Want to be more productive? We’ve got you covered! In this episode, we are going to dive into this whole idea of productivity in just 15-minutes a day.
Be More Productive in 15-Minutes a Day
In today’s episode of the Feel Good Effect podcast, we’re talking about what’s going on in your brain when you try to be productive, how multitasking isn’t helping you succeed, and some tactical tips to get you more productive in only 15-minutes a day.
Want to be more productive in just 15-minutes a day? I’ve got you covered!
We are so excited to dive into this whole idea of productivity in just 15-minutes a day.
If you’ve been here a while, you know that I’m not about quick fixes or gimmicks, and I know that 15-minutes a day might sound a little gimmicky, but here’s the thing: my approach to productivity is the exact same as my approach to wellness, which is all about intentionality and being incremental.
When you can apply intentionality and incrementality, to areas like productivity and wellness, you can really move the needle without so much effort, so much discipline, or so much willpower.
When you apply these techniques, you’re harnessing the power of your brain, the power of science-based habit, and mindfulness.
When you use those practices and teachings, you can do more with less, no gimmicks required.
I’m here to help you find time and create space for what matters most, and that it what productivity is all about.
If you look at the business space and the entire productivity category, a lot of it is very much about being productive so you can do more.
It’s about finding ways to do as much work in as little time as possible so you can do more work, be more successful, build a business, make more money, all those things.
And there’s nothing wrong with building businesses and making more money, but I think it’s time to talk about productivity in the context of not doing more so you can just do more, but doing the right things so you can do less, so that you can create space and time for wellness, family, and friends.
That is why I’m coming at this from a 15-minute a day perspective.
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As part of our insider group, you get weekly emails with what I like to call “the simplified three”: I take three of my best ideas, whether it’s for productivity, meals, movement, or mind, and I send them to you.
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Your brain on productivity:
If we’re going to get you to be more productive in just 15-minutes a day, I want to tell you the secret behind what’s happening in your brain when you try to be more productive.
We’re living in a time and a culture that is just plain full of distractions, from technology to the way that we travel and the way that we work, life is full of all kinds of things pulling our attention away from doing focused work.
And when I say work I’m not just talking about the things you do in your day job, but also your passions, your hobbies, or things you do for self-care, for self-love, or for fun.
As we are distracted and pulled in a million directions, we lose the ability to focus on just one thing at a time.
And when we’re distracted, we miss what’s really going on.
Here’s the biggest myth I want to bust right now: multitasking.
The idea that multitasking is helpful or something that we should strive for, or something that is at all contributing to productivity is flat out false.
And I’m as guilty of it as anyone; I like to think that I’m a master-multitasker but the thing is, we know that the brain can’t actually multitask.
So what you are calling multitasking, is really task-switching, switching from thing to thing.
Let’s take an average work day in an office setting: task-switching might look like working on an important report, switching quickly to check your email, checking your phone, popping over to twitter to see what that looks like, doing a quick scan of your favorite insta stories, going back to your report, stopping quickly to talk to someone who’s walking by your desk, and then back to that report.
And this can happen at home too: maybe you’re trying to have a conversation with your partner, quick check of the phone, back to the conversation, quick distraction from a pet or a child, back to the conversation, look at what’s going on on TV, back to the phone, back to the conversation.
None of this is bad, you shouldn’t start feeling guilty or ashamed-- we are not about that here.
We’re just about trying to help you see inside that beautiful brain so you can make better decisions in the way that you want to.
Each time your brain task-switches, it drains a little more energy.
Think about your overall energy for the day as a full tank of gas when you get up in the morning, and every time you switch, it drains a little more.
It’s no wonder by the end of the day we’re exhausted and overwhelmed because our brain is just struggling to keep up with all the switching.
I talked about this back in the decision diet episode, which you can listen to here.
This idea of task-switching is totally normal, our entire society and culture is set up for it.
“Part of productivity is training your solo-tasking muscle. Training your ability to do one thing at a time with as little distracting and task-switching as possible”.
I really believe that the ability to solo-task is going to be more important than ever as we move forward, as technology become more pervasive, as we have more expectations piled on our plate.
Our ability to create habits, strategies, and mindsets to focus on one thing at a time is going to be so important for not only productivity at work, but for our overall well being.
On how to build your solo-tasking muscle:
Maybe when you try solo-tasking, your brain gets distracted or your schedule just doesn’t support that kind of focused work.
First, start reframing productivity as getting something done that actually matters, rather than just trying to get more done.
We can go through days and even weeks when we get a lot done, but when we look back on that time, we might still wonder, what did we even do?
That happens to me too, but when I do this reframe about, “how can I get more of the things that actually matter done, that are going to move the needle at work, in wellness, and in life”, it really helps me reevaluate what I’m working on.
Second, start reframing productivity in terms of intentionality and incrementality: make a decision and have a reason behind it, starting small, and building momentum from there.
