September 13, 2018

"Help...I’ve Fallen and I Can’t Get Up!" - 3 Productivity Issues...and 3 Solutions For Those Issues

Even if you love your job, it’s possible to hit the inevitable slump from time to time. Perhaps for a period, you shifted your priorities to something going on in your personal life, and you’re finding it hard to re-engage with your work. Or maybe you feel like you’ve tapped out on your creative ideas and you are waiting for a miraculous brainstorm to reignite your brilliance. The point is, slumps, procrastination, and lack of motivation can hit all of us. And while we understand that, it’s critical not to have those few bad days or even weeks turn into months. Before you hit that downward spiral, check yourself.  


It’s hard to address a challenge unless you understand its cause.  Of course, everyone has a bad day or week from time to time...but if it begins to impact your productivity, output, and overall impact seriously, it’s time to do some deep introspection about why you might not be living up to expectations. No one likes feeling like their productivity doesn’t match their ambition. If you don’t take a good hard look in the mirror and seek to understand why it’s happening in the first place, it can leave you feeling stressed out, guilty, and the lack of motivation can turn into emotional exhaustion.

Explore these potential reasons it might be happening so you can ultimately begin to dig yourself out and get back on track.

THE ISSUE:  I’m Really, Really Busy.

In today’s business world, it can be seen as a badge of honor to be able to claim how busy you are. By doing so, you are indicating you are in high demand and needed by others. And while this notion might feed your ego, never shutting down and being available to everyone 24/7 is just plain unhealthy. It can also backfire on your career; sometimes people perceive this as you simply can’t get your work done on time.

THE FIX: Prioritize.

The more responsibility you take on in your career, the longer your to-do list is going to get. It becomes virtually impossible to get it all done. Become ruthless with your time and prioritization. First step: eliminate or delegate your non-urgent tasks. Then really explore the few things that are an absolute priority for you to invest your time. I personally find survival by ensuring every morning when I get in. I carve out time to take this action. My to-do list is typically unrealistic and laughable, but I highlight the three most impactful items I must get done that day.  When I accomplish those, everything else is just gravy.

A couple of other helpful hints? Embrace the power of the word “no.” Most of us want to appear helpful and portray that “grab a shovel” team attitude. However, when you agree to help someone else when you can’t get your own work done, you aren’t really helping anyone. Another is shifting the dynamic of the words “have to” to “choose to.”  Sounds like a small semantic tweak, but when you tell yourself “I choose to go to this networking event tonight” instead of “I have to go to this networking event tonight,” it can make a great deal of difference in your motivation actually to attend and get the most out of it.

THE ISSUE:  Willpower Only Goes So Far.  

Sometimes when we have a lot of work in front of us, we rely on sheer willpower to get through it.  And yet, that strategy doesn’t always work. When gutting it out isn’t working for you, try editing your behavior to make success more of a probability.

THE FIX:  Break it Down.

Build your motivation by breaking your project into many small tasks and habits. The goal is to lower the barriers that are bound to get in your way of accomplishing your work. If you have a report to write, for example, focus on capturing the thesis statement first, rather than sweat writing the entire thing in one sitting. You might find once you write that first line, the anxiety that comes with that big task slowly chips away.

You might also find building habits you look forward to can aid you. Planning and scheduling your day can become something to look forward to if you equate it with that time of day you get to enjoy that special cup of coffee you picked up on your way in. Or perhaps you book fifteen minutes into your calendar every day to do nothing other than calm your mind and recenter.  

Ultimately, instead of relying on willpower to power you through your day, you’ll begin to build sustainable habits which will shift your mindset and productivity.

THE ISSUE:  I’m Emotionally Tapped Out.

Even if we love our work, a huge number of us can veer off course and feel emotionally disconnected at work. A significant contributor to our success at work can be based on our feelings of belonging and being needed. When these basic human needs are being met, it becomes far more comfortable to sustain our motivation at work for long periods of time.

Consider your current team and your manager...and effectively all the people you collaborate with. If your colleagues share trust, respect, and collaboration, they are likely to be more highly motivated and productive. There is safety in the notion that your team has your back, and that you are adding impact as a collective unit.

THE FIX:  Get a Little More Social.

I’m not suggesting everyone become a raging extrovert. Instead, find ways to introduce a little more social connection into your everyday work.  Show up early to a meeting and use those few minutes to catch up with a colleague. While it might feel like idle banter, these interactions aid in building deeper relationships.

If you are responsible for a team, take the time to recognize people for contributing back to the team goals, or acknowledging simple things like birthdays, successes, etc. Your job isn’t just to ensure the work gets done; it’s to help motivate and inspire your team to do their best possible work.

No one can be their absolute most productive 100% of the time.  However, if you are finding yourself feeling less motivated than it’s time to take the bull by the proverbial horns and dig yourself out. Reading an article with some potentially helpful hints might be a good start, but taking action is where real change is going to take place.

Christina Luconi is Chief People Officer for Rapid7. Follow her on Twitter: @peopleinnovator