These 3 sure-fire ways will boost your productivity and change your life. (It’s Science Baby!) And it doesn’t cost a thing.
Sure, you’ve tried tips on how to be more productive and tinkered with some time management strategies. Some helped, but you sense there’s a bigger picture you’re missing.
Have you ever wished for something that let’s you charge through your crazy days with enthusiasm, confidence and productivity — a master plan? A guidebook?
Here's a thought. Instead of feeling stressed out, overwhelmed by life and falling further behind how about a plan that enables you to:
- use your time effectively so you have more of it
- turn bad stress into good stress (also known as eustress)
- be energized by your new relationship with stress so that you ride a wave of productivity rather than being swamped by overwhelm
- turn procrastination into accomplishment
- easily filter and identify your priorities
- find personal growth, new meaning and satisfaction in your efforts
- focus more easily so you finish more quickly
- adopt a mindset to embrace stress so that it serves you rather than harms you
- build resilience for long term health and happiness
Sound good? Let's get started.
Why do experts say my productivity strategies are letting me down?
Highly engaged employees are 38% much more likely to have above-average productivity. –The Workplace Research Foundation.
Your tips and hacks are like diverse instruments playing together in an orchestra but without a musical score to pull them all together.
And that’s the problem.
Without setting your foundation — your own musical score — many of your efforts to improve your productivity will fall flat or, worse, create more stress and unhappiness.
So, the best way to set your foundation to be more productive? Experts agree that to win you need to adopt and solidify 3 key principles and beliefs as they relate to your:
- relationship with stress (don’t miss this. It is EPIC)
- personal values
This might sound complicated but it's not. With this foundation you have a master plan. You’ll find that:
- you find more meaning in your work and homelife which increases your engagement and productivity.
- you focus where it matters and can decide with assurance.
- a new relationship with stress and increased job satisfaction translates into a healthier you, resulting in fewer sick days.
You may even look forward to your feet hitting the floor every morning.
Firms reporting high employee engagement had an average of about 2.5 sick days vs just over 6 days per employee for those firms with weaker employee engagement.
–The Workplace Research Foundation
This plan is easy-to-follow. Sequential. Comprehensive. I’ve included a cheat sheet to keep on hand as an easy reminder.
Bold promise? Absolutely.
Why is this strategy to be more productive sure-fire?
It is based on in-depth scientific research with proven results.
Sure, you can make changes here and there with time management techniques or tips on how to be more productive and still see some benefits. There are some great ones out there.
Think of it like this. When you want the most power from your car do you invest your time painting blazing stripes on the side of it? Do you hang fuzzy dice from the mirror?
No, you turbo-charge the engine.
How? By adopting a mindset that propels you forward and in a way that’s healthy, energizing and rewarding.
Quite simply, this strategy is a game changer.
Step 1. How Does My Mindset Affect How Productive I am?
Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way. –Viktor Frankl
You really are what you think. I don't know about your mind, but if you ever spend 10 minutes in my head that is a very sobering statement.
Say you did poorly on a science test. Do you immediately think, “I suck at science”? Maybe even, “I suck at science and I’m dropping this course”?
Or, do you think, “Crap. I wonder where I went wrong?” Do you then schedule time in your planner to review the questions and ask for help with the ones you can’t figure out?
The way you think about yourself and your abilities is either a growth mindset or fixed mindset.
As you might expect, the misuse and distortion of the terms over time now requires a restatement of original meaning.
Why does my fixed mindset affect ways to improve work performance?
It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it. –Aristotle
Your fixed mindset works to keep you in place. You believe you're born with your natural talents and abilities and can't go beyond them.
The sort of thinking that says, “I suck at science” or “I’m clumsy” or “I can’t draw if my life depends on it.”
You likely spend a lot of time feeling you must prove yourself over and over again.
It gets worse. By avoiding risk of failure or embarrassment, you avoid the opportunities and development which can lead to living the live your crave and being the person you know you can be. You miss out on experiences that could resolve that nagging (or screaming) dissatisfaction you feel with your life as it is.
Does a growth mindset make such a difference?
A growth mindset definition includes you believing that change is possible and that you can develop your abilities and those around you and do so on an ongoing basis.
To be sure, believing you can sing like Cher won’t mean you’ll learn to sing like Cher, but with your growth mindset vs fixed mindset you begin taking lessons and practicing which improves your singing.
The hand you are dealt is just the starting point for development. – Carol Dweck
Do you make this mistake?
Some people think that having an open-mind or ‘going with the flow’ is the same as having a growth mindset.
Sorry to be the one to tell you this, but it’s not.