On mindset and resistance:
Before we talk about some tactical habits, we’re going to talk a little more about mindset.
Often, mindset is standing in the way of productivity.
We focus so much on habits like a productivity planner or the perfect app, but we wonder why it’s not working, and that’s mindset.
So here’s what happens when you actually sit down and try to be more productive and be more focused.
All of a sudden you’re met with this resistance, it seems so hard, you feel like you’re overthinking it, you’d rather do anything but solo-task and all of a sudden your phone or Netflix start to look really appealing and all of your motivation fades away, then you’re left back in that multi-tasking cycle.
So what’s really happening in the brain, what is this resistance all about?
It’s the exact same mindset that I talk about in wellness, the striving mindset: perfectionism, all or nothing thinking, and comparison.
Think about it for a second, when I say make a decision and have a reason behind it, is your first thing to have resistance about that?
I guarantee you, especially some of you Dynamos, that’s the case.
For a lot of Dynamos out there, this feeling of perfectionism comes up when I say “make a decision, have a reason” or when I say “just pick one thing to work on”, all of a sudden you might feel paralyzed because you don’t know which one it should be.
And I am right there with you, this is where my anxiety really comes up, too: when someone says to “pick something, it doesn’t have to be the perfect thing”, I just need to find the exact right thing and if I can’t find it I can’t get started.
If you recognize this in yourself, this feeling around perfectionism, around picking the right thing, or just getting started when you don’t know the perfect steps, that’s totally fine it’s a normal part of the brain, a normal part of the human experience.
But recognizing that’s what’s actually standing in the way, not that you don’t have enough time but that your brain is keeping you from moving forward, is so powerful.
When it comes to the all or nothing thinking, we very much often think 5-minutes doesn’t count.
There’s a book that I love called, Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World, by Cal Newport.
Deep work is exactly what we’re talking about here: focusing, not being distracted, solo tasking, and spending more time doing work that actually matters.
One of the places I differ in my approach from Cal is that he recommends working up to four hours of deep work a day.
And while I think that’s an amazing goal, I think that for so many of us who don’t have control over our schedules at work, or who are working mamas juggling all the things, stay at home mamas, retirees, working up to four hours a day is often unrealistic and because it’s such an all or nothing proposition, you don’t end up getting there.
But I don’t think you have to do four hours a day.
If you can, more power to you, I think that would be incredibly powerful and effective.
But I don’t do four hours of focused work a day and I’m able to create this business, do the podcast, create the website, and be a mama, be a wife, and work out, do all the things without four hours of deep work.
So when it comes to all or nothing thinking, I think for the moment we can let go of thinking it has to be a certain amount of time and really start an incremental approach, doing it in really small baby steps to build up the muscle, to build momentum, and really to just start doing it.
The last place resistance comes up is in comparison.
Those of you who are Seekers, we think it has to look like someone else’s version, maybe a book that you read, maybe someone who you follow on Instagram, or a version of yourself in the past that was incredibly productive.
And that comparison conversation can be really really loud and can keep you stuck.
Your brain on task-switching and solo tasking:
The last little tidbit I want to throw your way is when we talk about the brain, when we talk about task-switching, and when we talk about solo-tasking.
This is huge, I really want you to know what’s going on because it will allow you to sit in that uncomfortable place and ride the wave out until you get more comfortable and more confident with solo-tasking.
So what happens in your brain when you task-switch is you get a tiny little hit of dopamine, the same thing that shows up when you eat sugar or do something really pleasurable, even drug-use can trigger dopamine (I am NOT comparing the two, this is just what our brains do).
Our brain craves stimulation and little rewards and there are little rewards and stimulation built into all these distractions, especially when we’re talking about phones and technology.
The whole platform of email and of every single social media app, or really many of the apps you love to check, all give us a little hit of dopamine in our brains.
And when you deprive your brain of that little hit by focusing on one thing at a time, your brain starts behaving like a toddler and throwing a temper tantrum-- it wants that little hit!
And that’s why when you try to put your phone away and just focus, the first thing you do is crave picking it back up and looking at what’s going on.
Yes, part of it is FOMO (fear of missing out), but part of it is just the actual way our brain is hardwired and the way that all of these apps are developed to get us coming back.
But here’s the good news about all of this, about the striving mindset, perfectionism, all or nothing thinking, and comparison, and about our brains’ craving dopamine: with a little intentional attention, we can rewire.
When you start to a incorporate a little more focused productivity and you start to feel that pull to check your phone, know that just by resisting it for a small amount of time, your brain will actually learn to focus.
I think this is the coolest thing about our brains, that they can learn something different.
But you have to give it a little space, a little time, a little self-compassion to say “yes, of course I’m craving that”, and just sit with that.
And in actually not that much time, your brain will start to realize that it’s just doing one thing at a time, and everything is fine.
The reason I talk about the way the brain works in habit change and mindset is because this is often the biggest barrier.
