What do productivity, effectiveness, efficiency, and snow have to do with one another?
This weekend, there was a big blizzard that dropped over 2 feet of snow across New England.
And as Ryan and I tackled the snow, my brain identified five key productivity tips that extend far beyond the realm of snow cleanup.
And I share them with you in episode 132 of the I’m Busy Being Awesome podcast.
So if you’re ready to increase your effectiveness, boost your productivity, and do so with greater efficiency, be sure to tune into episode 132 now.
You can listen to the episode above or stream it on your favorite podcasting app here:
Prefer to read? No problem! Keep scrolling for the entire podcast transcript.
In This Episode, You Will Discover…
- 5 key productivity tips to increase your effectiveness
- Examples of what these tips look like in different scenarios
- How to apply these strategies to your life
Links From The Podcast
- Ready to take this work further? Learn how we can work together here
- Learn my top 6 strategies to boost your focus and concentration (free training)
- Get the top 10 tips to work with your ADHD brain (free ebook!)
- Discover my favorite ADHD resources here
- Listen to episode 101 here
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Episode #132: 5 Simple Ways To Increase Your Productivity And Efficiency With ADHD (Transcript)
You’re listening to the I’m busy being awesome podcast with Paula Engebretson episode number 132
Hey everybody, welcome to episode 132 of the podcast. How are you? I am staring out my window right now looking at about 24 to 30 inches of fresh new snow that fell all day long yesterday. We had a big blizzard hit New England and now everybody is outside, digging themselves out, running their snowblowers, and clearing driveways.
And I am gearing up to do the same in just a bit after I record this podcast episode. But I thought before I bundle up and head out for the next round of snow clearing, I’d share some of the things I’d been reflecting on this weekend.
In fact, I woke up in the middle of the night last night around 2:00, and I had this idea for a podcast episode. And because I have a very hard time turning off my brain when I think of a new idea, regardless of the fact that it’s 2:00 am, I wrote everything down. I figured if I’d at least capture the ideas I could fall back asleep, which was more or less the case. And now today I’m excited to share them with you.
And these ideas were inspired by all of this snow. In fact, the process of preparing for and handling the weather over the last several days highlighted for me some key lessons in terms of increasing our effectiveness, efficiency, and our productivity more generally.
So today I’m going to share with you five key strategies to help you increase your effectiveness and boost your productivity, as inspired by this weekend’s blizzard. Are you ready? Alright. Here we go.
Map Out Your Game Plan
The first strategy that really stood out to me this weekend was the importance of mapping out your game plan. Now, we knew that this storm was coming for most of the week. And as Saturday drew nearer, the snow total predictions kept increasing. At first they were saying about 12 inches and 16 to 18 and then 24 to 30+. And as I look outside my window, it is quite clear that we’re at the top end of those predictions. We have a lot of snow.
And on Friday night, as Ryan and I watched the weather, we mapped out our game plan. We decided to do a couple of rounds of snow clean-up on Saturday as all the snow fell. And then we’d do a final cleanup on Sunday once the snow stopped so everything was ready to go for the week.
While we could have just waited to do everything on Sunday – in fact, that’s what a lot of people are doing today as I look outside my window – we wanted to stay on top of the snow. So we looked at the timeline for the snowfall so we knew when the snows would be the heaviest, and then we chose a couple of rough estimates of when we’d head out to tackle the snow on Saturday. In other words, we took some time to get on the same page and map out that game plan.
And I think this approach is really important for any project that you’re working on – not just when snow hits. It’s so powerful to create a plan or a process to approach your work. Doing so gives your brain that direction. You give your brain some clarity. That way when it’s time to get to work, you’re not spinning in indecision wondering what to do first. And similarly, you’re not thinking to yourself, well guess I better tackle everything all at once.
So if you’re working on a proposal, or you’re writing an article, or you’re creating a presentation for work, I encourage you to figure out out the scope of that project or task. As I ask my clients all the time, what does “done” look like? Recognize how big that project is, identify what it means to complete it, and then create a game plan that gets you from start to finish so your brain has a clear direction.
Identify The Smaller Steps
And this brings us to productivity tip number two. As you identify your project’s scope and you map out a plan, challenge yourself to break down that project into smaller, bite-sized pieces. So for example, when Ryan and I thought about the snow, we knew we had no desire to go out and shovel 30” of snow all at once. That sounded terrible; my back hurts just thinking about it. So we decided intentionally to head out three separate times. We went out once around 12:00, then again around 4:00 before it got dark. And then we’re heading out today after I finish this recording.