It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer. – Albert Einstein
With that said, try on the following characteristics of a growth vs fixed mindset and see how they fit:
- understand you are on a life-long path of improvement; you want the best of you.
- aren’t content when you hit a wall. You work hard to find your away around, up, over or under it.
- look forward to learning how you can improve work performance.
- are prepared to get out of your way and ask for help when needed and seek out necessary resources.
- know it isn’t a matter of effort, it is a matter of the right effort and so when one idea fails you try another one.
- make time for learning.
- help others to improve and find needed resources to help them succeed on their paths.
How do I know if I have a growth mindset?
You likely have a fixed mindset if you feel you're either good at something or you're not; 0r, you get frustrated and give up easily; maybe you resist challenges.
Does that mean you’re stuck with it?
The good news? No, not at all. You can learn to acquire a growth mindset. The key is to know what triggers your fixed mindset, recognize when it is happening and take concrete steps to shift into a growth mindset.
…new beliefs take their place alongside the old ones and as they become stronger, they give you a different way to think, feel and act. – Carol Dweck
While we often refer to having one mindset or the other, most of us shift back and forth between a fixed mindset vs growth mindset.
What does any of this have to do with my productivity?
You guessed it. You need to pay attention to and develop your growth mindset on an ongoing basis. It isn’t something you adopt and then forget about.
The reward for doing so?
Well, the research is clear. Growth mindsets are associated with:
- learning how to be more productive due to
- more tenacity to find solutions
- willingness to take risks
- seeking help to solve issues rather than avoid or procrastinate
- increased confidence in skills and ability to find solutions
- being open to criticism to learn and benefit rather than be defensive
- establishing a new relationship with stressors and which lowers anxiety and stress
- higher motivation
- taking more risks which leads to more opportunities
- better relationships both professional and personal
I could go on and on, but this is a post, not a book. If you want to do a deep dive, I recommend Mindset, The New Psychology of Success. (affiliate link)
TRY: Shift to a growth mindset with simple strategies
1. Decide whether you have a growth or fixed mindset. Here are some statements for you to consider.
- intelligence is fixed
- ability to learn is limited by your intelligence
- can't change your level of talent
- tend to focus on things you can do well
- avoid challenges
- take criticism personally
- hate to make mistakes and are likely to blame others for them
- If considerable effort is required, you delegate it or outsource it or just abandon the plan.
- It’s a dog-eat-dog world and it’s every man for himself
As you might expect, if you agree more than you disagree with these statements, then you likely have a fixed mindset.
I hated every minute of training, but I said, ‘Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion. – Muhammad Ali
2. Identify a growth strategy that interests you to practice. You can find many on-line but here are three popular ones:
a. Pay attention to your negative self-talk and how you express yourself. Instead of saying “can’t’ replace it with ‘not yet’: “I can’t do this” becomes “I haven’t mastered this yet.”
b. Stop seeking approval: Seeking approval is seeking validation of an achievement. This ego-driven behaviour risks limiting your willingness to take risks and to stretch your skills.
Instead, ask for feedback and listen. Be prepared for a natural wish to protect yourself by becoming defensive. To help prepare for the feedback, write out some specific questions ahead of time rather than just asking, ‘so what do you think’?
The average Facebook user has 155 friends on the platform, but would only trust 4 of them in a crisis–Telegraph
c. Trust yourself: This is the corollary of stop seeking approval from others. Be clear on your values and use them to guide your decision making and behaviour.
When you know in your core that you are doing what gives meaning to your life, you can trust in those decisions which gives you more confidence in taking risks.
Now that you’ve given some thought to how a growth mindset will be your foundation for how to be more productive, you can begin to consider your relationship with stress and how you can make stress work for you.
Step 2. “Good stress” Seriously?
An estimated one million workers miss work each day because of stress – Health Advocate
Which of the following do you think is false?
The effects of stress can make me more:
Stress can help me
- feel compassion
Yeah. It was a trick question. They’re all true.
If you're like most people you’re going to say. “Doesn't matter the types of stress. Stress is bad. It makes you sick. You die early. Avoid stress.”
And, why wouldn't you say that? It's what we've been brought up to think, not to mention how stress is portrayed in media and just about everywhere.
Why you need to make stress your mistress to be effective
When you believe stress is good for you, you believe that it:
- boosts your productivity
- empowers you
- spurs you on to meet challenges
- improves your health
- makes it easier to learn
- facilitates your development
- is something to be utilized to your advantage
I know, you're probably skeptical. Right? But before you dismiss this out of hand, remember that the smartest brains also once thought the world was flat. The research revealing the facts of stress is vast and compelling. Even a doubting Thomas will find this 14 minute Ted Talk eye-opening:
Do you have a helpful or hurtful mix of these?
