Is Lack of Productivity Getting in the Way of You Becoming Consistently More Productive?
Have you ever made the decision to use a planner, just to go out and buy one, use it for a solid month or two and then totally slack off come month three? There is sits, unopened and unused as it starts collecting dust on your desk for weeks on end.
Then every time we start cleaning our house, organizing our lives, tidying things up, there it is just sitting there, and we think to ourselves, "I know, I know, I have to get back to using that thing again.” But for some reason we don't. We may say that we "forget", but deep down we know, we see it, yet we find ways to distract ourselves from getting back into the habit of using it. Usually, for me, the moment immediately following the recognition of that is filled with guilt for falling off track at all and failing once again to actually plan things out and stay prepared on a consistent basis.
For the last month, or so, I have quite literally been in a staring contest with my planner, waiting to see who breaks first. Thankfully it was me.
You see, at the beginning of this year I made a resolution to start using a planner and be better about scheduling and planning my time. And for about two months I was crushing it, until March came and then I just lost steam. Since then, its like every time I walked past my planner on the shelf, I could feel it sitting there, judging me, giving me the cold shoulder, as I was filled with shame for breaking what was staring to feel like a successful habit.
The next course of thoughts sounds something like, “Im already halfway through this month, I might as well wait til next month…next quarter…next year... to try this again… I mean its pretty pointless to go back and try to start again now, after so much time as passed, isn’t it?"
The thing is, thoughts like these are just the excuses we make to avoid facing the disappointment for not following through on the commitments we have made to ourselves, and as a way of postponing reestablishing the practice of good habits. I am obviously no exception to this. Its like, we feel so bad for failing to be consistent at something yet again, that we basically totally write off the possibility of just getting back on track. (I think its the whole throwing the baby out with the bath water metaphor that serves as an adequate example here…)
Well today, was the day that I told myself that I was no longer going to look at my planner and think, "I've already gotten too far behind. I've lost progress. Theres no point in trying again".
Today was the day that those thoughts officially died.
First of all, I finally gave into the fact that I have been thinking about using it again for weeks. Why was I wasting time in thought, when I could just get back into action? As an initial fail safe, when I bought the damn thing at the end of 2017, I purposefully purchased the largest and most beautiful planner that I could find, so that I couldn’t miss it, even if I tried, and so I would feel excited to use it regularly. Which obviously worked, because I have been staring at it for a while now, thinking “ugh, what a waste of a good planner!” Second of all, I realized I had only really lost a month! Like, really!? I was going to let one month off the wagon deter me from getting back on it? How defeatist is that??
I realized how silly it was of me to keep fretting over how much I hadn’t used it, and started getting really excited about how much more effective I would be if I did use it. Not to mention it had been suggested by some of my close friends that it might be a good idea for me to start using my planner again. You know you’ve got a problem when your friends start suggesting that you do something about it.
To reinforce this realization of mine, I was just recently speaking with a client about building confidence. She was struggling with her productivity, mostly because she felt like she was zipping through her day, running about, without really having a set direction or focus to put her energy toward. She was busy but not productive. All of which sounded uncomfortably familiar to me.
I asked her how much time she was taking planning out her weeks and her days, and she admitted to not spending any time on it at all, because she doesn't have anywhere to write things down for one, and she also felt like she was just never good at staying consistent with that sort of thing. She didn't feel confident in her ability to do it.
I immediately gave her the link to my favorite monthly planner, and started talking about the importance of cultivating a weekly and monthly practice of planning and preparation. After all, to get to where you want to go, you have to know where you’re going and how you’re going to get there… I shared with her that confidence is not something innate but is built upon by practicing consistency, and weakened by avoiding it. And as imperfect as her initial attempts might be, that doesn't mean she can’t keep trying and just work on building a stronger habit over time. The more she reinforces the practice of it, the more confident she will feel, and the more successful she will be in implanting the habit over the long term.
As I was speaking with her, I told her the story I just shared with you about my planner, and how I loved it and was so excited about it, and how had also struggled with planning my time out, when I realized that the advice I was giving her, was the very same advice I needed to give myself. I needed to stop beating myself up for getting off course, for not being perfect at preparation and planning, and just keep practicing. I needed to stop letting my expectations of perfection get in the way of me building confidence through increased effort and consistency. And I needed to give myself credit for how consistent I was before I fell off, too. I had two months of solid productivity, and one month off. That counts for something! Maybe I can try for three months now.
The fact of the matter is, its just as easy to focus on getting back on track as it is to focus on all the reasons why you aren’t on track and how pointless it is to try again. I know its sounds odd, but your own beliefs about your lack of productivity could be getting in the way of your future productivity. Mostly because you’re telling yourself that every time you try to be more productive you eventually fail, and that there is some "other time" besides now that you should try again, or that its pointless to even try. Its like forgetting to brush your teeth for one day, and then deciding there’s no point in ever brushing your teeth again. That makes zero sense, right? Yuck! Well you should feel the EXACT same way about your productivity habits!
Here’s the thing about habits, they take lots and lots of time to establish. As children, our parents had to remind us daily, (for years!!) to brush our teeth, make our beds, wash our hands, clean our rooms, do our laundry, take showers etc… As adults the only people we have reminding us to do anything at all anymore are usually still our parents, the government, or our bosses if we have them, and sometimes our closest friends. But really, in any way that really matters, its just up to us to remind ourselves, and hold ourselves accountable.
There are going to be times when you do amazing at staying consistent, and then times when you struggle and get off course. When that happens, no matter how long or short the timeframe, catch yourself and give yourself permission to keep trying and to take up the practice again. Not next week, not next month, but immediately.
Stop making excuses for why you can’t start trying now, and remind yourself that the only way to get better, and to build your confidence is to increase your consistency over time through concentrated effort. As soon as you notice that your off track, make it a point to get back ON track. Thats it. No expectation for perfection, no beating yourself up for lack of execution, no excuses for why you're guaranteed to fail again. Just get back to the grinding stone.
That was the decision that I made for myself, today. And I’m urging you to do the same. Don’t let your current lack of productivity get in the way of your future productivity. It really doesn't make sense, anyway.
So, what productive habit can you commit to starting up this week to get you back in the game? Its not too late, the time is now, and I believe in you! Lets do this! If you need help, send me an email and I will happily help you stay accountable.
Yours in growth,
If you need an amazing planner, check out Passion Planner: http://www.passionplanner.com/shop/ (I am not an affiliate of this product and do not get compensated for referrals, just sharing because I literally love them and think you will too).