Everyone has had those dreaded slumps in productivity, where they waste away their days doing useless and pointless tasks just to avoid getting down to the real work. So, to try and counter this sudden slump in work ethic many people try to create a schedule that they will stick to, in order to organise their time and prioritise their tasks. The aim of this is obviously to increase productivity and eliminate those useless procrastinating exercises they carry out. However, a week later they are back to their unproductive selves, unable to stick to their schedule with any real authority. This isn't because they, or you, are bad and lazy people, it's just because many people don't create their time management schedules correctly and make a few vital mistakes. This article aims to fix that and enable you all to create a schedule that you can stick to with a few simple pointers.
Remember To Take Breaks
This is a really simply mistake to make, and one I myself wrestled with for years. When creating your schedule people feel inclined to schedule every single minute of the day with work related tasks. This is a major mistake to make and one of the main reasons that so few people can stick it with their schedules. To illustrate, below is a simplified bullet point list of what one of my old schedules would look like:
- 5am - 10am - Work
- 10am - 12pm - Research, read, and write
- 12pm - 3pm - Play poker
- 3pm - 6pm - Other business things
That was my day of productivity. Take a guess at how long I stuck to that? Okay I'll tell you, zero days. That sort of schedule is impossible to stick to because there are no breaks. During that schedule I was expecting myself to work for 13 hours straight every day! It was just never going to happen. Simple as that.
Instead, we must factor breaks into our daily schedules. For example, between getting back from work at 10am I should have added in a break, then another one at 12pm, again at 3pm. The human mind just can't concentrate and remain productive for that length of time without having a rest. I mean, what about when you want a coffee? Or need the toilet? Or you realise you haven't eaten all day?
Feel free to schedule your breaks however you see fit, whether it be many short 15 minute ones or a whole hour in the middle of the day, it's completely up to you. Just as long as you take a break and don't burn yourself out!
Remember To Account For Setting Up Time
This sort of goes hand in hand with the need for breaks in your schedule. You need to remember that certain things require setting up times, and you shouldn't be discouraged when you fall behind schedule. These certain tasks may require you to get comfortable with a coffee, for example, research into an article. Or some may require your laptop to be set up, others (such as working out) require you to go and get changed. This should all be factored into your schedule. Say you have allocated 9am until 11am to write, and then you're going to the gym at 11am for an hour workout. When creating the schedule you must remember that you have to go and get changed for the gym, and then you need to get there and get back and get changed again, it all needs to be accounted for.
Don't Be Too Strict
Remember, a schedule isn't designed to make every second of your life productive, it's designed to stop you from being completely unproductive. If you don't meet a required goal because of unforeseen circumstances, don't beat yourself up about it, it's not the end of the world! In the same vein of things, if you're writing or doing whatever and you're fully in the zone and being super productive, don't feel like you have to stop as soon as your 'allotted time' is up and get on to the next task. Read the first sentence of this paragraph again right now. If you're in the zone and being mega productive, keep going! A schedule isn't necessarily there to order every second of your day, it's there to keep you on track and stop you wasting time and feeling guilty about it.
The same goes for if you really aren't feeling something. You are scheduled to go to the gym but you've injured your leg? Don't force yourself to go, do something else instead. Basically, if you want to do something productive, but it isn't 'scheduled in', just do it! The schedule doesn't rule you, it's just there to guide you when you're a bit lost. You can't waste that precious motivation just because the schedule says you should be doing something else.
I give you full permission, however, to beat yourself up if you ignore the schedule because you really want to watch daytime television.
All Work And No Play Makes Jack Sack Off His Schedule
Not much to say about this really, if you schedule every hour of your life then you leave no time for living. That doesn't sound much fun does it? It is also the fast track way to make you stop sticking to your schedule. You have to remember that under all that work you should do that you actually have a life to live. Make sure to make time for fun things, if you've had a really productive morning and one of your friends asks you to go for a walk, don't say
"Ahh sorry pal, I'd really love to but my schedule says I have to go to the toilet right in the middle of the walk, and I asked my schedule, and it says there's no toilet en-route, maybe another time yeah?"
Okay, maybe a bit of an extreme example but you get the point right?
Stick To It For Five Days
After five days of sticking to your schedule and getting out of your slump, the habit will start to take over and you will be back on top form productivity-wise. You'll find yourself not having to check the schedule, and not having to force yourself into doing things. It will start to come naturally to you. This goes for all habits really, like if you want to start getting up early, force yourself to do it for five days and after that it begins to feel a bit more natural.
Don't Try To Change Everything At Once
This is another fatal mistake. Say you tend to wake up around 10am. Firstly, you lucky devil! Secondly, when creating your schedule don't start it at 9am, please don't. I have seen so many people fail because of this because they're not only trying to stick to a new schedule, but in addition they have to force themselves to get up earlier. Take it one step at a time and, once your schedule feels more natural to you then you can try to wake up a bit earlier (only if you actually want to change that is). It goes without saying that the same applies for bed times, meal times and other generally consistent things.
There are many ways to become more productive during a slump in motivation, and creating a schedule is just one of them. What you need is inspiration and direction. Direction comes from the schedule that you create. Inspiration is different, you're not going to get that from an Excel spreadsheet telling you what time to eat your breakfast. For inspiration you need to do things you enjoy, like reading something that interests you (don't worry if it's not scheduled in, you can read fast anyway), or just thinking about new ways to do things. Really using your brain by thinking and generating ideas is a good way for inspiration to build momentum, as one idea breeds another, which couples with another and so forth. Just remember:
Direction + Inspiration = Productivity
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