3 Techniques to Calm the Chaos and Kick-start Your Productivity
The pandemic has pummeled people’s productivity. Those of us used to firing on all cylinders have found the triple threat of close quarters, screen-intensive days, and the increasingly blurred (if not completely nonexistent) line between work and home to be a direct challenge to our ability to get things done.
Our employers have invested tremendous amounts of time and money so that we have the technological tools to continue to do our jobs. But Ariana Huffington, Founder and CEO of Thrive Global, recently wrote that “productivity is not just about technology. It’s also about people. And right now, people are stressed out of their minds.” While lauding all the technological marvels that have enabled so many companies to pivot from in-person to virtual work environments, Huffington cautions that “people need to be at the center of whatever re-entry plans or digital transformation strategies companies are formulating right now.”
Even if your employer doesn’t prioritize Huffington’s “human factor” in tandem with the digital and productivity tools it provides, you can take control and create your own calm amidst the chaos. These 3 techniques build the foundation for a state of calm that will ignite the next spark of productivity.
Wrangle the mess: I do my best thinking in a clutter-free environment. When I’m confronted with a mess, I take a deep breath, square my shoulders, and work my organizational mojo. My family does not share my commitment to organizational harmony, and I am constantly tripping over shoes, boxes, dog toys, and my “clutter-blind” husband’s endless pieces of paper. I start on the top level of my house, following the trail of debris that has accumulated during the previous week, and make my way down to the bottom.
You can do the same in your workspace. Start in one part of the room/desk/area that needs to be tidied and work slowly and methodically until it’s clear. Set a logical path around the mess and stay the course, so you can see the results of your efforts. The resulting tidiness will help you find serenity.
Inventory the information: If you keep tasks and reminders in multiple places — planner, to-do list, sticky notes — conduct an inventory of this information:
Write down all the tasks, whether on paper or in a spreadsheet. I find that it’s easier to use a spreadsheet for this project because you can sort the data once it’s created.
Include the following columns (or others that may be relevant): Task, Due Date, Responsible Party, Must Do, Would Like to Do, Where to Record?
If there’s no definitive due date, simply add one that makes sense. If you find that you are the responsible party for all tasks, then you can delete that column.
Once the information is gathered, you can sort by due date, then must do, then would like to do.
The resulting inventory is a comprehensive list of prioritized tasks that will create a zen-like atmosphere at work and a roadmap to productivity.
Scan the schedule: With so much swirling about, it can be easy to miss due dates, milestones, and other important tasks. Start by taking 10 minutes at the end of each day, whether that’s the work day or the chronological day, to review what’s on tap for the next 1 to 3 days. There’s no magic to the number of days to look ahead; you’ll find what works best for you. Armed with this knowledge, you can strategize how you are going to attack the next few days. Certainly, the best laid plans can get blown apart, but at least you’ll have a plan. This soothing ritual will set you up for maximum productivity.
These techniques will help you create your own sense of calm, ignite a spark of productivity, and continue to thrive.