How to Use Your Emotions to Amp Your Productivity

First Things First…Figure Out Your Planning Method

You’re gonna need this before you can put your emotions to work for you.

Check out the planning method in the video below:

It is essentially a simplified version of most productivity tips out there and I’m a sucker for simplicity.

Her productivity toolkit basically contains a:

  1. daily task list
  2. running list of things to do at a later time
  3. “blogging appointment” time.

I work in a high pressured, fast paced environment and you really have zero time to sit and reflect on things, so I rely heavily on the method above to keep me productive. It’s fast and allows me to capture everything.

I keep a running list of what I need to get done on a daily basis. I also have a running list of everything else I need to do at a later date (i.e., a “maybe someday” or “would be nice if I could..” list). I also make “appointments” of where to invest my time, focusing on scheduling tasks that are easily overlooked but vital.
(Another method I liked can be found here. I don’t switch writing utensils, but just assign priority using numbers – i.e., #1 in a circle would be top priority, then #2, etc.)

Pay Attention to Your Emotions

One thing I like to include in my productivity toolkit that isn’t usually mentioned or recommended is to pay attention to my emotions.

I know that’s pretty much counter to every advice anyone has ever given about productivity and ignoring your feelings when it comes to getting things done, but hear me out.

At work, I’ve heard incredulous comments like, “How are you so disciplined?” from my coworkers. I hadn’t thought anything of it at the time because honestly, at that point, I was disciplined but unhappy. All I was doing was forcing myself to work, regardless of how I felt. I don’t care what they say, you don’t eventually end up enjoying it. You still hate doing the work because you’re forcing yourself to do it.

It was only when I got a job where I was being pushed past my limit that I had to find a better way of dealing with the workload. The only way I could do that was to change my views on two things:

  1. Perfectionism is nice to have but should be the first thing out the window come war time. “Done is better than perfect.”
  2. Energy levels are a real thing, and you need to know how to ride them

For this article, we’re going to focus on #2.

Follow Your Heart, With a Caveat

I’m a big proponent of following your heart. I believe emotions are a good catalyst. They provide direction, guidance and help amplify your results by focusing your efforts and providing the fuel to work faster.

But they should work only as a catalyst. To keep things going during the lulls, you do need to have a plan in place, whether it be the simplified strategy like the ones above or any other planning method of your choice. Once you’ve figured out the planning method that works best for you, you can move on to using your emotions to your advantage.

How & When to Use Emotions:

At work you’re going to be there a certain number of hours. Within those hours, you will need to complete certain tasks. In order to do that successfully (i.e., keep your job + your sanity), you will need to learn to follow your interests/energy levels.

I use emotions to guide me when:

  1. something is stressing me out so I need to focus on it to get it off my docket. This ensures that the task doesn’t remain in the back of my mind while I work on other tasks. If I focus on it and complete it, it will be out of my mind and I can then move on with a clear head. If it’s a longer term task, I try to dedicate as many hours as I can to it within that day so I feel like I’m making progress before moving on to another task for the 2nd half of the day.
  2. I don’t have the energy to continue working on my current task, but have no choice but to work so I switch to another task that’s less draining at the time. This keeps my momentum up.

Why Use Emotions?

I pay attention to my emotions and/or energy levels so that I can always keep working (i.e., be disciplined) and actually enjoy it (i.e., be happy) . If you pay attention to how you feel while you work, it won’t feel like work. It’ll turn into a kind of game. You’ll move your tasks along better and faster and feel better doing it.

The Philosophy & Mechanics

All that only works if you put your emotions to work for you when you’re trying to be productive. I think most people refer to the “I don’t feel like working” feeling when they say you shouldn’t do things based on your emotions. That feeling isn’t conducive to being productive, but I know it surfaces a lot. The way you fight it is by looking at things a bit differently.

You have a set number of hours you allot yourself to working/doing productive things and accepting those hours as non-negotiable productive times. Within that time period, you have absolute freedom to work on whatever you would like, paying attention to deadlines. You can move your tasks around to suit your mood, so long as you are working on something during your work hours/designated productivity time period.

The only way you would be willing to do that is if you promise yourself time to relax. You’re more likely to work if you know you’ll be able to relax later. So ensure that every day you have breaks interspersed throughout the day – when needed and long enough to replenish your energy levels. You also need down time every night when you are just getting yourself ready for bed. This can include something you do for just yourself (i.e., watching guilt free Netflix, reading a book, or even washing the dishes if that floats your boat).

And at the end of the night/day, don’t worry about not completing your task list. Or about not accomplishing as much as you would’ve liked. Everything you need to get done will be there for you the next day. And if you follow the method above, you’ll actually look forward to working on them.

Recap:

  1. have a list of daily tasks
  2. have a list of ‘someday maybe’/’would be nice if I could…” tasks
  3. set a productivity period
  4. set break times/take them when needed for as long as you need to replenish your energy levels
  5. begin working on tasks and pay attention to your emotions or energy levels. Switch things around if needed, but don’t stop moving, keep it going until a break is absolutely necessary or you’ve hit a pre-determined break period.
  6. always have an end time/wind down period for the day

Do you pay attention to your emotions when you’re working on things? If so, do they guide you unwittingly away from things that could’ve helped you succeed? Or do you reflect on them and let them inform your decisions in a way that will be conducive to your success?

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