We’ve all had one… or tens, or hundreds of unproductive days! Mine are usually caused by one of three things:
1. The ridiculous race I’m in with myself to get too much done at once (a.k.a. multi-tasking).
2. Something out of my control takes me away from my plan for the day.
3. I am obsessing over an issue which distracts me all day.
Once I’ve identified that I am having an unproductive or unfocused moment, I do my best to snap out of it by breathing, reassessing my priorities, then getting back on track… but that’s easier said than done.
I’m going to give you some ideas for how to take back control of those days using a tip I found through the artistic part of my life.
As a professional organizer, actress, and choreographer, I use both my practical side and creative side conjunctively. I try to find parallels within the two and when I make a discovery that helps me in either my organizing or creative work, I use it to influence the other.
There’s a great physical exercise I’ve done in acting class when I’m not connected to my body while singing a song.
After the first go of singing a song, when my actions are stiff and generic, I sing it again and make extreme, deliberate movements on each note and syllable. The movements do not have to make sense because the idea is to shake things up within the framework of the piece.
Then I sing the song for a third time and don’t move unless there is a pure, specific intent behind it. The stillness feels powerful, purposeful, and any movement I make helps emphasize my point.
After doing this exercise I feel freer and am able to have more fun while performing the piece.
So, I got to thinking - what if we modified this creative exercise for your to-do list?
Grab your to-do list. Set a timer for 10 to 30 minutes and try one or a few of the following:
• Blitz through a bunch of your smaller tasks.
• Pick that one thing that is nagging you and give yourself permission to finish it, no matter how insignificant.
• If you’re at home, do a few small household tasks. Ex: take out the trash, make the bed, hang up some clothes, put away the dishes.
• If you’re at the office, do a few low priority tasks. Ex: cull through files you haven’t looked at in months, return unused supplies to the supply closet, condense the napkins and salt & pepper packets you’ve accumulated, sanitize your phone, keyboard, and mouse.
Since you set a timer, chances are your heart will start pumping a little faster.
This brief section of your day may feel different and perhaps counterproductive since you really need to focus on something more important than these small to-dos. Great - that means you are shaking things up! When you were in that unproductive funk, your body was telling you that something needed to change.
Then comes the stillness. Focus for 30 minutes - maybe more - on that important email, bulk mailing, proposal, blog post, or scary phone call.
The cool thing is that this exercise, preparing you to be productive, is actually productive on its own!
I am the founder of NYC-based rebecca REorganize, specializing in paper and data management: piles, files, computers, and phones.
I help clients simplify by clearing clutter and improving systems so they can make space for what is truly important in their lives.