So if you’re creating a new course for your students, for example, you might break down the process into steps to ensure you’ve identified the units you want to teach, the materials gathered, the readings assigned, and the lectures prepped. And you might do that in stages to ensure you’re on track to finish before the class.
Similarly, if you have a presentation for work in a week, perhaps you gather up those details of what your clients need, the information you want to include in your slides, key points that your team wants to share, etc. And you break down that bigger presentation into smaller increments so that you not only stay on track, but you also give your brain direction. It helps us stay out of overwhelm from thinking, “I don’t know where to start.” Because you’ve created the plan ahead of time, and you’ve broken down the steps to get there. You do know where to start, and you know the steps to follow. You’ve broken down the steps and made them manageable.
You Won’t Want To Follow The Plan
And this brings me to tip number three, which may seem like an unusual tip, but I’m telling you – it’s SO important. And this is a reminder that after you’ve made your game plan and you’ve broken down your big project into those smaller, more bite-sized pieces, 99% of the time, your brain still won’t want to get started when the time comes. Nothing has gone wrong when this happens. You’re right on track.
Here’s the deal, even though Ryan and I made a game plan on Friday and I was totally on-board, come Saturday my brain was NOT having it. I had zero desire to go out in the wind and the blowing snow and start up the snowblower. In fact, I had so much resistance to it that I almost convinced Ryan to change our game plan because I was coming up with so many great excuses that it was better to put it off. I was saying, “it seems ridiculous for us to go out right now because the snow is just going to blow over everything and we just have to do it all again. What’s the point of going out now? We’ll just have to redo all of that work.” And as I complained about it, I almost sold Ryan on my toddler brain’s tantrum.
But then I realized I was in resistance. I realized what was happening – my toddler brain was having a tantrum and didn’t want to do the uncomfortable thing. And once I realized this, I said to Ryan, “Oh, I see what’s happening here. My brain is just throwing a fit. Don’t listen to this right now – I think I just need to complain a few more minutes and then I’ll be ready to go.”
Just think of when you’ve seen a toddler throw a tantrum. They just need to get it out and then they’re fine. It was the same with my brain on Saturday. So I let the toddler brain have its tantrum. And then I brought in the prefrontal cortex and I reminded myself, “hold on Paula. You made this plan 24 hours in advance. You know that this is the best plan because if you don’t do it in steps, everything will be so piled up on Sunday. It’ll be way worse to work through.”
So again, just because the brain freaks out and doesn’t want to do the thing doesn’t mean something’s gone wrong. It doesn’t mean you should stop and switch plans. All this means is that you’re a human with a brain that wants to conserve energy. You can still do the thing. And if that sounds next to impossible, don’t worry. You are in good company. This is work I did on myself and one of the concepts I work on a lot with my clients. How do we do the thing we don’t want to do? And if you find yourself asking that same question, I encourage you to hop back to episode 101 called Before & After Feelings: How to Take Action.
But as a quick reminder, what you want to do is identify what’s going on – notice that you’re avoiding or resisting whatever plan you made and then identify and allow the emotions you’re experiencing when you think about that circumstance. You want to allow those feelings to be in your body and encourage yourself to process the feelings and move forward on the plan with a sense of commitment.
So often we tell ourselves, “I don’t feel motivated to start. Or “I don’t feel really excited to do this.” This was absolutely my brain yesterday. It was in complete resistance. It kept saying, “I don’t want to! I don’t feel like it.” But the truth is this; you don’t have to feel motivated to do the thing.
Remember, motivation is an emotion caused by the thoughts we choose to think. And sometimes, it’s hard to think of a believable, motivating thought about wanting to clean the house or leave your cozy blanket and shovel snow. So if you happen to feel motivated or you can generate motivation for the project, great! BUT, we don’t want to wait for that motivation. Instead, we want to generate feelings of commitment and determination, and a willingness to get the work done because we said we would do it. And again, check back to episode 101 where I talk more specifically about how to allow the emotion and do the hard thing anyway. I’m telling you, this one is a game-changer.
Stop Arguing With Reality
Then we get to tip number four. Tip number four is to stop arguing with reality. Here’s the deal; it is so much easier to get things done efficiently when we stop arguing with reality. And I’ll explain what I mean here with my experience this weekend.
As I mentioned, I had a lot of resistance. I did not want to go out. I was thinking it was a waste of time because we’d do all this work and then the wind would just blow everything back and I’d have to do it all again. And I was resisting the fact that it was snowing at all. But again, this is arguing with reality. As I share it, I’m even more aware of how ridiculous it sounds. This is New England in January. Of course, it’s snowing.
