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How to jumpstart your productivity

5 min read


This post is adapted from “More Time for You: A Powerful System to Organize Your Work and Get Things Done” by Rosemary Tator and Alesia Latson.

When our actions aren’t aligned with our intentions, then a breakdown in our productivity occurs. Here are five steps you can use when you find yourself misaligned and in conflict with yourself such that you are saying one thing and yet doing something altogether different.

Notice what you are doing without judgment

The first sign of being in conflict with what you should be doing is when you feel the “warring.” The warring is a physical sensation in the body. It is an acknowledgment that you aren’t doing what you said you would do. It begins in the pit of your stomach; you feel nervousness and uneasiness. Then it travels to the palms of your hands, which become sweaty. At last, the struggle moves to your face as you furrow your brow.

Then, after the warring comes the thrashing. You tell yourself, “You’re doing it again! What’s wrong with you? How come you can’t do what you say you’re going to do? Look at you. You’ve squandered a half-hour. You could have been done already!”

Be aware of how long it takes you to notice your behavior. It may take forty-five minutes before you realize that the war is raging: “Oh, yeah, that’s right; I’m supposed to notice when I’m avoiding my task.” The next time, your reaction will be faster. The goal is to shorten the time it takes to notice your habit, thinking, or behavior. As soon as you recognize yours, you have a chance to make a choice.

Name your feeling

Identify the feeling you are having right now. Pick two or three of the following words to describe what you are feeling: angry, sad, scared, glad, happy, overwhelmed, frustrated, put upon, controlled, resentful, unappreciated, unworthy, incompetent, irritated, impatient, lonely, isolated, defeated.

You can have your feelings, but you don’t have to be your feelings. You can have the feeling of being angry, but you don’t have to be angry. You can have the feeling of being unworthy, but you don’t have to be unworthy.

Next, reflect on your feeling in relation to the task you are doing. Does your feeling have anything to do with the task? Now that you know how you are feeling, decide whether you are still committed to completing the task you set out to accomplish. Once you’ve separated your feeling from a task at hand, you can choose again.


Use a breathing exercise to bring yourself back to balance. One of our favorite yoga exercises is called the Breath of Joy. It is a quick and refreshing breathing exercise that instantly lifts your spirits and clears your mind of negative thoughts and tension. It oxygenates your brain and rejuvenates your body.

The Breath of Joy is three inhalations taken with the arms swinging shoulder height forward and then fully outstretched to the side, over head and finishing with the arms swinging downward with the body in a slight forward crouching position. Inhale one-third of your capacity with each swing of the arms forward, to the side, and up. Then when you drop your arms down as you bend forward at the hips and knees, exhale with a “Ha!”

As you perform the Breath of Joy ensure that you are taking one continuous breath in three parts, rather than three separate breathes. Exhale loudly with a “Ha!” (When your arms are swinging downward and you are bending at the hips and knees) allowing tension to escape from the body. Repeat the exercise several times. Remember it is one continuous breath in three parts. Each swing of the arms is to be done vigorously.

Know that you have a choice
The great thing about having choices is that as long as you are breathing, you have an endless supply of them. They don’t expire or evaporate.

So you might say to yourself, “Oh, look, I noticed that I’m playing this little game with myself again, where I thrash myself for not working. I noticed it, and now I can make other choices.” You might make a choice to continue doing what you’re currently doing, take on the task you were avoiding, or choose something else altogether. By choosing, you are back in control, rather than your habit being in control. It’s not only about reaching your goals; it’s about living the life you create, including playing spider solitaire, if that strikes your fancy.

Make a two-minute choice

If you are still not ready to tackle your task, make a choice that you can live with for the next two minutes. Given the tender state that you are in at this moment, it is often best to make an initial choice that expires quickly. The goal of this short-term choice is to create movement that will get you unstuck.

For example, if you’re resisting getting up from watching television to check your e-mail, you may say to yourself, “For two minutes, I’m going to choose to get up, sit at my desk, and answer my e-mail and, after the two minutes, I can stop.” You can even set a timer. By the time the timer goes off or the two minutes have expired, you’ve taken the action to overcome the habit and are back in choice again.

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