioritize tasks when everything’s important
- Prioritizing Tasks and Managing Time for Greater Productivity | Pluralsight
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