It started out as a great day. You created your to-do list the night before and you breezed through the list. You even made significant progress on your projects. What started out as a great day, became a great week, a great month and it was all because you had your goals and rituals set in place.
Then things happened. You got sick or your child got sick. Unexpected trips. Emergencies. Feeling tired. Procrastinating little by little. Then you realize, you have not made any progress in a long time.
You have fallen off the productivity bandwagon.
I understand this feeling 100%. A few years ago, my family and I went on a two-week tour around Asia. This was planned–all good, right? Unfortunately, after our trip, we faced some family problems. I got stuck in that never-ending cycle of looking at the tasks that I needed to do after a two-week leave and then feeling helpless because:
- I couldn’t focus because my mind was somewhere else
- I didn’t know where to start
- I didn’t want to work
I wanted to leave Asian Efficiency.
I forget how I ended up telling Thanh. But I am leaning towards him sensing that something was wrong with me. But I will never forget what he told me. He said “Marmel, I understand and it’s OKAY. Take it slow. If you need a day or two to take care of stuff outside of work–take it. AE will still be here when you get back.”
You see, you don’t have to sacrifice your personal life to get things done. Sometimes, all you need to do is to speak to someone. In my case, it was my boss who happens to be a productivity nerd who has helped more than 13,000 people become productive.
If you have fallen off your productivity chair, it’s okay. You won’t be stuck there forever. As Thanh told me–take it slow and…
Follow these 6 strategies to help you get back on track
1. Schedule your habits
When you fall off the productivity bandwagon, your habits could also be affected. For example, you stopped reading for 30 minutes a day, you no longer go to the gym or have stopped meditating. If that happened, then put your habits in your calendar. Pencil it in and commit to it. If you have completely stopped your morning or evening rituals then pencil it in your calendar, one at a time.
Not scheduling your habits or rituals could only lead to you forgetting about it or finding excuses why you can’t do it because it’s not on your calendar. If it’s not on your calendar, then it might not be important.
2. Make it as easy as possible
As Thanh told me, take it slow. Make small steps towards your goals. If you had 7 steps in your morning ritual and your struggling with being consistent, then try 1 step first until you get used to it again. Take it slow. What is important is you taking that first small step.
Imagine that you recently moved to a new house and at the same time you have work and not feeling very productive. Your house is still full of unopened boxes but you just couldn’t find the time to get it in order. Make it easy for yourself. Every day, set a timer for 30 minutes to go through a box. When the timer runs out, you can stop. Do this for a few days until such time you think that you can do more than 30 minutes a day. This amount of time, although small, is still time well spent.
Here’s another example. Let’s say you need to write a book. Instead of pushing for 1,500 words per day as you have done before, aim for 500 and then gradually increase it. Making small and easy steps can help you get back to your productivity groove.
3. Focus on one task at a time
The feeling of overwhelm is paralyzing and I wish I was kidding. You cannot focus if you have so much stuff on your to-do list and everything says “URGENT” or “IMPORTANT”. Then there’s URGENT AND IMPORTANT!
It’s time to whip out that Pomodoro. This is my go-to solution when I am feeling overwhelmed and I need to focus on one task at a time. Start your Pomodoro, work on a single task for 25 minutes with all your energy and brain power, and work on it until it’s done. It could take several Pomodoros–and that’s FINE! Don’t forget to take your breaks.
Repeat and continue.
4. Find a Group, a Friend, or a Mentor
How lucky am I that I am surrounded by my Asian Efficiency team and the Dojo?
It’s hard to feel and stay demotivated when you are surrounded by people who will stop at nothing to help you get back on track. And that’s what I have and it’s what you should get too. When you’re already feeling demotivated, you’d spiral down if you are always alone.
You can look for an accountability friend–someone you can share your goals for the week (or month) and someone to check up on you if you have done what you set up for yourself. We tend to work harder and focus on a goal if we tell someone else what our goal is. It could be as simple as going to the gym. Go to the gym with your friend and set a goal on how many times you will do it per week and make sure you communicate this with your friend as well.
Inside the Dojo forum, our productivity community, we have a thread all about accountability. Dojo members post what their goals are and other members of the Dojo check up regularly.
5. Design your environment for success
When I was a kid, I couldn’t study when my room was a mess. It was impossible. There were just too many distractions. What I would do, a week or two before my exams, I always do a general cleaning of sorts. This is something that I still do today. Not that I am still messy, but I always make sure my desk is tidy.
When I start my work day, I go to a clean desk that’s telling me “You’re ready.” It’s like starting off a clean slate every single day, ready to make progress on my goals and tasks. My computer is the same way. When I open up my computer, I don’t have any open tabs.
6. Don’t give up
When you fall off the productivity bandwagon, the most difficult part is picking yourself up and just starting. That first task on top your to-do list is going to be your Mt. Everest. You have to climb it. Slowly. One step at a time. But no matter how small those steps are and no matter how slow your pace is, you will still reach the summit.
So don’t give up!
It will take time to get back to your regular productivity groove, but it will happen.
Now is the time to start getting back on track. If we were to pick two items from the list above to get you going they would be:
- Schedule your habits
- Focus on one task at a time
- Join a community of like-minded people like the Dojo
If you need help, reach out to us. We’re here to help you.