How to be more productive with your time: change how you view productivity (kickstart yourself by improving your mindset).

Photo by Andreas Klassen / Unsplash

Since I can remember I’ve always been studying for something. We all did growing up. Exams. The bane of childhood. I remember writing out schedules for my days which would be a biblical document of my revision schedule. Ahhh the mems! I was such a nerd – the subjects would be all colour coded. 📝

Did I stick to those schedules? Ha. Unfortunately, as the slightly chubby child I was, who cared more about his kill to death ratio on Call of Duty. The 2-hour revision slots didn’t last long. It was a shame Xbox wasn’t a subject at school. 🎮

14 year old Alex knowing he's about to do minimal revision for his GCSEs

Since those days, I’ve been welcomed to the world of ‘procrastination’. The infamous P word, or in other words, being unproductive. And so, it began. The many years of restless nights, heart palpitations, sweating, and the worries of impending doom. I HAVEN’T DONE THE WORK YET. Fair to say, it’s been a source of much anxiety. 🙅🏾

Have you spent countless hours worrying about the work you haven’t done? The work you’re going to have to do first thing when you wake up, or even the all-nighter that you’ll have to now pull just before it’s due? A problem for ‘future you’ to deal with. 👩🏽‍💻

Last year’s lockdown was the realisation of how unproductive I’d become. Working from home with no routine, no schedule, no busy Outlook calendar really affected my time management. I didn’t have people at work breathing down my neck to get stuff done. Plus managing my attention was impossible now that my ‘office’ was the end of my bed and Netflix had replacing the usual office chatter. 🤳🏼

Think back to those times. Did you look back on your day late in the evening, in your bed after scrolling through your phone and think, ‘What did I actually do with my day?’ You know what I mean, yea? This really affected me. 📺

I struggled that much I decided to document myself trying '8 Productivity Initiatives' and journaled my results!

I want to share with you how I’ve come to have a better relationship with ‘productivity’ and how you can get yourself in a mental state to be more ‘productive’ with your time. 💆🏼‍♀‍

The key is to invest time on what improves your mindset in order to do the work, rather than focus on the output of the work. This is what we all tend to focus our worries on. The finished paper. The revision notes. The chores. The never-ending To-Do lists. 🧾

When I hear the word productivity, I instantly think of having to deliver an output. It’s reasonable to say that productivity is about getting stuff done and having something to show for your time and effort. Yes?  📊

However, the toxic pressure I’d put on myself to be productive is the very thing that made feel… unproductive! I’d stress about not being productive, at times when I thought I needed to be productive. That in itself is… unproductive. Then I’d end up spiralling into a ball of anxiety on the sofa and have a little meltdown. I’m going to call this, The Productivity Paradox! 🤦🏼‍♂‍

But I recently came across a really interesting YouTuber called Ali Abdaal. In one of his podcasts, he said something that really gave me that ‘holy sh*t’ light bulb moment. He simply said ‘productivity is time spent well’. 🔑

When you think about it, it’s so true. What he said allowed me to not think of productivity as an ‘output’. But instead, ‘the energy you spend on doing something that has value to you’. ⭐️

Is it productive to have a better mental state from taking some down time watching a film? A clearer head from going for a walk? Being more alert after nap? The feeling of being connected and valued after a lunch date with your friend? Or the boost of endorphins from a bit of yoga or a run? No? I believe it is because… 🏃🏾‍♀‍

This is all time spent well! On face value you may think, how is this productive time? I haven’t finished any of the work I needed to. I haven’t done anything which has earned me any money. The bloody washing, ironing and dishes still need to be flipping done! 🧽

But think back to the times you didn’t feel productive. When you couldn’t concentrate properly. When you couldn’t be arsed. For me most of the time it’s because I wasn’t in the right state to want to do it. Either too burnt out after long hours working or stressed because I’d had an expectation to have done X amount of work by now. 🥀

Your time would be probably better just spent accepting it and doing things which will improve your mental and physical state. Put the energy which you’re currently using on worrying about not being productive, into things that improve your wellbeing. Invest in yourself. 🧘🏽‍♂‍

This is productive time because its adding value. It’s providing a benefit for you. To give you a fitness analogy: what happens when you overtrain? You push yourself too hard to meet goals? You put your body through too much stress? You burn out. So, what should you do in this situation? 🙇🏼

You take a break! A week off. You rest. And what happens? You feel fresher, the injuries heal up, you are more motivated to get back in the gym and you even break performance plateaus! Was that week unproductive because you didn’t go to the gym? No, of course not. It was TIME WELL SPENT! It added value! 🏋🏼‍♂‍

I’ll leave you on this thought:

Who has done exercise in the morning and then felt they could take on the day like an absolute King or Queen? Pumped for a day at work after a HIIT/spin class? 🚴🏼‍♀‍

Who has been put in a great mood after a catch up with their friend, then they’ve spent the rest of the day with a smile on their face being more pleasant with others? Resulted it better engagement with others when in a happier mood? ☕️

Who has had some downtime listening to music or going for a walk and had a great idea come to them, then been motivated to act on it? A business or content idea come to you during a walk? 🚶🏾‍♂‍

There you go. This is all productive time once you start focusing on the input, the energy spent to add value to you, rather than worry about the output, the thing to show for it.⚡️

This mindset has helped me feel less anxious and guilty about work I need to do but haven’t yet. Along with allowing me to produce better work when doing tasks due to my improved state to complete them. 🚀

Thank you for everyone who's engaged with my previous blog posts and also gone and watched my first YouTube video. Let me know your views on productivity and if you are interested in any of the waffle I've said... please subscribe to the blog and the YouTube channel for more!

Alex Dean

Alex Dean