For many, productivity is a mystery. Some days, you grind away, blowing through your to-do list. Other days, it seems as if you can’t get anything done. Productivity is unpredictable, but with the help of a career coach, it doesn’t have to be. Ace-up spoke with Etta Jacobs, a coach focusing on guiding professionals through career transitions and leadership goals, about simple ways to boost productivity.
1. Forget About a Cure-all
I have to admit, I’ve fallen for those clickbait stories that promise I’ll be ten times more productive by following this “one quick tip.” In reality, we’re all so vastly different that one tip can help some, while it stresses out others.
While tips can come in handy, working one on one with a career coach can help you develop custom programs and practices to battle a lag in productivity.
For example, when I first started seeing a career coach, she helped me discover that physically crossing off tasks on a to-do list motivated me to get stuff done. While somewhat obvious and small, it made me realize there isn’t a cure all for work. We’re all different so that different things will benefit each of us.
2. Find a Priority System
When multiple tasks and deadlines loom, a priority system can be the best way to organize thoughts efficiently. But, finding a system that works for you can sometimes be the biggest challenge. With choices ranging from traditional to-do lists, apps, time blocking or calendars, creating a system can be overwhelming.
A coach can help you discover what style of organization works best for you. Some people find a detailed schedule comforting, while others see it as overwhelming. Others might get a sense of satisfaction by checking off boxes, while others still love a color coded calendar.
Whatever priority system you choose to use, it shouldn’t be a source of stress. With the help of an Ace-up career coach, it can become a place to sort out ideas and tasks for a sense of calm.
3. Take Time Upfront
Unorganized team projects can bring productivity to a screeching halt. When working with others, so many elements are out of your control, often leading to feelings of frustration or helplessness.
To combat this stumbling block, Jacobs recommends taking time to understand and plan for dueling communication styles:
“Some folks want to get right to the point. They see any extraneous discussion as a distraction and waste of time. Others need a few minutes to check in with each other, as a way of building connections and showing their concern. Some team members want to stick to a strict agenda, while some seek consensus, and others thrive on the creative jolt of a wide-open discussion. These observations are based on the work of Dr. David Kantor, whose Structural Dynamics Theory of human communications embraces these differences and demonstrates how best to work with them.”
Part of working as a group is understanding that everyone will have their style and each with its value. There isn’t one correct way to do things, and “a coach can teach you and the members of your team how to appreciate and apply each other's' strengths so that you are no longer frustrated and blocked by your differences,” Jacobs says.
It’s counterintuitive, but taking the time to do nothing will ultimately help you boost productivity. “One thing I believe in and teach my clients,” explains Jacobs, “is the importance of making time to renew their energy through unplugging.”
Try to find time every day when you can be off your phone, away from your computer and refreshing yourself. This might mean reading for pleasure, meditating, exercising or spending time with friends. Simply find a pleasurable activity that doesn’t include office work. Many will be surprised to find that unplugging time makes all the difference when you have to get down to business.
So chuck out the to-do lists if they’re not working, and start discovering what works for you. Check out Ace-up’s team of career coaches to kickstart productivity.