Be More Productive Today

I grew up in a home where perfection was expected. If I got a B on my report card, my parents asked me, “What on earth happened?” So imagine my horror when my son got to college and told me that occasionally, he didn’t complete a homework assignment for a class. After I checked to make sure no fire and brimstone were falling on us, I managed to gasp, “But why not?”

His answer was simple: he made it a habit to evaluate and prioritize his tasks in order of importance. In order to both succeed at his daytime accounting job and complete reports and high-value assignments for school, something occasionally had to give. He realized that not completing one low-value assignment wouldn’t ultimately damage his grade in a class where he was already doing well. Plus, being free of that burden would allow him to be productive by focusing on something that mattered more. Although this offended my code of perfectionism (after all, isn’t that what all-nighters are for?), I saw that it made so much sense, especially since he did well in school and even better at work!

Would you like to be more productive today? Then you may need to let go of preconceived notions such as perfectionism. In his article “How Successful People Stay Productive,” Dr. Travis Bradberry explains that emotionally intelligent people understand that perfection doesn’t exist, and they don’t even aim for it. “When perfection is your goal, you’re always left with a nagging sense of failure that makes you want to give up or reduce your effort. You end up spending your time lamenting what you failed to accomplish and what you should have done differently instead of moving forward excited about what you’ve achieved and what you will accomplish in the future.”

Are you one of those people who makes impossible to-do lists and, at the end of the day, only sees what you didn’t accomplish? Do you leave work with a feeling of failure that you didn’t accomplish 100% of what you expected of yourself? That’s a huge burden to carry over into the following day, and the next. Stop it! You’re robbing yourself of energy and productivity. Acknowledge that you’re only human, and learn to give yourself some grace.

Here are a few more behaviors of emotionally intelligent people that help them stay productive, according to Dr. Bradberry. If any of these jump out at you as problem areas, consider reading the whole article:

    Forgive yourself.
    Don’t say yes unless you really want to.
    Focus on solutions.
    Avoid asking, “What if?”
    Stay positive.
    Eat.
    Sleep.
    Exercise.
    Meditate.
    Ride the wave of your impulse.
    Squash negative self-talk.

Do you typically feel overwhelmed and question whether you can accomplish everything on your plate each day? Sometimes, the one thing that can help you be more productive today is counter-intuitive! Start by evaluating and prioritizing your tasks. Then cut something out of today’s to-do list, and enjoy the energy you gain from being free to focus on what matters most.

PS: As I write, I’ve already been hit by two huge unexpected time-takers that weren’t on today’s to-do list. But I’m acting on Dr. Bradberry’s advice. Rather than dwell on how behind I’ve gotten, I’m focusing on the solution, staying positive, and moving on to the next important thing. The rest of my list will still be there tomorrow!

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