May 31, 2016

    Taking breaks can fuel your work productivity

    DO YOU have difficulty getting started at work? When things get tough, are you likely to give up and try something else? Are you the type that cannot finish a project, as you always want to keep improving it till it is perfect?

    I call these bad habits productivity deficits and if you suffer from one or more of them, take heart - many people are also plagued by such problems and with some practice, they can be overcome.

    These three productivity deficits are about self-discipline.

    Whatever we do in life needs to have a balance, and everyone knows that when it comes to "gratification with grind", grind comes first. Even the most fulfilling job in the world will have moments of frustration, boredom and plain hard work.

    Although the concept of willpower is easy (as Nike says, "Just Do It!"), in reality, it is not and requires practice.


    The first productivity stumbling block is getting started, known as the "initiation deficit".

    Overcoming this problem will incidentally help you with the other productivity deficits too. This involves changing your mindset to see the greater reward - your end goal - as being more desirable than immediate gratification by lazing about or playing computer games.

    Write down the benefits to you and others of the completed task. Do not just say "marketing" if you are drafting your company's marketing strategy or "fun" if you are developing a holiday app.

    Instead write down the real pleasure or satisfaction that this task will provide - both to you and your company.

    See the end product or service in your mind's eye, imagine your customers enjoying it or bosses looking through and approving your work.

    Make a realistic estimate of the date by which you must complete the project. Think about the competition catching and overtaking you. I find writing down such details motivates me and I am raring to go.


    Revisit your first ideas and write down what has changed.

    Is the project as useful as you thought it was going to be?

    Is the competition proving troublesome? Is your own team lagging behind and if so, why?

    If necessary, give yourself some pep talk.

    When I need to persevere on a project, I find it helpful to promise a reward to myself when I succeed, rather than to think of threats of disaster if I do not carry on.

    In the daily grind of work, it is necessary to take breaks.

    When you pause on the way climbing up a mountain it is not just to relax, but to give you renewed energy to go on.

    Sometimes, the relief of resting can be more motivating than the distant reward of conquering the summit. So give yourself short breaks to look forward to.


    Closure is especially difficult for perfectionists. Everything can be improved and you must be comfortable to get it to a certain level, so that it can be moved along.

    After all, no matter how much a chef wants to improve the dish, if a meal is never delivered, the customer starves.

    Observe what is going on in your sector, especially what your competitors are doing.

    I often let competitors guide me to a certain level on how "perfect" the product must be.

    If you are able to find customers willing to buy your product, at the level it is at, then it is time to look for closure.

    The benefit of this is that you can start thinking about your next project and how much you get started on that.

    In some cases, the next project could be achieving improvements on the first project.

    However, you have at least put closure to one project and achieved a certain deliverable.

    We become more successful when we see problems in our behaviour as opportunities.

    Instead of looking at each of these deficits as a problem, turn them into opportunities.

    That way, you will undoubtedly become more productive.

    The writer is the Founder Mentor of Terrific Mentors International, an organisation that provides mentoring, coaching and training.