Sunshine, You’re Killing My Productivity! How do I get my work done when I’d rather be playing outdoors?
If you’re anything like me, I’m challenged to stay productive when the sun is shining. So, being mindful of my needs, I take frequent outdoor breaks. These may include walks, a coffee outside or just sitting quietly in nature and meditating for a few moments. Still, work (and clients) are calling and they are important to me, so I scramble back to my indoor office. But when that sunshine keeps calling it’s hard to say no.
To help all of us stay productive and still answer the call of the sun, Elita Torres, author, blogger and productivity expert offers some helpful tips.
Visualize Goals. When you don’t have goals, you may find yourself aimlessly attending to tasks that make you feel like you’re accomplishing something, but in the long run veer you off course. Torres suggests delineating the difference between goals versus things that add little value to your work and life.
“First, try to be clear on your values and vision,” Torres recommends. “I try not to think about time, but rather my values and priorities. My aim of being more productive is to let importance, not urgency, drive my life.” So, look at what motivates you. This is how you become clear on your priorities so you can then develop related goals. “What contributes to a goal that is important to you will help you choose what things to get done; even when it’s nice outside.”
Develop Strategies. Experiment with different techniques that help you stay focused and productive, like including breaks when you earn them.
“You can set a goal that, when accomplished, results in rewarding yourself with some ‘outdoor time,’ or anything else that recharges your energy,” suggests Torres. She also recommends trying out the Pomodoro Technique, applying a solid task management system, experimenting with apps, being intentional about managing your calendar and exploring other strategies outlined in her book, The Productivity Equation.
Set Boundaries. There will always be someone or something (like the sunshine) vying for your time. You need to prioritize what aligns with your values and goals but also keep in mind that includes personal time, as well. By setting boundaries around work and play you feel in more control of your day.
“I try to be transparent about how I need to spend my time,” says Torres. “I have a big family and two young boys.” When someone needs her time or tries to pull her focus from a project, unless it’s urgent, she schedules time later that will work for both parties. She suggests talking with family, and children, about the distinction between work time and play time and establishing boundaries for both. This enables you to fully engage when working and then to completely tune in when family and personal time arrives.
“I plan family time so that I can be confident that my time with them is not forgotten or pushed aside,” says Torres. “When I’m with a loved one, or a friend, I try and give them my full attention and focus. In exchange, they understand that when I’m working, that requires my full attention, too.”
Be Choosy. When you think about how you plan to spend your day and week, consider what’s most important and look for ways to prioritize these goals over busyness or other things that are less important, that might distract you or drain your energy. Torres recommends being mindful when you say “yes” or “no” and to remember that you always have the choice to say “no” to someone else’s priorities or your own. It’s an exchange that happens every moment of the day. But there is also an exchange of energy that happens too, and you should be sure to use your values and priorities as guidelines when making these choices.
Be Realistic. “There is no one magic app, system, or tool that will solve your productivity dilemma,” says Torres. “It’s about finding what works best for you.” And this always starts with outlining your priorities and then matching the right productivity system with your personal and professional needs.
But probably the most important strategy that Torres suggests is adopting the right mindset.
“It can be tough to look outside on a beautiful day and still commit to completing what you’ve set out to do,” says Torres. “I try to remember that my time in this world is limited. I will never get the time I lost yesterday back, so I try to be intentional about how I want to invest my time today.”
Since adopting these tips and others outlined in Torres’s book, The Productivity Equation: The Four Step Process to Accomplishing More of What’s Important to You, the sunshine is no longer killing my productivity. Rather, it’s making me work harder. It’s all about prioritizing and spending my time smartly so that I’m focused on my projects and goals. In doing so, I’ve got more time for family, friends and yes, even the sunshine.
See you out there.