Posts tagged: Productivity

Why can’t I finish what I started?

August 28, 2015


There’s great satisfaction in getting things done.

We get involved. We learn things. We find order in chaos. And the ultimate reward: We make progress that is appreciated (even if it’s just by us).

This kind of soul-nourishing effort rates as high as money, if not higher, when it comes to motivation. It helps define purpose and give us the ambition to stick with it.

But every so often, almost unwittingly, our ambition withers and things languish half finished. At Unstuck, we call this acting like an Idle Achiever. We’re unable to commit to the project or the person or the mission at hand. Instead, we start and stop like we’re driving a stick shift for the first time.

To smooth out this herky-jerky moment, it helps to understand how we got there in the first place. Take our mini-quiz to find out what type of Idle Achiever you tend to be. Then,
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You’re overwhelmed — so why won’t you ask for help?

February 26, 2015

Leading by doing — we could write the book. We see the big picture, organize the details, meet the deadlines, and never let them see us sweat.

Yep, we’re on top of it all the time…except when a task veers beyond our arsenal of expertise. But that rarely happens. And since we’re so good at figuring things out, we soldier on, on our own. Until we can’t.

Sometimes the task is too foreign, the time too short, the energy too finite to pull it off. And then we’re stuck acting like a Lone Leader, trying to operate without the necessary support.

There are at least three reasons a Lone Leader prefers to operate solo, even when overwhelmed. Knowing which one you’re prone to is the first step toward being able to issue an SOS. Take our mini-quiz to find out your
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15 ways to stay focused in a distracted world

February 9, 2015

Stuck Moment: I feel like my day is one big interruption. A steady stream of questions, last-minute requests, and texts that just won’t quit. How am I supposed to focus on what I already have to do? And how long can I keep this up?

*  *  *

Modern life is a minefield of distractions. Ever burgeoning gadgets, games, information sources — even open-plan offices — conspire to divert our attention away from whatever we need to concentrate on. Neuroscientist Frances Jensen recently dubbed this “the dementia of the preoccupied,” referring to how it feels to continually shift her attention throughout the day.“Things fall through the cracks,” she says.

Indeed, our daily frenzy probably is causing us to miss a lot, perhaps without realizing it. Take it one step further, and that fractured focus gets in the way of doing our best, or doing it at all, even when it’s important to
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Quick health tip: 5 benefits of kicking your coffee habit

October 8, 2014

Want to know the real reason your morning cup of coffee works as a pick-me-up? Because a caffeine-addicted body is cranky and low-energy without it — and that unpleasant state is your new baseline. Simply put, a shot of jolting joe makes you feel like you’re climbing to new heights, but you’re really just climbing back to normal.

Research says that an easy way to boost your day-to-day productivity is to kick your coffee habit. Here are five great benefits:

• better sleep (caffeine has a six hour half-life, which means that the effects of a morning cup linger until bedtime);• better control of your mood and emotions;• better cardiac health, including lower blood pressure;• decreased jitters and anxiety;• fewer headaches.

And if you can’t kick caffeine completely, avoid drinking coffee after 12 pm; a cup at noon will leave 50% of the caffeine still in your system at 8 pm.
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How to work like a human

September 11, 2014

When I was 23 years old, I found myself in a job for which I was vastly under-qualified — associate managing editor of Ms. magazine. I’d walk around with a clipboard, creating and enforcing deadlines for the rest of the editorial staff, including the magazine’s beloved copy editor, Joan. She was a wise and patient woman, more than twice my age, who had been at Ms. for as long as anyone could remember. One night, in the frenzy of putting the latest issue to bed, the ever-meticulous Joan became a workflow bottleneck. So, I approached her, clipboard in hand, and impatiently explained that she needed to pick up the pace.

“I’m tired,” she said. “I’d really prefer to finish in the morning when I’m fresh.”

“I understand,” I said, not understanding in the least. “But we need to finish tonight. I’m sorry, but you’ll just have to keep going.”

Joan dutifully stayed late
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11 ways to stay energized all day

January 17, 2014

Stuck Moment: It’s 3 pm and you’re down for the count. You’re tired, hungry, and cranky — longing for a venti-size, two-sugar latte. Sigh. Once again, the rest of this workday is going to be an unproductive drag.

But it doesn’t have to be. All that’s required are some small diet and exercise fine-tuning to sharpen that remarkable instrument you call your body. Because what you feed it and how you care for it affects the physical and mental factors that contribute to productivity: Mood. Confidence. Concentration. Energy. Memory. Your immune system. 

Even better, these tweaks to your daily habits are so easy to implement that they can quickly become second nature — building a positive and lasting impact on what you can get done. Let’s get started.

Go easy on your digestive system. Digestion is work for your body. After you eat, increased blood flows to your stomach and intestines for the
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How a lifelong procrastinator cracked the productivity riddle

December 12, 2013

“My brain isn’t lazy,” says Tim Urban, Harvard grad, musician, blogger at Wait But Why, cofounder of two successful tutoring companies, and expert procrastinator. “It’s dying to work hard because it knows that’s the way to be happy.”

But Tim’s brain has a tendency to get busy with everything other than what’s at the top of his to-do list. He’s always been productive — playing hours of piano, for example, while procrastinating a writing assignment — but his busyness wasn’t moving him any closer to his goals. And, on occasion, it caused misery-inducing side effects: His 90-page thesis was produced in a panicked 72-hour work session before deadline. He got it done, but it wasn’t work he was proud of.

After that low point, Tim told himself it was the kind of work he was being asked to do, not his work habits. Then he promptly moved to L.A. to compose
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How the right routine can save the day

December 9, 2013

Oh, holy routine! Every day, it seems, brings fresh tribute to the early morning habits of Benjamin Franklin or the five things that any successful person must do before breakfast. Success begins to sound like 1% inspiration and 99% perfect routine. 

But you can’t punch out the perfect routine with a cookie cutter. We’re all different. Special snowflakes, like our mothers always said. And, while there are some truths universal to human biology (we’ve never met a successful person who could go a straight 48 hours without sleep), our bodies and brains all work just a bit uniquely. When you factor in each person’s different jumble of workday tasks and projects — plus social demands and other commitments — it’s clear that one-size-fits-all time management formulas don’t work.

A truly effective routine begins with self-knowledge. Highly productive people, whether creative, corporate, or domestic, hone their routines to take advantage of their body’s
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How to power up your productivity

December 2, 2013

We live in the age of the superhuman. We’re supercharged supercomputing superbeings supertasking. We do more than any single human being in any previous era ever imagined possible. Watch us juggle between jobs and hobbies, family and friends, home stuff and travel, professional networks and personal lives. You name it — it’s already on the calendar.

No wonder we’re overwhelmed.  

You know that feeling. When one task or one demand too many shifts us from all systems go to overload. That surrendering realization of, “Ugh. I. Just. Can’t. Anymore.” That’s when productivity stalls and we get stuck.

Counter to the advice of every sports coach we ever had, the answer isn’t to try harder. It’s to work smarter, to work in tune with our bodies, our brains, and our metabolic needs. In his book Your Brain at Work, David Rock explains why the burden we place on ourselves these days wears
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