We all know that person who appears hyper productive, but really isn’t. You ask how they’ve been, and they say “Oh, so busy.” At first you take their word for it, but then you realize that you’ve barely ever seen them actually get anything done.
Whether they were a college roommate who spent hours studying every day only to get straight Cs or a “creative” entrepreneur who daydreams about side projects that never seem to materialize, you may wonder how, exactly, these people could be so busy all the time with so little to show for it.
The answer lies in mindset. Psychological research shows that when we point our minds to certain tasks, we process information differently and translate it into action at different rates.
When people feel that their work/life balance is constantly strained — yet they still lack for time — what they are really suffering from is an inappropriate mindset for the tasks they need to get done.
Often, they lie stuck in an “in-between” mode, where they are not actively engaging a task but also lacking the top-down level of thought needed to make progress on strategizing. In other words, they are getting very little done. Yet, they remain stressed as they dwell on what they want to do, but are unable to handle right now.
Instead of giving yourself the mental runaround like this, productivity experts recommend that you focus on the current action you are doing with full mindfulness and presence — regardless of its status as work, socializing or pure relaxation. That mental state can also take on different forms as we switch between different types of tasks.
You can learn more about putting your mind in the right state for productivity by considering the following pointers.
Always Focus Your Mind Completely on the Task at Hand
One of our biggest productivity problems, especially in our media-rich connected society, is that we constantly multitask while allowing our minds to wander. “Jack of all trades, master of none,” becomes the end result as you spend so much time juggling your focus and activities that you rarely get them all accomplished.
Instead, we should put our mind to a task and either complete it or set about a path to completion so that progress can be resumed quickly. Jeremie Kubicek, co-author of 5 Gears and an international leadership consultant, recommends that we block out specific sections of time to get things done. By telling ourselves that we absolutely must complete a task — or make significant progress on it — during this time, we can get tasks we really don’t want to do out of the way with minimal procrastination.
Put Yourself in the Right Mindset for Work/Life Balance
Familiarizing yourself with a mental framework like 5 Gears can also allow you to optimize your mental state to make progress on the task at hand.
Fifth gear, for instance, refers to the “in the zone” type of productivity where time flies by. Fourth gear describes a highly productive, action-oriented multitasking mode where our eye is on the clock. On the other hand, 2nd and 1st gears relate to connecting with people and reconnecting with ourselves, respectively. Giving your mind time to unwind and check in with relationships is a healthy practice that should be given priority during certain parts of the day.
Kubicek also recommends that we think strategically about tasks as you plan for them in the future or make time for them in the present. Asking yourself questions like “Does this task need to be done by me, right now?” or “What is my end goal? Is this task the best way to reach it?” can help you avoid engaging thoughtlessly in tasks and suffering opportunity costs.
Give Yourself Time to Strategize for the Upcoming Day
A final tip from Kubicek asserts that the last 30 minutes of your workday should be a time for decompressing and reflection. In a way, you are celebrating what you have accomplished, but you are also thinking ahead for what you need to get done tomorrow.
By taking this time to strategize our future time, we can hit the ground running the next day rather than warming up slowly and risking a slump.
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