When You’re In A Crunch, DON’T Focus on Production. Focus on This Instead.

Many of you know that I am trying to “do” the social media thing. It worked okay for the summer, but then September slammed onto the scene and WHAM. Nobody is doing anything. (Or at least, none of the two dozen or so people I look forward to seeing post are doing anything. Shut up, I’m trying.)

If I were to guess, and I will, everyone has shifted gears. Of course, there’s the whole back to school thing– getting everyone adjusted to the new routine takes some bandwidth. But even people without kids are gearing up for the Next Big Push. Autumn is a popular time for infoproducts and classes. If you’re in any kind of retail field you have the holiday feeding frenzy to prepare for. It’s harvest time. Lets bring in the bounty.

Harvest is a good metaphor, because there’s no expectation that your reward is just going to land in your lap. You are going to have to work for it, those hours may be very long. But, because the rewards are so immediate, it’s easier to work hard. At least that’s what we tell ourselves.

Think Outside the “Work Harder” Hamster Wheel

There’s an old parable; I’m sure you’ve probably heard it. It involves a woodcutter and an unsharpened ax.

If you must work harder than usual, it is not enough to simply drink more coffee and burn the midnight oil. You have to sharpen your ax.
What you have to understand is that it is POINTLESS to work longer hours. You reach the point of diminishing returns very quickly (the higher-level the work, the sooner you reach it.) What you have to do is use those hours the MOST EFFECTIVE way that you can.

Now, luckily, “Work Longer Hours” is pretty much the worst possible way to improve your productivity, which means that almost anything will work better. Why not try:

  • Exercising as early in the day as possible
  • Taking time to eat proper meals of real food (and not starches, either)
  • Lock yourself off the internet. You know where you waste time. Cut it out.
  • Map out your day
  • Pick ONE priority
  • Do the most difficult task first.
  • Close your email
  • Cancel your meetings
  • Meditate
  • Cut caffeine (only as a last resort!)
  • Sleep more

Personally, I swear by that last one. Really. A sleep-deprived brain is a walking example of the Dunning-Kruger effect. According to James Clear, people who are underslept think they get used to it after a few days, but in fact their cognition continues to decline for weeks.

The list above contains most of the commonsense productivity “hacks.” But here’s what it all comes down to: When you need to be productive, you must prioritize maintenance.

If your ax isn’t sharp, you’re not cutting down any trees.

Now, I’m going to go do some stretches, then get back to work.


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