Research shows that when you believe stress is good for you, your body responds to stressful situations by releasing 2 hormones (Cortisol and DHEA) in a combination that is linked to reduction in heart disease, anxiety, depression.
Not only that but the combination triggers biological reactions that make it easier for you to rise to the challenge of a situation, motivates you to action and helps you settle and recover afterwards.
And the worst part? The same research reveals that when you believe stress is bad for you and should be avoided, all those nasty productivity and health consequences you’re worried about can come true.
Because your body responds to you being anxious or stressed by producing a different combination of those same hormones and that combination can take their toll on your system.
Stress can manifest itself physically in many ways. For 51% of adults, the most common symptom is fatigue. Headaches, upset stomach, and muscle tension are also reported regularly. – The American Institute of Stress
There’s a ton of scientific research behind what causes stress and the effects of stress on the body depending upon your attitude. If you want to be blown away, then I recommend reading The Upside of Stress (affiliate link).
The author, Kelly McGoningal, presents the research findings from all walks of life and occupations in a reader-friendly manner that is engaging and persuasive.
How to Think About Stress (the New Way)
You don’t need to be completely convinced that the effects of stress can be beneficial. Many people believe there can be both bad stress and good stress.
The good news? You can still derive significant benefits as you cultivate a new mindset about stress.
When you view a stressful situation as overwhelming or harmful, do you avoid it, procrastinate, self-medicate, find a distraction…?
Folks who see a stressful situation as a challenge or opportunity are more likely to be able to find meaning in the situation. They’re also more likely to feel confident about their ability to handle the challenges.
And here's the really cool part. All of this all translates into action and solutions rather than procrastination and avoidance.
Bam! You've just boosted your productivity.
Your growth mindset assists here by helping you:
- rise to a challenge, reminding you that your skills and intelligence can grow
- remember you can and do keep learning
- be ready to take risks
- stop being a perfectionist
- be less afraid of making a mistake in front of others
- reach out to others for help and resources when needed.
How to be more productive includes doing more of this
Feeling stressed can make it difficult to do your duties – 56% of workers say their job performance has suffered because of the strain. –Anxiety and Depression Association of America
I don't need to tell you that worry about health of self and loved ones, death, relationship issues, parenting, work are the most commonly reported sources of stress.
If you can’t avoid stress in life (no-one can) what’s the point of holding onto a mindset that’s associated with making you sick?
I saved the best for last.
Even if you don’t believe stress is good for you in all circumstances, just opening your mind to the possibility that stress can be beneficial to you will help. Studies have shown you’ll still be more productive, focused, have fewer health problems, be less anxious or depressed.
In fact, just reading this post and considering the possibility that stress can be good for you has begun the process of a mindset shift.
A mindset shift isn’t a light switch being flipped on, but rather it is a process. Not always a conscious one.
It sits, it ruminates, it begins to trigger an action, which prompts another action. Think of it as a grassroots operation, growing organically.
TRY: Rethinking Stress
1. Start paying attention to when you feel stressed or identify a stressful situation.
- How are you thinking about it?
- Physically feeling about it?
- What language do you use?
Here's a crazy example: In a study, college football players associate the physical feelings of nervous stomach, racing heart, sweaty palms before a big game as ‘being pumped’ and ‘excited.’ When faced with an academic exam they experienced those same physical feelings but rather than associating them with being ‘pumped’ they associated them with being ‘stressed out’.
Their different attitudes triggered different combinations of hormone release in their systems. ‘Pumped” equalled excited and ready for the challenge triggering a supportive combination of hormones being released to help them rise to the challenge and focus.
2. Next time your feel a nervous stomach, or your heart racing, consider the possibility that your body is priming you to rise to the occasion.
3. Think about what is at stake. Often the reason we feel anxious is because the matter at hand is important to us. If you can think about why this is important and how it adds meaning to your life you may find it reassuring and that it propels you from fear to action.
Step 3. Why Tread Lightly with Your Personal Values
Strive not to be a success, but rather to be of value.– Albert Einstein
Remember King Midas who thought he’d be the happiest man if he could have more gold? So, his wish was granted but whatever he touched turned to gold — including his loved ones, his food…
When you think about what success means to you, keep King Midas in mind.
Here’s an example. One of my core values is helping others. Now, I could define success as writing great posts so I will get a ton of social shares and followers. Sadly, this is how we’ve been raised to think. Flashy metrics rather than substance.
