Taking It Easy While Maintaining Productivity

Once upon a time, not too long ago, I would have warned against getting too lax in one’s routines/appointments with oneself – and I will still put it out there to watch out for what I call “justified procrastination” (in short, doing something because it’s good for you or it’s important, but putting off something else that might be more important in order to do it).  

However, I’ve recently started learning to cut myself some slack and take it easy, and in doing so, have discovered that more often than not, when I reroute my day to do something healthy like take a longer walk home or devote the afternoon to service work, I end up feeling more motivated and energized to take on those “Important Tasks” – as long as I am mindful to actually do them.  

So, when I find myself caught up in a moment that begs me to go with it (like that sunny day or service opportunity), I still stop and check in with myself before I agree.  I ask two questions:

  1. If I do this shiny new idea instead of my planned activity, will I still be able to do the original thing and do it well? (Factors: time to do it, quality of outcome)
  2. Can this new thing wait until my next break or Productivity Block? (Or can I take my break now and keep working on the Important Tasks when the original break slot rolls around?)

Productivity Blocks are times that I block out of my day to get stuff done.  I look at my schedule, see where I have open times (based on my calendar and my typical patterns), and schedule my “get stuff done” time accordingly.  

  • Example:
    • Say I mark out Productivity Blocks (we’ll say PBs for short) from 2-4 pm and 6-8 pm.  Based on my Daily Review, I see what I can reasonably do in those times.  
      • Will I be out and about before 2? Then perhaps PB#1 is a good time to do anything on my list that involves going outside my house, like running errands.
      • Will I be in for the evening (or at least the early part of it) by 6? Then that’s a good time to do things that can or should happen at home, like organizing papers or editing work for my website.
         
  • Other notes on PBs:
    • I usually block out 2-3 hours per PB, because that’s about my attention span when I’m working on something intensively. However, I may make them shorter or longer depending on what my day looks like and what needs to get done when. (i.e., I may have an hour between appointments in which I could make phone calls, or 4 hours in the afternoon/evening to work on something big)
       
    • I do not schedule my PBs back-to-back; I always give myself at least 30 minutes leeway/break time between them.
       
    • How many blocks I use depends on the day. I may only use one productivity block if it’s an appointment-heavy day (or if I’m not in the mindset to be super-productive).
       
    • When I write out my daily review, I make two fields for each block are to help me track my routines:
      • “Projected” is for what I plan to do during that time; I fill it in beforehand.
      • “Actual” is for what I really did in that time; I fill it in after the fact to track my routines and keep myself accountable.

This helps me when I look back over my week in my Weekly Review; I can easily spot patterns (both constructive and destructive).