Maintaining a consistent level of productivity
August 28, 2019 4:58 AM   Subscribe

How can I maintain a consistent level of productivity everyday? I feel like too often, my productivity or lack of it is too dependent on my mood or on other external factors. Have any of you managed to crack this?

Sometimes, I will come in to the office and find it absolutely impossible to focus. Focused work feels like wading through quicksand. Usually this is a Monday or the first day back to work after going on leave. Other days I feel really calm and focused and positive.

I feel like my level of productivity depends too much on external factors like whether a specific colleague with negative/disruptive energy is in the office or not; the number of emails coming into my inbox (I've tried disabling email alerts, but firefighting is part of my job, so if I'm not getting email alerts, I'm on tenterhooks as to whether the next time I check my email, all hell will have broken loose); whether I have meetings which break into my concentration; my energy levels (strangely enough, I often find it easy to focus when I'm feeling a little sick, tired or low on energy - this seems to make me less distractable).

I shouldn't be a slave to external factors like this! This is not a grown-up way to work. What do you do to maintain a consistent level of productivity? I have a routine when I come into the office to get me into the swing of things. What else can I do to maintain consistency?

Other job-notes: My job is intense and takes up a lot of my mental, emotional energy. It's a very changeable environment and we are subject to the whims and fancies of senior management a great deal. Sometimes I wonder if I'm heading for burnout.
posted by unicorn chaser to Work & Money (9 answers total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
Honestly, I think many of us are slaves to external factors like this. I certainly am. Maybe it's okay to have variable productivity. No one can perform at 100% every day.

If you were my employee and you thought you might be headed for burnout in the context of this question, I would ask you whether or not your variable productivity level might have something to do with your level of overload. Can you offload some responsibility?

Relatedly, would you be okay with a more even level of productivity that is lower than what you consider your best?
posted by woodvine at 5:26 AM on August 28, 2019 [2 favorites]

To me, this sounds like being human. Are you getting your work done well? You don't really mention anything about how this affects anyone else or the work itself. If despite your perceived variable productivity you're still doing a really good job, you might be expecting too much of yourself and that stress is pushing you toward burnout.
posted by wellred at 5:49 AM on August 28, 2019 [3 favorites]

Instead of trying to give 100% all day every day, I shoot for consistency over time. That is, I'm not 100% every single day, but I shoot to average 90% over the course of a week (ish).

You may also want to give some thought to how you're measuring productivity. If your job is to produce widgets, and you need to produce at LEAST 200 widgets per day, and you're hitting the 200 widget mark at 70%, well, maybe you could go up to 80%. 100% isn't really necessary. However, if you're giving 100% and you're barely making 200, you probably need to have a frank conversation w/ your supervisor about expectations for your work product.
posted by asnowballschance at 6:48 AM on August 28, 2019 [2 favorites]

It seems like you're thinking of productivity like someone who is constantly watching the scales and worrying about daily weigh-ins thinks of weight loss - but if your overall trend is good, don't worry about the blips! In general, look after yourself to boost productivity. Things I do include: lots of water for hydration, a healthy lunch and a walk for 20 minutes, pulse-raising exercise at some point in the day, and the right amount of sleep.
posted by london explorer girl at 7:27 AM on August 28, 2019

this seems totally normal to me, as others have said. some days you will just be more productive than others, that's life.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 7:31 AM on August 28, 2019

The people I've worked with who manage their productivity the best account for their natural rhythms and schedule low-level tasks (for example) during their afternoon dip, or make to-do lists on Friday afternoon to get started a bit more easily on Monday. But they also accept that these patterns are natural.
posted by warriorqueen at 7:44 AM on August 28, 2019 [3 favorites]

We did not evolve to do focused work for 8 hours a day 5 days a week. Be gentle with yourself. I dont know anyone who doesn't deal with natural low energy or focus issues on the regular. It's part of being human. If this wasn't the case, the 'Mondays suck' thing wouldn't exist. It's a trope for a reason.

Developing healthy patterns to accommodate your personal rhythms is key. If low energy times help you work, maybe skip your morning coffee on mondays?
posted by ananci at 8:50 AM on August 28, 2019 [1 favorite]

I manage my emotional state quite closely and don’t let stuff fester. I go for a walk if I need to shake something off. And like mentioned above, I tie my work to my current state... I know what I need to do that week and I tackle what I “feel” like doing that moment (and I prioritize correctly).

It also helps that I like my job.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 11:37 AM on August 28, 2019

Also, if you feel like you're heading for burnout and you find colleagues distracting, can you negotiate working for home for a day or two a week? If your primary work is email based, perhaps management could be convinced that improving your daily experience will benefit them.
posted by ananci at 3:46 PM on August 28, 2019

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