Have you noticed every second productivity article wants you bouncing out of bed at 5am? Early mornings are great for getting things done. However, not everyone is designed for the early morning wake up.
Some of us don’t have the lives where a 5am wake up is possible due to family, work commitments and our own natural biorhythms.
I know I don’t.
Years of working evening and night shift taught me a few ways to stay productive and creative without ever being an early bird.
Hopefully, there’s something for you in here, too.
You ready? Let’s get your past the standard productivity articles and into something you can use.
Ditch the screens for creative and editing tasks
Hanging out with screens too often can change the way we remember information and whether it makes it to our memory banks at all. By relying heavily on internet technology, we’ve trained ourselves to forget vital pieces of information.
One bright junior researcher even found that excessive screen time negatively influences our mood, performance and decision making skills.
Yikes. Sounds like a good excuse to get lo-fi, right?
Help you memory stay sharp and look for opportunities to ditch the screens. Try a pen and paper, couch and corner table combination.
It not only gives you a much needed break from the internet, the change of scenery may stimulate creativity, too. And the manual processing will help you keep that productive edge by boosting your mood and your memory in the process.
Realise routines have an expiry
Productivity articles love espousing routine. Lowering your choice barrier is one effective way to minimise decision making fatigue. Suggestions such as eating the same breakfast and lunch and starting the day with the same rituals do help in this regard.
Unfortunately, there is also a deficit we pay for making fewer decisions and playing the routine game.
Routines help us get through the day, but they also become a source of chaffing after a while, too.
Our routines are the same thing that becomes the root of boredom. Or help create a version of analysis paralysis once we’re fed up with the same sandwich yet can’t work out what is a better alternative.
Routines and rituals can also narrow your thinking over time. Because you lessen the opportunity to be surprised and learn something new, you in turn lower your acceptance of new information.
If you find that your routine has become a place of dustbowl ideas, why not shake it up a little? Change something out. Make it new again. And refresh your creativity by providing yourself a new challenge.
Play hooky without guilt
I’m not advocating for blowing off your responsibilities on a regular basis. But I am saying that staying at your desk running down the clock is a poor substitute for actual work.
Whether you’re sick, hung over to the doghouse or simply can’t do any work that day, presenteeism is costing us all a lot of time and money in lost productivity.
Call it a mental health day. Call it flexi-time for the times you stay back. Call it a sick day if that is what it is.
Whatever language helps you, realise that presenteeism is unfair on other people and isn’t the right thing for you, either.
If taking the odd day off is going to reset your dial so that you can be more productive at work the next day, take it.
And for the love of all the downy kittens on the planet, if it is illness related, don’t bring it to work.
This isn’t Miss Manners schooling you about chewing with your mouth closed. You and your lunch should find a quiet place to go when it’s time to eat.
Downtime during the day also helps you think. The temptation to power through work over lunch doesn’t help you have that moment to daydream and free up your brain space.
So if you’ve got a busy day ahead of you, sit in the park and have your morning coffee. Or make a promise to yourself to hit the beach, park or backyard to eat your lunch.
Make your lunch about focussing on food and having a break, not an experience in hyper-connectivity and poor health.
Collect your wins in a jar
Our working days move so quickly that it’s hard to see the good we do each day. We also tend to focus on the problems we need to solve and the fires that need to be put out.
But what about those moments where we get it right first time? Or the times that we found some joy in the day’s task? When was the last time you rewarded making the right decision?
Make capturing the small joys that turn into big wins later on by collecting them in a jar. It doesn’t have to be an afternoon craft project or something everyone admires. Make it you and make it personal.
Each time something good happens, write it on a slip of paper and put it in the jar.
Read it when you’re having a tough day or need extra fuel to get through. Read it when you feel like being kind to yourself.
And watch your accomplishments build up over time.
The bottom line on productivity: make work creative
There’s a missing element many productivity articles ignore. From going old school with pen and paper through to turning those paper things into wins, the basic theme of boosted productivity is increased creativity.
Doing things that encourage your creativity helps boost your performance at work.
It doesn’t have to be a big production. Simple, small changes like the ones listed above can make a world of difference.
If you can’t face the 5am wakeup call- or want something to help keep you on track during the day, add a dash of creativity and enjoy the difference!