And when I spend my energy arguing with reality – arguing with what is already happening – it made things so much worse. Because now I not only had to go out and do the work, but I had to do so from this place of powerlessness since I’m fighting against something I have ZERO control over. I’m fighting against the weather thinking it shouldn’t be happening, rather than thinking, “of course, I can handle this. No problem. I’m not particularly excited about it, but at least it’s a Saturday when I have the time. Plus, I’ll get a great couple of workouts in!”
So how does this apply to situations outside of blizzards? How does this connect to productivity? Well, maybe you’re thinking to yourself, I shouldn’t have to do this part of the project for work. Or I really wish my colleague would pick up more of the slack; they should be doing more. This kind of arguing with reality again causes tension, resentment, and frustration, on top of needing to do the actual work.
But what if we dropped that second layer of uncomfortable emotion? What if we dropped the resentment of having to do the extra work and we just did the extra work instead? What if we thought to ourselves, “who better than me to pick this up? Who better than me to take on these extra steps?”
Now, this doesn’t mean that you can’t ask for more assistance. This doesn’t mean you can’t speak up and ask your colleague to do a bit more. But we want to do so from a place of empowerment rather than resentment or irritation. We want to do it from the thoughts, I can absolutely handle this. AND I think it’s better if we share the load a bit more so I can give my full attention to my portion of the project. Let’s figure out how to make that happen.
So when we stop arguing with reality, we can open up and find solutions to our obstacles with much greater ease, which again, helps us move forward more efficiently and effectively.
Ask For & Offer Help
And this brings us to tip number five, which builds on number four a bit. Tip number five to help boost your productivity is to both ask for help when you need it and offer help when you have space for it.
So many of us think that we have to do all the work. We tell ourselves we have to do everything, or there’s so much to do we don’t have time train anyone in the work. Or we might feel embarrassed needing to ask for support. But the reality is that asking for help allows everyone to move forward more quickly. When you ask for help, you help everybody create the result that they want so much faster.
Think about working on a team, for example, and consider juggling all the things on your plate. If you know someone has special knowledge in one of those areas, or they have some additional space in their calendar, or they aren’t as involved as everyone else on the team, this is a great opportunity to ask for help. Doing so is going to help the entire team move forward faster because you’ll be able to create your deliverables much quicker and more efficiently by sharing the load.
And on the flip side, I think there’s a lot of power in offering help when you have the space and the time to do it. But I want to remind you to check in here, first. Make sure you’re offering help not from a place of people-pleasing and not from a place of trying to hustle for your worth. Instead, you’re offering your help because you have the time and you genuinely want to help out.
Because this, too, can help you in the big picture move forward faster. I mean, first of all, if you have the space, why not spread some more good into the world? Chances are – you’ll see that goodness come back to you, too. In fact, this happened to me yesterday. This was the lesson from the snowstorm.
So I live on a corner lot with sidewalks on both sides of the house. And as I cleared my sidewalks, I continued on to do my neighbors’ sidewalks on either side of my house as well. I thought to myself yesterday, “Why not? I’m already out here all bundled up. I might as well spend a few extra minutes so they have a bit less to do when they come out for cleanup.” Super easy.
Well, I woke up this morning, and some random person – it wasn’t even one of my neighbors – just a random person with a snowblower had come by and cleaned off my sidewalks. So that means I don’t have to worry about those areas today when I head out. Some amazing human came by and plowed my sidewalks, which is pretty awesome.
So again, tip number five to increase your effectiveness and productivity is to ask for and offer help in order to help everyone move forward faster.
So those, my friends, are the five productivity tips that I learned from navigating 30 inches of snow. As a quick recap, number one, map out your game plan. Know where you’re going and know the scope of your project.
Number two, break down your big projects into smaller pieces so that you can tackle them one by one. This allows you to think clearly and not overwhelm your brain worrying about trying to do everything at once.
Number three, remind yourself that nothing has gone wrong when you don’t want to follow that plan. In fact, you are exactly on the right track. This literally happens to everyone. So notice your brain freak out. Allow the emotions to come up. And generate that commitment and willingness to move forward.
Number four, accept what is rather than arguing with reality so you can work efficiently without getting stuck.
And number five, ask for and offer help whenever you can so that everyone can move forward and create those results that they really want.
Alright, my friends, that’s going to do it for us this week. And if you’re ready to apply these productivity strategies to your life. If you’re ready to learn how to support your ADHD and work with your unique brain to take things to the next level, head over to imbusybeingawesome.com/coaching where you can learn more about how we can work together to make that happen
Also, if you know someone who would love to learn more about increasing their productivity and effectiveness, would you be a rockstar and share this episode with them? Each time you do, you help me get these tools to even more people, and I really appreciate it.
Until next time, keep being awesome. I’ll talk with you soon.