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How to Kick Start Your Productivity at Work

By Mark Wardell @MarkWardell |

Every once in a while, we hit a productivity roadblock. Why does this happen? Because we're human. We simply don't feel the same level of motivation every single day. If you're the boss (i.e. the one setting the rules) there's nobody there to push you forward. So, for those days (or weeks) when you need a kick start, try this approach to boosting your productivity.

  • Give yourself a deadline. For most of us, a deadline is a driver. So, give yourself a deadline and make it an exact deadline. Don't allow yourself to go over it, not even by one second. It may sound overly simplistic, but sometimes this little internal push is all you need to get the job done.
  • Face your fears. If fear is holding you back, I find the best way to face the task you're avoiding is to imagine the worse case scenario. What is the worst thing that can happen if you tackle whatever it is you're avoiding. Often you'll find out that your worse case scenario is not too bad and that you have been internally exaggerating the reason for avoiding the task. Helping yourself develop a more realistic perspective can often reduce your fears to a manageable level.
  • Involve Others: You can increase the pressure you put on yourself to confront your fear by involving other people. Tell your plans to people who will hold you accountable for your actions.
  • Put it in Writing: When you put something in writing, it feels more like a commitment. To increase the power of this weapon, you can give it to someone else to hold on to. Make sure that you date it and sign it.
  • Eliminating Negative Self-Talk: "Negative self-talk" is the internal dialogue that goes on inside your head, telling you that you can't do something and showing you pictures of your imminent failure. In order to help yourself to eliminate negative self-talk, it's important to understand that your mind can only think in "positive" terms.

    In my previous life as a gymnastics coach, I would often use the following illustration when explaining this to my athletes. First I told them, "I don't want you to think about pink elephants for the next 20 seconds. Whatever you do, do not think about pink elephants." Then, when the 20 seconds were up, I'd ask them what they were thinking about. Their answer wasalways the same. "Pink elephants." Why? Because the mind can't focus on a negative, it can only focus on a positive. The results would have been exactly the same if I had told them to think about pink elephants for 20 seconds. The only way to eliminate the thought of the pink elephants would have been to replace it with another thought. For example, green elephants. So, the way to eliminate negative self-talk is to replace it with positive self-talk. Tell yourself that you can do it. Fill your mind with your strategies and your plans. Focus your mind on your task, and you will take your mind off of your fears.
  • Long Term, Positive Reinforcement: Imagine and mentally enjoy the achievements you will accomplish once you push through to that next project. Allow the inspiration of your goals to take your mind off your fears and to motivate you into action.
  • Immediate, Positive Reinforcement: Offer yourself a small reward for confronting your fears. A walk in the park, an extended lunch break, a small gift ... anything that will make you feel good. Just make sure that you don't give it to yourself until you complete your task.
  • Long Term Negative Reinforcement: Imagine your life as it will be if you never confront your fears; if you allow your fears to stop you every time they get in the way. If this paints a more unpleasant picture than your immediate fears, you will be motivated into action.
  • Immediate Negative Reinforcement: Give yourself a more unpleasant alternative to not confronting your fears. i.e. "If I don't meet with Joe by 1:00 p.m. today, I'll have to work through the whole weekend and I'll still have to meet with him on Monday." Keep in mind that this will only work if you are fully prepared to follow through. If you don't meet with Joe then you had better work through the weekend. If you decide to give yourself a break then there was no point making the deal with yourself in the first place. You can't fool yourself, so don't even try.
  • Combine your strategies: Once you've started using these different strategies, try combining them together. For example, write down your goal along with deadline for action and give it to someone you respect who will hold you accountable. Then reward yourself is you get the job done.

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