BANG! The starting gun fires, and they’re off. Racer #1 taking mighty leaps and bounds throws dirt high in the air and quickly pulls ahead of racer #2 who steadily plods along, his small head bobbing from side to side.
Within minutes Hare has disappeared over the horizon leaving an impressive cloud of dust for Tortoise to choke on. The race hardly seems fair, the win all but certain for Hare. He’s 100 times faster than Tortoise. He’ll surely win this race without even trying.
Or will he?
Not many minutes later Hare slows down and looks behind him. His competition isn’t even in sight. He logically concludes that the race is already in the bag for him, and there can’t be any harm in a nap. He lies down for a short snooze.
All this time Tortoise steadily plods on. Not too fast but gaining ground every hour while overconfident Hare snoozes the afternoon away.
You may have heard, Tortoise ended up winning this race. Hare overslept and by the time he woke up it was too late to gain back the ground lost to Tortoise. Tortoise was consistent, he chose a pace he could maintain. He stayed focused on the finish line and didn’t get over confident.
Not the case with Hare. The Hare styles of achievers are certainly impressive. They huff and puff and make a big deal about the start. It doesn’t last. Their fantastic beginning sputters out in the face of consistent, focused productivity. It’s this application of consistency that can be used to achieve high level results. Giving you the ability to get more done in less time than you ever thought possible.
Sustainability is always key when talking about productivity. Any task can always be done faster and more efficiently but can that increase in effort be maintained over time? This is where the breakdown usually occurs. A tremendous amount of work is done at the beginning and it seems like the finish is but a couple steps away. The sense of focus and urgency dies out and you find yourself surfing Facebook and making another cup of coffee. And then, just like in the old Looney Tunes cartoons, a massive iron anvil falls from the sky and squashes EVERYTHING…
These 4 tips can save your skin:
1) Get up on the right side of the bed every day.
How you wake up in the morning is critical. We’ve all heard the saying “Wow, they woke up on the wrong side of the bed this morning”. You have more control over how you wake up than you think. Waking up in a restful fashion is one of the most important things you can do. Being jolted out of your peaceful slumbers by a grating alarm clock is not pleasurable. You may be woken up in the middle of a sleep cycle, or the middle of a nice dream of a past spring break.
Try waking up to music instead. I use an alarm clock radio set to my favorite station. The alarm is set to go off 30 minutes before I even have to get out of bed, giving me 30 minutes to gradually open my eyes. The radio comes on softly at first and gradually increases volume. It’s as pleasant a way to get up, slowly becoming aware the radio is on. Tip: Many smartphones have this capability as well. Be careful what music you wake up to. For a week I had the alarm radio set to a local heavy metal station because the music did a good job of getting me up fast. But it was like getting woken up by a jackhammer. Switching the station took care of the problem. Less screaming and more singing.
You want as few peaks and valleys in that line as possible. Peaks always have corresponding valleys. The productivity valleys are where nothing gets done. What you put into your body’s “gas tank” has a massive affect on the highs and lows of your line graph.
-Not eating breakfast
-Eating junk food
-Not drinking enough water to stay fully hydrated
A Harvard University/Massachusetts General Hospital study of children in Philadelphia and Baltimore schools discovered that students who usually ate school breakfast had improved math grades, reduced hyperactivity, decreased absence and tardy rates, and improved psycho-social behaviors compared with children who rarely ate school breakfast. (Pediatrics, January, 1998; Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, February, 1998)
We are all students, no matter our age. There is no perfect solution when it comes to the correct combination and amounts of food for you. Experiment a little. Does eating gobs of sugar for breakfast give you an initial jolt followed by a slump before lunch? Try modifying your diet. Some find that coffee is too sharp an energy spike. Drink green tea instead. Listen to your body and mind and they will tell you what to do.
3) Give yourself little rewards throughout the day.
Often called positive reinforcement, it’s the use of small rewards to reinforce desired behavior. Dog trainers do this. Before you begin a task tell yourself what will happen AFTER you are done. Make sure you know in your own mind that a short break, a cup of coffee, or a sandwich will follow. Set that in stone first. Having the anticipation of completion will help put a positive spin on any task.
And sometimes what you’re working on will go south. Complications arise, it ends up taking twice as long and now things are behind schedule. A common reaction is to beat yourself up for that and deny your promised reward. And then push onto the next task, not pausing and taking a break when it’s needed the most.
Don’t fall into this trap. Punishment slows everything down. It’s negative and destructive. Stick with the reward, pat yourself on the back for finishing the task even though it got tough. Take your break, walk, snack or whatever the reward was going to be. Reinforce in your mind that good things happen when you stick to your plan.
4) Keep a text document or pen and paper handy at all times.
When an idea comes to you write it down immediately. It doesn’t matter if you are in the middle of doing something else. Write it down, you can look at it later. If you are in the middle of an important meeting and you remember that you have to stop and get gas for your Batmobile on the way home WRITE IT DOWN. Or tell Robin to write it down.
This does a few important things. It frees up brain bandwidth and ensures you won’t worry about forgetting something important. The mind can be compared to a computer, it can only run so many processes at once before it becomes overloaded and inefficient. A clear brain is an efficient and productive brain.
What to do now? Try out one or all of the 4 tips above. See what make the most difference. You will come up with other productivity ideas that aren’t mentioned here. They need to be shared, let us know what they are in a comment!
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