1. Prioritise. If you’ve ever started a campfire from scratch, you know that it is futile to strike a match and hold it to a log of wood in the hope that it will catch alight. Rather, you always start with kindling: newspaper or small twigs. Only once those are burning nicely and beginning to generate heat can you add more substantial and longer-burning pieces of timber.
The same principle applies to productivity at home. Forget starting any block of productive time by attempting the most audacious, time-consuming and challenging thing on your list. Instead, start with the twigs — the quick, small tasks or activities that you can knock on the head quickly. As you begin to feel the sense of accomplishment, momentum kicks in.
Start with the tasks that will get the ball rolling, and then when you’ve got a few wins under your belt, move onto the tasks that need the bulk of your energy and attention. These are the complex tasks that require mental energy and focus. A good rule of thumb is to try and get onto these tasks no later than 20 per cent into the time you have available. As well as this, aim to do these tasks when your natural energy levels peak – often late morning is a good time for this.
The final group of tasks to attend to are the routine tasks. I often see in clients and businesses a tendency to attend to these tasks first, and in doing so losing the time and energy that they needed for the more important tasks. We get bogged down doing procedural and administrative tasks only to find we close out our day never having gotten around to doing the important things we promised we’d get to today (just as we promised ourselves each day for the last week). Do these last and avoid the sense of monotony that will kill your momentum.
2. Revitalise. While establishing a routine is vital for a productive work life in the physical limitations of your home, if you are finding that it is the monotony of this routine that is killing your sense of vitality and energy for your work then it is time to revamp it. You don’t work for your routine, your routine works for you.
Snapping out of a monotonous rut can be as simple as trying something fresh and having some fun. At an individual level, try moving around the furniture at home, paint a wall, sit outside for work, try a different recipe. It doesn’t need to take much. Beyond simply encouraging a sense of vitality, it can often spark the creative ideas and innovations that your previous routine could never afford you.
As inconsequential and arbitrary as it sounds, there is a lot to be said for aesthetics and context and their impact on your work. Dressing as if you are going to work and designing your home office in such a way that it aesthetically and logistically encourages creativity will work wonders when you are in a monotonous rut. While these ideas can seem like little more than window dressing, never underestimate the power of fresh context.
3. Amplify. While we are all used to the KPIs of the corporate world that dictate the profit margins, sales figures and growth rates of the business, setting them individually is a great tool for regaining lost momentum and breaking out of monotony. One powerful KPI called the Amplification Test measures the trajectory of your current daily activity. Here’s how it works.
Think about what you did yesterday:
- How did you spend your time?
- How many calls did you make or meetings did you have?
- What did you achieve in terms of immediate results and also what did you do to create results in the future?
- What about your health — what did you eat? Did you do any exercise? How many hours of sleep did you get? What did you fill your mind with, entertainment-wise?
Now amplify this. Imagine you repeated everything you did yesterday every day for the next 365 days (although, let’s hope it won’t come to this) and ask yourself this: at the end of that year, would you be more successful, or less? Would you be enjoying more momentum in business and life, or less? Would you be more fit and healthy, or less?
When you set yourself KPIs, make them clear, measurable and manageable. How many calls do you need to make by lunch? How many words need to be written? How much time needs to be committed to a certain activity?
Examining the trajectory of your current actions gives you the power to alter them for future success. Putting clear markers on this trajectory is the best way of measuring your performance and ensuring you stay on track.
Although in the current circumstances, many of us are doomed to some level of monotony, these are 3 ways to ensure you break the monotony where it needs to be broken, encourage your own productivity and ultimately stay on top.
In the words of Mark Twain, ‘The secret to getting ahead is getting started.’
Michael McQueen is a trends forecaster, business strategist and award-winning conference speaker.
He features regularly as a commentator on TV and radio and is a bestselling author of 8 books. To order Michael's book "Momentum", click here.