Productivity & the Habit of Reacting
Updated: May 3, 2020
Lately I have been thinking about the topic of productivity. I am in the process of starting my own business, and with that added to other responsibilities, my days seem to fly by. Because I am my own boss, I am solely accountable for making sure I keep progressing forward on projects and tasks. Fortunately, I am driven and am a self-starter. Some days are more challenging than others, of course, hence why time management is top of mind for me. I have to keep it at the forefront of my awareness, otherwise I risk letting the days sneak by without making progress towards my goals.
Our daily lives are filled with many distractions. Information is constantly pointed towards us, and it’s a competition of what/who gets our attention. Mobile devices are a significant contributing factor to this battle for our attention. On the one hand, mobile devices can be an excellent productivity tool, allowing us to be quite efficient with connecting to our networks of people, answering emails, and staying on top of news. Meanwhile, it can also be productivity’s worst enemy, creating constant distractions throughout the day.
One of the most important lessons related to productivity that I have learned as an adult, is that I control my day. I am 100% accountable for how I use my time. I know those of you with jobs and bosses that require you to be in certain places at certain times may respond to that with “not me” - but hear me out.
First – how many of you make daily to-do lists and schedule your days?
Second – how many of you stick to that plan and accomplish the majority of what you set out to each day?
My guess is that many of you answer yes to the first question, and answer no to the second question. Applause to those of you that answer yes to both – you can probably stop reading now. ☺ If you don’t keep track of your to-do lists and schedule your days at all, that’s a whole other article for a different day my friend!
Throughout our days, it can be tricky to not let distractions pull us in directions that are different than what we set out to do that day. Those of you with bosses and jobs that require you to be at your job for certain periods of your day, it’s understood you have to be there to keep your job, but even once you are there, you are accountable for how you spend that time in that space, and by being mindful of how you spend that time, you can increase your productivity tremendously.
When we are young, most of us are trained to REACT and pay attention to anything that figures of authority ask of us. It’s considered rude and impolite to ignore our parents, teachers, and other adult figures address us. This is behavior that we learn as children, and can be a difficult habit to break from as adults.
As adults, we actually have a choice on the who/what/when we react. We do not have to answer the phone every time it rings. We do not need to respond to emails or texts the minute they come through.
Interruptions throughout our day can really add up. Not only does it eat into the time we had anticipated working on another task, but simply the break in concentration and flow on a specific task can result in it taking much longer to complete that task or project. Our brains are not wired to operate effectively with constant interruptions.
Emergencies are going to happen. That is a reality of life as human beings, and especially if you are a parent or a caregiver of any type. This is understood. Yet there is much that is within our control in terms of how we respond to people or things that are grasping for our attention.
A couple of basic rules of thumb that allow me to be very purposeful and intentional about how I spend my time:
I do not answer the phone. Ever. Unless I am expecting a call and/or it’s obvious to me that it could be a true emergency (i.e. our home security company calling me means our alarm got triggered). Any other calls can go to voicemail, and then I control when it makes sense for me to respond, depending on the situation. This is a non-negotiable for me. If I didn’t manage my phone this way, I would never get anything done, and almost more importantly, I would never have time to NOT do anything (yes, I schedule SELF-CARE and time to unwind, which is super important and also another article in and of itself).
I schedule time to respond to emails. I do not respond throughout the day, as things hit my inbox. When I do this varies depending on other priorities. Some productivity experts recommend you NOT do this in the morning, and use the morning hours for projects when our brains are fresh and most creative, but I am realistic. I see it as a positive if you just concentrate this task to one or two times of the day vs. throughout the day.
The key take-away from this is: REACTING to stimuli as it comes to us takes away your power. By answering the phone each time it rings or responding to an email or text every time it comes through, you are giving up your power of managing your day to someone else. You set out each day to accomplish something and be productive. You get to decide where things fall in the priority of your life and your days, and that goes beyond phone calls and emails. You get to decide if reading with your child for 30 minutes each night is important, or whatever ranks high on your list of importance. By being purposeful, intentional, and MINDFUL throughout your day on managing the minutia of life, you have a greater chance of making sure you still have that time for the truly important stuff.
Have a healthy & mindful week!