‘Where have you been?’ Mr Smaggle asked as I walked in the door.
‘The gym! I go every morning, where else would I be?’ I replied.
‘Oh, I just thought I heard you pull up outside 20 minutes ago and I was wondering why you didn’t come straight inside.’ He shrugged.
‘I did come straight inside!’ I said. Then I looked at my watch and realised what he said was true. I’d been sitting in the car for 20 minutes.
I’d like to clarify two things about this story before I continue.
1. Mr Smaggle wasn’t questioning me or trying to catch me out in a lie, he just thought it was amusing that I sat in the car for 20 minutes when I got home.
2. I had no idea I was doing this.
For some strange reason I get home from the gym at about 7.40am and I just sit in the car fiddling around on my phone. Which isn’t an issue in itself, sometimes it’s totally fine to just scroll through Facebook and take a bit of a break but the fact that I had NO IDEA I WAS DOING IT was completely terrifying. It was something I needed to add to my list of habits to break in 2018.
I always think that February is the true start of the year and that January is just a rehearsal. No one is really focussed properly in January and you need to wait for everyone to catch up and get on board. Now it’s officially February I thought I’d put together a list of productivity tips for 2018. Even if they just trigger you to review some behaviours (like sitting in your car for 20 minutes for no reason every morning!) so you can have a super productive 2018.
1. Focus on happiness
I recently listened to a TED talk by Sean Achor about happiness in the workplace and I loved this quote from him.
“Ninety percent of your long-term happiness is not predicted by the external world but by the way your brain processes the world. If we change our formula for happiness and success, we can change the way we affect reality. Only 25% of job success is predicted by IQ. Seventy-five perfect of job successes are predicted by your optimism levels, your social support, and your ability to see stress as a challenge instead of a threat.”
They have higher levels of morale, are generally in better physical health than pessimists and in sales roles, they’re more likely to close a deal than a pessimist. I can’t remember all the details (don’t you hate that?) but I saw a doco about an insurance company that did extensive research on their salespeople and found that consistently since 1985, optimists outsold pessimists at work and that the top 10% of salespeople in the company also had the highest life satisfaction levels. Personally, if I’m hitting my health goals, working with inspiring clients and hitting every day with a positive attitude, it makes such a difference. To be fair in some circumstances pessimism can prevent people from making costly mistakes or making bad hiring decisions but all in all, an optimistic attitude has been proven to help you thrive at work and in your personal life.
2. Use a combination of Self Control and Forest Apps to block yourself out of social media
At the moment I’m using a combination of Self Control and Forest apps to keep myself on task. Self Control is a desktop app that blocks you from accessing websites of your choice. I have Facebook and my email blocked so I can set a timer for 60 minutes and not be distracted while I’m writing articles. I also use Forest app, which is a phone app that keeps your phone occupied by ‘planting’ a tree for your virtual forest. If you exit the app before the allocated time, your tree dies and you get a dead tree in your forest. I tried Forest before and I didn’t care about it so it didn’t work but for some weird reason I started using again and I REALLY care about my forest. I have to clock a certain amount of hours to upgrade and earn different kinds of trees and I’ve weirdly become very serious about. I know you can block out apps on Android phones but Apple doesn’t allow this, so my little combo makes a solid firewall between me and my favourite distracting apps. Highly recommended if you’re the type of person that logs out of Facebook on your computer, only to immediately pick up your phone.
3. Start an accountability log
This is something I thought of when starting my F45 challenge and everyone was talking about food diaries and how research shows that people are more inclined to eat better if they have to record what it is that they’re eating. I figured this would work just as well if you had to account for the time that you spend.
Get a piece of paper and draw a line down the middle, with Time written at the top of one column and Activity written at the top of the other and you’re simply going to write down what it was that you achieved each hour or two throughout the day. This is an amazing way to figure out where you ‘lose’ time. So if your Achilles’ heel of productivity is flopping on the couch at the end of the day and spending an hour on Facebook, you’ll have to write it down and acknowledge that you did it. I googled this last week and it turns out it’s already a thing (don’t you hate it when you have an amazing idea and realise you didn’t invent it?) and I used it to figure out that I sit in the car for about 20 minutes every morning when I get back from the gym. I’m on Facebook answering messages and that kind of thing, but because I’m so disciplined with Facebook during the work day and I log off at night, I was grabbing this little pocket of time and gorging on Facebook instead of starting my day and I didn’t even realise I was doing it. Give this a go if you have no idea where your days go.
4. Take advantage of The Zeigarnik Effect
I only just learned about this but it’s just the biggest truth bomb ever. It’s been proven in the psychology community that people remember unfinished task much more easily than tasks they haven’t started. So really the best thing you can do is start a task if you’re worried you’re going to forget to finish it. If you need to remember to fill out your kid’s excursion form, take it out their bag and write their name on the top, then leave it on the bench when you have time later. The fact that you started doing it will be enough to jog your memory to complete it later. This works with everything – lengthy job applications, cleaning out epic closets you haven’t touched in years. By starting the task you open that memory box in your brain and you’ll keep thinking of that task over other tasks which increases your likelihood to complete that task.
5. Associate a task with an unrelated task
About four times a year I sleep strangely on my neck and can’t turn my head for a week. A remedial massage therapist said my head is down far too much looking at my phone, my computer and crocheting, so I had to do a short series of neck exercises several times a day to remedy it. I knew I wouldn’t remember to do them so Mr Smaggle told me about this theory of relating a thing to something totally random so you always remember to do that thing. He said ‘Whenever you wash your hands, you’ll think of the exercises and do them’. And I did, and I still do. Whenever I wash my hands, I generally think about doing my neck exercises and when I have a spare moment, I do them in the bathroom. If you want to get into goo daily habits but you keep forgetting to do the thing you want to do, tie that action to something unrelated. If you want to remember to text your friend every day who’s having a rough time, tell yourself ‘When you get to work in the morning, sit in your car for an extra 2 minutes and text your friend.’ That way when you park your car, you’ll have an inkling you were supposed to do something.
If productivity tips are your bag, you’re in luck because that’s the theme of the first episode of Straight & Curly of 2018. Kelly and I are dishing up our most recent productivity tip discoveries, YOU’RE WELCOME!