If you go jump right to the latest productivity book and try to implement those strategies but you haven’t dealt with the stuff going on behind the scenes, it is so much harder and often that cycle of trying and failing just continues.
So, here’s the takeaway so far:
Reframe productivity from getting more done to getting something done that matters
Think about it in terms of being intentional, so make a decision and have a reason behind it
Be incremental, so start small and build momentum
When you actually dive into being productive, sit with the resistance, and know that by working through it and giving your brain a little space and compassion, you’ll be able to come out the other side and it will be amazing.
Tactical habits for productivity:
I love seeing you guys not only listening to the podcast, but putting this stuff into action.
1 | Commit to doing 15-minutes of focused work.
Depending on where you’re coming at this from, maybe you already have a habit of focused work, maybe start with an hour or with two hours.
But if you feel like someone who is literally multitasking every single day all day, starting with 15-minutes can actually make a huge impact.
When I say focused work, I mean solo-tasking, so no checking emails, no looking at your phone, no distractions.
And if you have a lot of family and pets around, it can be tricky carving out the time, so it might be early morning, it might be late at night, it might be a break at work, but that’s why I’m saying 15-minutes, so you can actually do this and actually carve out that time.
And I want you to pick one thing to do.
While I can’t tell you what that one thing is, it’s probably something in the back of your mind that you’ve been avoiding, that you know you want more of in your life, or that you know you want to tackle but it just seems like too much and you’re never going to have the time.
So here are some things to think about and get you started:
Writing: for many people, writing is focused work that they put off. Not writing an email, but writing something meaningful.
Reading: another one I hear from people all the time is that they want to read more but they don’t have time. So I’m asking you right now to spend 15-minutes of focused reading time instead of scrolling through your phone and instead of watching Netflix.
Decluttering: another idea might be decluttering. We have a decluttering miniseries coming up in a few weeks that I’m so excited for. Spending 15-minutes of focused time on the junk drawer in your kitchen, and then 15-minutes of the linen cabinet, and then 15-minutes in the closet.
I know it’s not nearly as satisfying, but the fact is that you’ll probably do it a lot more consistently because it’s a small amount of time that’s very focused.
One more little hint here: pick something with an endpoint.
Decluttering a drawer has an actual end when you can get the reward of finishing the job, a book has an ending so you get that reward and that feeling of accomplishment when you finish it, even if it takes a little longer.
Even in the writing process ,maybe you pick something where you can finish a chapter or finish a page.
I want you to build in the closed loop where by spending intentional attention, focused time, solo-tasking, at the end you actually get that reward of finishing something and that feeling of momentum.
2 | Create a productivity routine with “when and then”.
You can use the powerful behavior change concept of “when and then”, which is pairing two things so that when you do one thing you’re more likely to do another thing.
A sneak peek into my personal productivity routine is when I sit down at my desk, I plug my phone into a charger in the other room, which is actually in a cabinet.
Having the phone out of sight and more difficult to get to makes it way less tempting for me to stand up from my desk and go check something.
So, when I sit down at my desk, I plug my phone in in another room, that’s my when and then, and that’s part of the routine that I built.
Maybe your when and then is picking up a book when you’re sitting in your car in the pick-up line, instead of looking at your phone.
Maybe your when and then is when you get to work, you sit down and work on something meaningful for 15-minutes before checking anything else.
You can create a whole series of these when and thens, you can build a routine that really works for you, but start with one thing, one when and then.
And then focus on that first step, so when you sit down, write for 15-minutes, or when you pick up your book, read a page, or when you open the closet door, declutter for 15-minutes.
By creating these when and then routines, you give your brain less time to act up, throw a toddler tantrum, be perfectionistic, all or nothing, or comparison.
You just create a rule that you follow every time, which starts to become automatic and effortless.
3 | Two out of three.
Last up, I want you to think about that two out of three rule that we talk about here all the time.
“Consistency over perfection”.
I want you to focus on building this habit muscle, and building this productivity routine on more days than you don’t.
Sure, it would be great to do this every single day, but if that version of success seems impossible, come back to the two out of three and just remind yourself that you’re working on doing more days than you don’t.
More days with focused, solo-tasking than not.
And in a lot of ways, it matters less about what you actually do, and more that you do something.
Because over time you’ll get better at this and you can build that 15-minutes into something longer, or continue with those 15-minutes throughout the day because amazingly, those small amounts of time build up to so much in the long-term.
It’s about giving yourself space and time, and knowing when you’re actually focused and doing the things that matter.
“You can do far less and create so much more”.
1 | Aim to do 15-minutes of solo-tasking: no distractions, no checking, no task-switching, just one thing. Pick something with an endpoint. Be intentional.
2 | Create a productivity routine: include when and then pairing.
3 | Two out of three rule: consistency over perfection, doing something more than you don’t across your day, across your week, across your life.
Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World, by Cal Newport
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