“Haste makes waste” is a cliche for a reason.
When we work too fast or try to do too much, our productivity levels plummet. Multitasking might feel like we’re accomplishing more in less time, but is it really worth it when you’re spreading yourself thin and likely producing subpar results? You don’t need that kind of stress. And you shouldn’t have to do it all over again.
Consider how you feel when you are rushing.
Are you irritable? Anxious? Ungrounded and disengaged? Heart racing, palms sweaty, and you could swear you’re forgetting something important along the way? Your engagements with the people around you are bound to be less than pleasant, possibly even rude. And even if you are rushing for something you’re looking forward to, that adrenaline in your system will get in the way of you actually enjoying it.
It’s okay to take your time.
Give yourself permission to slow down a little bit, be precise, and do things right. Remember that your value in this world has absolutely nothing to do with how much you get done… but at the same time, there’s always stuff to get done, isn’t there? So here are 7 pillars to help you uphold the productive life you desire for yourself– without all the stress.
You’ve set your goals and you’re excited to accomplish them, but they may feel daunting at times. Don’t give up. Commit to working on them even in the rough and uncertain times. Take a breather if you need to, but come right back and keep moving forward.
Need some extra motivation? Try a progress sheet so you can see how far you’ve come! Set benchmarks, and reward yourself for each one you hit. Remind yourself of why this particular goal is important to you, and imagine what it will feel like when you finally reach the top.
2. Eliminating Distractions
We all do it: scroll mindlessly through social media, doodle in the margins, Google that song that just came on the radio, or wander off to tackle that random task we’ve been meaning to do for the past week that suddenly seems like an immediate priority. And then you might have kids calling for your attention, or pets trying to crawl into your lap, or a partner who keeps asking you what you want to have for dinner. Distractions are unavoidable. We can, however, find ways to minimize them.
Start by noticing what is really preventing you from getting things done. Little distractions like social media or games on your phone? It’s okay to take a break to play or scroll, but place a limit on it. Set a timer– it helps. Just distracted in general? Try adding in some sensory input like a snack or chewing gum (tactile), burn some incense (olfactory), and/or some white noise (audio) in the background to keep the edges of your brain busy. For bigger distractions like children, consider scheduling regular time to get a sitter and work at the local coffee shop, or block out time while they’re at school. Find a way to nurture your focus in whatever way best suits your needs.
3. Time Management
It’s time to get deliberate. It’s easy to accidentally waste a bunch of time on meaningless activities. You know how it is. You’re supposed to write up that ten-page report and you suddenly find you’ve spent three hours organizing your closet so that it “sparks joy.” So why can’t we seem to find enough time for the big and important things?
Sometimes they just feel too big, like you’ll have to set aside an entire uninterrupted week to even make a dent. Sometimes we just put them off because it’s something we dread doing. There are any number of reasons, but the way to fix most of them begins with creating a schedule. Plan out the little things in your day, and then plan out the broader things in your week. Give yourself specific timeframes if you can. Be willing to flex if needed, but when you’re not just “winging it” you’ll be amazed at how much you can get done.
The thing about a schedule, unfortunately, is that you’ve got to act on it. You can have the most organized layout on paper, but without action you will never manifest anything beyond that paper. The same with prayers and affirmations and journaling– they will only take you so far if you don’t follow up with action.
Think of it like having a map. It shows you how to get to your destination, but you have to get moving if you want to eventually arrive there. The good news? No step is too small. Every action of any kind that you take in the direction of your goal is still progress, so even on days when you don’t feel motivated or don’t have the energy, you will benefit from even the tiniest action to move yourself ahead.
5. Risk Taking
Understand that investing in anything new involves risk. Risk of criticism. Risk of failure. Risk of feeling “not good enough.” Risk of losing assets like time, energy, and money. But ask yourself: “What is this investment worth to me? And what am I risking if I don’t go for it?”
It takes a certain amount of courage to claim your big goals, and even more to move toward them. So have the courage to take your life to the next level. Trade your fear for faith, step out of your comfort zone, and get out of your own way. You can’t expect spectacular results from mediocre strategies.
When you get excited about a project or goal, it’s easy to want to just jump in with both feet… but if you don’t want to waste time in trial and error, it’s worth it to do a little prep work first. Do some research. See how others are approaching—and succeeding at—whatever it is you’re getting ready to embark upon. Then consider which pieces of this new information align with you, and forge your own path.
Learning more about the topic at hand, and learning new things in general, will give you the advantage of a broader spectrum of capability. You’ll be able to extend those broader skills and knowledge across future endeavors, optimizing your time and facilitating the process. The key to forward movement is to know how much you don’t know. Understand that there is always more to learn. And the more you learn (and implement), the more efficient and effective you will get.
Yes, having fun is productive, too! We can’t always be in constant “go mode” or we’re sure to burn ourselves out. Even machines need to be unplugged and tuned up once in a while, and require regular maintenance. Remember you’re a human being. You need even more care than a machine: mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually.
So take a break now and then. Relax, let go of your worries, and spend a little time doing something you enjoy. Read a book. Go for a walk. Go on vacation! Unplug yourself and let your gears cool down. When you come back you’ll be calmer, more clear-headed, refreshed and ready to get back to work.
“Grace makes space.”
Instead of “haste makes waste,” let’s adopt a lifestyle of giving ourselves grace—for being tired, for being stressed, for being human—in order to make more space for the things we want in life.
When we admit that we cannot run on empty, and we may make mistakes…
When we recognize that we don’t know everything (and that’s okay)…
When we get deliberate with our time, and honest about our desires…
…this is when doors will open for us.
…this is when we achieve the glorious goals we’ve set for ourselves.
…this is when our dreams come true.
Jason Ratliff CMC