Un-hacking productivity | In two simple steps

I don’t know about you, but Friday afternoon is a bad time for my productivity. It’s the end of the week. I’m tired. I’m grumpy. Clients have yelled at me and sent nasty emails. Others have sent me flowers. It’s an emotional roller coaster and I’m usually stuck trying to find some gratitude and presence in between it all.

On Friday afternoon.. I hate myself a bit. I feel like a useless sack of shit, sitting at a desk, clicking between tabs, trying to get my head on straight and remember where I even put my to do list.

Saturday morning always comes around though.. because Scarlett O’Hara was right, tomorrow is another day.

I’m up every Saturday at 6.30am to get myself to my favourite activity for the week – 1.5 hours of Vinyasa Yoga. I head to my favourite cafe and just down the road and after an incredibly millennial breakfast of smashed avocado on toast, I pull out my laptop – then for the next two hours I smash through 20 emails, write two proposals I’d been avoiding, plan my entire upcoming week, set reminders, write drafts and complete my timesheet.

And this, dear friends, is the curse and the cure that is productivity.

99 productivity problems

In Australia, productivity was three times higher in 1995-96 than in 2017-18. Despite having access to transformative technology, data and processing capabilities, we’re less productive now than we have been for most of the last 20 odd years.

I’m not so interested in the bottom line of the P&L but on the impact this incessant need for productivity has on general well being.

The thing is, there are plenty of remedies available for this – just google the term ‘productivity hack’ and your search will return over 670,000 results in less than a second:

But the issue I take with this is that productivity is – for me anyway – highly dependent on so many factors – like my emotional state, the kind of day I’ve had, the type of deadlines I’m working to, how my co-workers have spoken to me.

So while a ‘hack’ is all well and good, I don’t think it’s actually very useful in the long run as it doesn’t give credence to the fact that humans are messy and flawed and not very good at fixing these things.

So in the spirit of NOT giving you a list of the top five hacks to turn you into a super human – nay, robot-like – producer of outstanding work 24/7, here is my two-cents and only two pieces of advice on the matter.

1. STOP TRYING (to be productive)

That’s right. If you’re faffing, flailing or figure skating around a bunch of shit that you should be doing – just stop. You’re not doing it anyway so why punish yourself and waste time doing something you’re already not doing? EXACTLY. My madness is sound.

Stop grinding against something that just isn’t happening for you.

Maybe that’s for 5 minutes – go and get a tea or have a bathroom break.

Maybe it’s for a few hours – get on with a bunch of admin crap you’ve been putting off, as a form of productive procrastination.

Maybe it’s for the whole day – in extreme circumstances you might just need to shut the hell off. Power down, go home, take the night off, get a good sleep and try again when you’re refreshed.

My premise is that giving yourself the grace to acknowledge when you’re just not up to it and you just can’t perform is often crucial. Because it’s OK to fail and it’s OK to not be ‘on’ all the damn time – you’re human, not robot (yet, anyway).

2. START PAYING ATTENTION (to when you actually are productive)

Start paying attention to what actually works for you.

For me – it’s those two golden hours after a yoga class on Saturday morning. If I had to guess, I’d say it’s a combination of the fact that I’ve had a good night sleep, woken up early to do something I really enjoy, moved my body and put myself in an awesome frame of mind. Coupled with the complete lack of pressure (it’s Saturday, I really don’t have to be working if I don’t want) I feel completely at ease and totally on top of my game.

I figured this out because I payed attention. I noticed the pattern and I realised what works for me and now I use those Saturday mornings to properly close off the week before and really set myself up for the week ahead. And I no longer care about my crappy Friday afternoons cause I know that it’s just not my time to shine.

The thing is though – what works for me is almost guaranteed not to work for you. Because your triggers and mind states are completely different from mine.

  • Maybe Monday morning is when you ‘get-shit-done’.
  • Maybe your smash time is 8-10pm every night.
  • Maybe go time for you is the last half hour of every working day.

Whatever productivity looks like for you – find it, embrace it and for the love of all that’s holy stop trying to hack it!

What or when is your productivity gold? Get in touch to let me know – I’d love to hear!

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