One of the things I would beat myself up about over and over was not getting things done.

For more years than I care to admit I would go to bed wondering where the day had gone feeling like I’d not achieved anything.

I would start the day full of enthusiasm with a mental list of all the things I’d want to accomplish only to end it disappointed.

Of course there were the occasional days where I was proud of everything I’d achieved but they were few and far between.

Years ago I would compare myself with one of my friends who was amazing at getting things done.  We’d be at a training event together and when I was having fun in the bar she’d be implementing everything we’d learnt that day. 

I would then beat myself up for not being more like her – she was Miss Super Productive and I was Miss Lazy.

Unfortunately her actions didn’t inspire me to be more productive – nor give me hope that I could do the same – she simply highlighted all the areas I was lacking.

She was amazing, I was rubbish.

She was everything I wasn’t (and wanted to be)!

It was only many years later did I discover that despite all her achievements she wasn’t fulfilled but indeed had her own gremlins she was grappling with – they were just different to mine!

Frustratingly “not accomplishing anything” followed me around for what felt like forever.

And it wasn’t through a lack of education or implementation.  I tried so many different things to help me be more productive – reading books and articles, doing online programmes, using productivity software. 

I tried pomodoro timers, having a list of the 3 “most important things”, scheduling time in my calendar.

I tried beating myself into submission. 

But despite considerable effort I couldn’t make anything work!  David Allen’s Getting Things Done exhausted me just reading it.  And trying to create a master list!  It should be simple right? A list of everything that needs doing – no, I managed to fail at that too!

But fast forward 5 years and I now go to bed most nights feeling a sense of accomplishment and achievement.

And no, I’ve not discovered any super amazing productivity system.

Rather I’ve transformed my relationship to it.  And when I look back I can see there were several steps in this process:

1.  I stopped trying to turn myself into a super productive ninja. 

Instead, I accepted my own way of getting things done.  One of these was working to deadlines.  When something absolutely needed doing I’d do it (even if it meant burning the midnight oil)!  For example I created a whole marketingcampaign (albeit a simple one) from an idea to money in the bank within 48hours (all whilst travelling to, and attending an event!)  I did that because my back was against the wall and I needed to generate cash fast! I made £2,700 which I was very appreciative of!

2.  I started paying attention to my process. 

HOW I got things done.  What actually worked for me and I noticed:

  • Whenever I scheduled something into my calendar that didn’t involve anyone else, I simply ignored it.  But if someone else were involved I showed up. 
  • Being accountable to a buddy (for example to move things forward in my business) didn’t support me – but whenever I had to do something for a client or supplier I’d always do it.
  • Having support from a group or mentor made a huge difference and I achieved way more
  • I loved challenges (like this blogging challenge)–but they needed to be flexible  – so for example, I have 24 hours to publish this blog post and when I count steps I have a daily minimum of 8,000 but a monthly minimum of 31,000.

I could therefore start applying what was working in one area to other areas of my life – so for example doing my accounts was something I only did when I had to – and I wanted to do them regularly.  So I now meet online weekly with a small group of friends for a quick check-in and we each spend the next hour doing our accounts.

3.  I started noticing –and appreciating – everything I accomplished in a day.

I paid attention to all the things I was actually doing but hadn’t been counting because they were everyday things and usually weren’t work related.  Small things like washing the dishes, doing several loads of washing, making dinner, walking my steps.  Often we have a tendency to want to do a gazillion things on top of an already 80% full day.  It’s no wonder we don’t feel a sense of accomplishment when we discount everything we do get done!  Although it’s a brilliant way of keeping alive our “not good enough” pattern.

4.  I started getting up at 6am

This meant I had a whole extra hour just for me – my golden hour!  However I didn’t do this alone –I met with a group of awesome women at 6am each morning – because that got me out of bed!

5.  I started paying close attention to my “time-wasting habits”

Facebook was at top of the list and whilst Facebook is awesome and I love connecting with people on it – I would spend a lot of time “mindlessly surfing” and it really wasn’t enriching my life or serving others. 

However I didn’t try to quash this “annoying habit” – instead I explored it as I wanted to understand what was driving it.  Strategies to change behaviour can be like putting a plaster on a broken leg – until we understand what causes the behaviour we’ll never have any success in transforming it!

And I noticed:

  • I’d “just check” Facebook when I didn’t know what to do
  • I’d “just check” Facebook when I was between tasks,
  • I’d “just check” Facebook as soon as I woke up and didn’t want to get out of bed
  • I’d “just check” Facebook before going to sleep  
  • I’d “just check” Facebook when I didn’t want to do something

And for me there was no such thing as a quick “check” – it usually ended up being 30 minutes or more!

It was clear from this that I used Facebook to avoid doing something – both things I found tedious and things that would actually nurtureand replenish me (like taking a restful break).

By bringing awareness and consciousness to my choices it became much easier to make more nourishing choices – as I wasn’t trying to beat myself into submission (not a great strategy).

And the reason I’m sharing all this with you is not for you to follow these steps (unless you want to of course) but to encourage you to start noticing what drives your frustrating patterns and behaviour – because understanding is the first step to transformation.

And if you do have any super cool productivity tips I’d love to hear them!