Productivity’s old enemies come clothed in different robes. Decision fatigue, fear, and self-doubt are just the beginning of what holds you back from your greatest potential.
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I read this great article on how low confidence keeps us from progressing
. It was a huge eye opener for me: there is so much more I could be doing if I just stepped out of my thoughts and into action. Action gives way to confidence, which gives way to productivity.
The last month has been filled with translating thoughts into action. It’s been an evolving journey that made me consider all the internal factors that hold us back. Here are a few and how to overcome them.
Indecision: Reduce your choices
My husband and I are picking new colors for our home. His engineering mind pared down our options using color theory. I felt relieved that he was making the decision easier. Instead, he made the decision harder.
He came to me with 11 different shades of tan. I felt overwhelmed by the options – how could I possibly pick between colors that are so similar? Deer. In. Headlights.
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I made my decision in minutes by making the decision binary
. Picking between two items simplified the process and kept my mind moving.
I broke down the choices into small groups. I couldn’t pick one from staring at all 11 simultaneously. I randomly paired two colors at a time so I could pick one over the other in rapid succession.
Solving the parts solves the whole. [Tweet this!]
Analysis paralysis: Hone your self-awareness
Second guessing. Self doubt. Obsessing over a bad situation that has passed. Fixated internal dialogue.
These are painful situations that can waste time and energy. For example, evidence suggests unconfident individuals spend more time fixating on the past instead of moving forward. This is time you can be trying new approaches and energy applied to getting things done.
Don’t let your internal dialogue stop you. The solution is simple (but not easy):
1) Identify harmful thought patterns.
2) Change direction.
If you catch your thoughts, you control your destiny. [Tweet this!] The shortest route is developing self-awareness. Learn how with this epic guide I wrote for Popforms. Long story short, your brain is a muscle that you can train to achieve your highest potential. Try meditating – five minutes a day will amaze you!
Now release that thought into action. If my mind gets hung up on something someone said, I redirect my thought to my number one task for the day and just start doing it. If I freeze up at a blank page, I just start writing anything to get into the flow.
Try catch-and-release self-awareness. You’ll get moving in no time.
Perfectionism: Give yourself a deadline
Scope creep happens when a project keeps growing until it feels like it will never wrap up. Sometimes external forces create mammoth projects, like when a client keeps adding new requirements to a contract. Often it’s internal forces such as perfectionism that drag out a project and mire progress.
“Nothing focuses the mind like a hanging.” – Samuel Johnson
You most likely have a deadline associated with a project. Recommit to that deadline. If you don’t, make one. Write that deadline over your desk. Share that deadline with people you respect. Tell a trusted colleague when your blog post will be done. Ask an accountability parter to check in on milestone days.
Avoiding disappointment is a strong motivator, and killing yourself over impossible perfection will all but slow progress.
Intimidation: Make the next step smaller
Overwhelming projects make us want to escape into time-wasting activities. But as illustrated by reducing my number of paint choices, our brains love easy things. Stuff we can start and finish quickly gives us a dopamine boost – we got something done! It’s no wonder that staring down an overwhelming project makes us want to look the other way.
Tackling a big project is like changing a bad habit: making the smallest step possible gets us moving forward. One foot in front of the other.
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Start a big research project by brainstorming a list of what you already know. Begin tackling your site’s SEO by asking your search engine optimization friend for resources. Start that book by writing non-stop for 30 minutes and see what appears.
We’re looking for something to latch onto at the beginning of a big project – any forward momentum at the start improves productivity and grows confidence.
Mental block: Change the view
The dreaded writer’s block. The missing inspiration. The foggy mind. Forcing the situation will do your productivity (and happiness) more harm than good.
Our output diminishes with the more hours we put in beyond a limit. Treat these moments of mental block as your brain saying it has reached its limit for the moment.
Stand up and shift gears. Step away from that task. Go for a 20-minute walk. Read a book. Get on the phone and check in on a valued business contact. Changing your task–and view–will open the gateway to productivity. [Tweet this!]
What are the mental obstacles to productivity you overcame? How did you do it?