Before we try to get better at something, build a new habit or learn a skill, we should first develop the right mindset – the attitude towards this that will keep us going through hard times, and which will make us persevere when things seem hopeless.
So it is with productivity.
Just saying you’ll start getting things done won’t make procrastination go away. Reading a list of productivity techniques won’t make you become a hard worker or be more efficient. Having a to-do list itself won’t make you better at time management, either.
Instead, the transformation towards a more productive you begins on the inside, in your mind. You need to accept yourself as you are, and to realize it’s a process – one that takes time. To prepare yourself mentally for every step of the journey, you need to have a positive outlook.
Here are some ways to make the transition to a productivity mindset easier:
1. Make changes in your environment.
For a start, try to optimize what’s around you for better results.
If you’re constantly surrounded by lazy people, for instance, with no goals and ambition, you’re less likely to take more initiative and work smarter yourself.
But what if you seek guidance from those who’ve already developed such a way of thinking? What if you connect with people online, and join forums to discuss the obstacles on the way to becoming more productive? What if you start spending time with people who actually get things done, be it at work, in your free time, or at university?
Then, developing the right mindset will happen much more easily.
Another change you can make in your environment is to put the right object in the right place to trigger positive behavior. Here’s what I’m talking about:
If you want to get to the gym tomorrow morning, make it inevitable by putting your clothes and shoes for training right next to your bed, and prepare the night before by completing your last tasks for the day.
If you want to start posting consistently on a new social media channel to help in marketing your new product, then synchronize it across all your devices, make it easy to access, and schedule posts in the beginning of every week and use reminders.
2. Use affirmations.
Sometimes the simplest form of conviction is to just tell yourself to do something, or to believe something. It’s proven that if you repeat a statement in your mind, or – even better – out loud, you will eventually accept it as reality.
So think of a positive affirmation and make it a daily practice.
Here are some examples:
I’ll complete all the tasks on my to-do list today;
I’m confident in my abilities to get things done faster;
I don’t overthink new projects, I just begin working on them;
With every next day, I’m becoming more and more effective in my work;
Every morning I start working on my 3 most important tasks for the day and don’t lose focus until I’m done.
You can write that in a note and read it out loud throughout the day, or put it in a visible place. You can also say it out loud and look in the mirror every morning or evening to make the effect even stronger.
Every time we’re about to start working on a task, our mind comes up with an excuse. It has the ability to think off tens of reasons why you should do something easier and more pleasant now and leave the important activity for later. That’s why most people are procrastinators because they listen to this voice in their heads.
But if you want to build a productivity mindset, you should say no every time such thoughts pop up in your mind, and try to think this through.
Remind yourself of why it’s important to get this thing done, image how proud of yourself you’ll be after that, and how much closer to reaching your goals this will take you.
There are many reasons why you shouldn’t do a task, but there are even more as to why you should. Focus on them.
4. Take full responsibility for your actions.
Think about the many times you didn’t do what you were supposed to. The reasons were many. You didn’t feel like it, it wasn’t the right time, someone else asked you to do another task and you were busy, you were late and decided not to start at all, the circumstances weren’t the right ones, etc.
What’s the common denominator among all of these? That you blamed something, or someone else other than yourself, for not being able to get things done, and that gave you enough comfort to procrastinate a little more.
But in the end, there’s zero progress, and others have nothing to do with this.
So my advice is, let go of blaming and own it – realize that you’re responsible for anything that happens or doesn’t happen in your life. If you truly understand that and accept it, you’ll be able to shift into action-mode.
A productivity mindset is built over time, and it becomes the foundation of all your time management skills, efficiency, personal organization, good habits, and more.
Start developing it today by giving one of these approaches a try.
Originally published 01/01/17.