Instead, I define success as writing great posts that will give people a new way of thinking about their lives which they then translate into action to create happier, healthier and more meaningful lives.
As I get caught up or bogged down in research and writing, it is easy to start to procrastinate, tidy up the desk, make a cup of coffee, learn a foreign language… But, when I reflect on why I’m doing this, my desire to help others, it makes it so much easier to come back to task.
Passion will move men beyond themselves, beyond their shortcomings, beyond their failures.–Joseph Campbell
Are your goals out of whack with these?
Here’s the thing. If you’re unhappy or dissatisfied at work or at home, there’s a good chance either your behaviour or goals (or a combo) are out of whack with your values. You might not even be aware of the inconsistency if you aren’t clear on your values. So before you worry about how to be productive you need to sort out your values.
For instance, if one of your values is safety, for yourself and family, running a fishing boat on the high seas is going to cause you major dissatisfaction and stress.
Values are the principles that give our lives meaning and allow us to persevere through adversity.–Barb Markway and Celia Ampel
What is a value? Simply put, values are the beacons in our life, they come from the heart. If you draw a line in the sand, your values are where the line stops.
When everything else is stripped away, our values are what are important, feel meaningful and speak to how we want to live our lives.
How do my values affect my productivity?
I work really hard at trying to see the big picture and not getting stuck in ego. –Ellen DeGeneres
When your goals reflect or incorporate your values, you make the goals bigger than yourself—they become about others—and that is extraordinarily powerful. It boosts productivity because you find yourself more motivated and less prone to distraction, it makes the work more meaningful and gives you more satisfaction.
Here’s the kicker. Research shows that people with these bigger-than-me goals wind up with more personal success.
Trying to do more for others winds up giving back more to you. What’s not to like?
And let’s not forget about your new relationship with stress.
Keep in mind that being clear on your values transforms not only how you think about stressful experiences but also your belief in your ability to cope with them.
According to Kelly McGonigal, research shows that “people who are connected to their values are more likely to take positive action and less likely to use avoidant coping strategies like procrastination or denial…they are also more likely to view the adversity they are going through as temporary and are less likely to think that the problem reveals something unalterably screwed up about themselves or their lives.”
C. TRY: Get Value from Your Values (And DON’T miss this advice!)
It is not enough to be busy, so are the ants. The question is: What are we busy about?
–Henry David Thoreau
1. You want to be clear on your values if you aren’t already so take some time to reflect on them.
- Look at what’s important to you, meaningful events in your life, situations that upset you deeply. What values are involved there? (There are lists of values online if you want some ideas to spur you on.)
2. Don’t miss this piece of advice that comes from the findings of a study with Stamford Students:
- Write about one of your values and how your activities from your day relate to that value. Write about why it is important to you. The important thing is to write about it for at least 10 minutes.
Why 10 minutes? If you're serious about learning how to be more productive and initiating a mindset shift then trust the results of the studies that say 10 minutes of writing about your values is what it takes.
I don't need to remind you that this is not a light switch being flipped on, but is instead the beginning of a process of momentum building. As you shift your mindset you:
- begin to see yourself as someone competent and able to overcome difficulties
- shift from a focus on how to be productive to how to be effective
- begin to see stressful situations as challenges you can overcome (your growth mindset helps here, too!).
- are more likely to tackle a challenge rather than avoid it.
3. After you’ve identified your values, pay attention to what you do over the following days.
- Do your choices reflect your values? Are there new values you want to consider? Or, are some of your decisions inconsistent with your values?
4. Think about the work you do in terms of how it helps others—your organization, community or others. Try framing it into a bigger-than-me goal.
5. When you get caught up in a stressful situation, think about how it fits within that bigger-than-me goal.
Where do you go next?
It’s not always that we need to do more but rather that we need to focus on less.”
– Nathan W. Morris
Now what? At last, you’re positioned for top productivity, performance and success. You’re ready to turbo-charge your engine.
The best part? This 3-step plan launches you with the knowledge that this is way more than how to be productive. You're not just boosting your productivity, but you’re setting in motion monumental mind set shifts that will transform your life above and beyond your wildest expectations.
Now that you’ve seen how much actual control you have over not just your productivity but your general health, well-being and happiness, why not select one thing to start on?
You can keep the cheat sheet on hand as a ready reference.
This is your one life. You have the power to live it the way you want it to be.
If you choose to purchase the books I recommend through the link provided, I will earn a commission. This commission comes at no additional cost to you. Please understand that I am recommending these because I have personally found them to be very helpful and useful, not because of the small commissions I make if you decide to buy something. Please do not spend any money unless you feel you need it or that it will help you achieve your goals.