I’ll admit, I was initially surprised when I read about the connection between having confidence in myself and being productive. The more I thought about it, though, the more it made sense. I feel the best about myself when I chip away at my to-do list like a professional ice sculptor, and I’m that much closer to a goal or two. When I’m feeling like my best lady-boss self, my posture is better, my smile is brighter and I have that proverbial bounce in my step.
The opposite is true too— on those days when the most productive thing I do is put on pants, I don’t feel very confident about anything. That sluggish, can’t-do-anything feeling weighs down on me, making simple tasks feel like the New York Times crossword puzzle on Saturday. In order to keep you productive and feeling confident, I’ve compiled a list of 10 habits that keep me moving on my productive days and that help me get through my not-so-productive ones as well. I hope they help! If there are any tips that keep you groovin’ please share them in the comment section!
1. Set up a game plan for the day
I love mornings because anything is possible. Take advantage of that possibility and schedule your day accordingly. Do your heavy thinking, or the tasks that require the most from you, when your mind is “on.” For some people— myself included— that’s the morning. Others ease into the day and really hit their stride in the afternoon or evening. Find what works for you and block off that time. I find that if I keep myself off social media and other distracting sites first thing in the morning, I generally get more done. I’m able to put my curiosity and effort into my research and articles instead of falling down the click-bait holes.
2. Break down your goals into manageable tasks
Take a look at your goals or your tasks— are there any that can be broken up into smaller pieces? It’s overwhelming to know that you need to complete a major project by the end of the month, but probably less overwhelming to think that this major project is made up of many smaller tasks. Breaking a project down into manageable pieces makes it easier to cross them off your list and before you know it, you’re turning in your project and opening the champagne!
3. Stick with one item on your to-do list at a time
I’ve found that jumping from task to task without completing anything just leaves me frazzled and my to-do list just as full. Sticking to a task, however, let’s me cross it off my list and gets me closer to my goal. Being able to focus on what’s important and prioritize has definitely helped me get better at this.
4. Write it down so you don’t forget it
Of course there are days where I can’t focus on anything, much less one task. When this happens, I make sure to be extra detailed about writing down my tasks and my to-do’s to tackle when I’m back on the productivity train.
5. Tidy up
I’m not telling you to have a spotless desk or home because we all know what works for us. Clearing out papers you don’t need anymore, emptying the trash, and re-stacking your piles helps clear any lingering mental fog, and it gets your space ready for you. At the very least, it’s taking an action when you very much don’t feel like doing anything.
6. Do not reach for your phone
Don’t do it. There are some studies out there that say people check their phones 85-150 times a day, spending 5+ hours scrolling, tapping, and gaming. I find myself reaching for my phone when I want to be distracted because I’m uncomfortable. Maybe I’m stuck trying to write a tough article, checking my phone is easier than working through the stuck. If there aren’t any notifications, fine… I’ll look through Instagram. If there are, then my brain switches track and I dive into that. When that happens, it’s twice as hard for me to get back to the task at hand. Unless you’re waiting for a very important call or text, try your best to keep your phone out of sight while you work.
7. Challenge yourself to “5 more minutes” of work
I find myself doing this towards the end of the day, when all I want to do is stare into space or hide under my desk. I’ve found that if I keep my head down for 5 more minutes, I can complete one more task. That’s one less thing I have to do the next day! When my brain feels like it’s about to fall out of my ears, I’ll try to spend the final 5 minutes making notes on whatever I’m writing about, so I know where to pick up the next day. Pro Tip: Explain your notes to yourself. You may not remember what you meant when you scribbled, circles. It would be a shame to miss a great piece because you thought you would remember.
8. Visualize yourself completing the task
When we’re bogged down in the details, it can seem like we’re never going to accomplish our goal and that sucks. Take a second to remember what you’re working towards. Think about how great it’s going to feel when your article is accepted, when you cross that finish line, when you play Hedwig’s Theme for your family at Christmas… That should help keep you moving!
9. Take a stretch break
Talk about keeping you moving, get up and move your body! Whether you’re being productive or not so much, it’s good to get up and stretch to keep blood flowing. It keeps your mind from getting sleepy and gives you a chance to step away from the computer— your eyes and back will appreciate it.
10. Pump Up the Jams (or Podcast)
When you’re feeling good, every song is your walk-up song. When you’re feeling a little more like you’re not sure you’ll ever work again, the right song can get you moving. Listening to songs that help you create, or podcasts that inspire you will help you blow through your to-do list in a blaze of glory. They can also re-inspire you if you’ve lost momentum or are at a crossroads.
I've found that not only are productivity and confidence related, but it's a cycle. The more confident I feel about my abilities, the more productive I am in my work.