Three Boundaries to Get Shit Done and Increase Your Productivity

Issue 34. August 4, 2023 ✨ Higher Power Coaching & Consulting

photo credit: Jon Tyson

Some of the most effective boundaries I’ve used in my life are around my time. I’ve always been a very productive person, but my productivity has sky rocketed since I’ve built healthy boundaries. These include:

  • Using a timer for certain tasks, chores or calls
  • Time blocking for specific purposes or tasks
  • Using the Pomodoro Technique while working (25 minutes of work, 5 minute break)

Using a timer

I first learned to do this around housekeeping chores that I hate. I started by setting a timer for 10 minutes to work on a very specific thing, like cleaning out a closet. When that 10 minutes was up, I’d stop. Sometimes I kept going because I’d gotten some momentum going and didn’t want to stop. But I gave myself permission to stop after 10 minutes if I wanted to.

Since it was such a small investment of time it was easy to commit to and do. This technique showed me that it was getting started that was the hardest part of taking actions I didn’t want to take. Once you get started it’s easier to continue.

A friend who’s a mom of three young kids and works full-time uses this technique. What she likes about it is that she’ll tell her kids, “I need 20 minutes” and it’s a short enough period of time that they can handle waiting. It’s also long enough that she can get a whole bunch of stuff done. She’s also able to focus on that one thing, which takes away the guilt she used to have about NOT doing other things that also need to be done. There’s something about knowing it’s just 20 minutes (or 10 or 30) that frees up mental energy about all the other things that need to get done.

Time blocking

Blocking my time for specific tasks is not only a boundary of time it’s also a boundary of purpose. Dedicating a block of time to a specific purpose frees up my mind from worrying about what else I could be doing, because I know I’ve dedicated different time blocks for those things.

This is especially helpful for repetitive tasks for my business. For example, creating and recording my podcast, writing this newsletter, creating social media campaigns are things I have on my calendar at certain times every week.

When I set aside a block of time to do a specific thing, I indulge in doing just that one thing. I don’t feel the need to rush. I used to have a sense of urgency at all times. Working in this method has helped enormously with that. Anytime I feel the need to rush I remind myself I’ve set aside this time to work on this one thing

The Pomodoro Technique

This is a productivity method whereby you work for 25 minutes then take a five-minute break. After two hours you get a 15-minute break. This helps productivity because your brain and body need regular breaks. It helps fuel creativity and it promotes focus.

I’ve heard it said that “sitting is the new smoking” so I want to be sure I’m getting off my ass multiple times a day, and this technique does just that for me. Our brains also need rest, so pulling my attention away from one thing and putting toward nothing or something mundane gives it the break it needs. It’s often during those breaks that my mind comes up with great ideas or solves problems it was processing in the background.

When I was a multitasker, I was very unfocused and it was difficult for me to complete something that required a large chunk of my attention. As soon as something came to my mind, I’d drop whatever I was doing and switch to what just came to mind – again and again. That meant I was rushing from thing to thing, worried I’d forget something or drop the ball on things.

When I started using this technique I made a commitment to myself to follow through on the one task I’d assigned for that 25-minute chunk. I stuck to that commitment (thank you healthy boundaries, for giving me the ability to follow through on commitments to myself!). That meant when something came to mind, I’d write it down instead of jumping to that task. Eventually, I stopped writing things down and just let them go. I knew it would either come back to me or I’d already put it on my calendar.

Sticking to one thing gives me the ability to get into the state of flow, which is when you achieve a level of concentration that is so deep you don’t even sense the passage of time. You’re in pure creation mode and nothing else seems to exist. When I’m in the flow state, my level of productivity is absolutely incredible. That means I’m WAY more productive than I ever was as a multi-tasker.

There are a number of things I do during the breaks. At minimum, I go up and down the stairs to move my body. I also do chores. Before I was in recovery when I worked from home I’d get so distracted by all the things that I “should” be doing around my home that I wouldn’t get my work done. Now I fit those things in the 5-minute breaks.

In the beginning I didn’t want to take the 5-minute breaks because it felt like a waste of time. I was also afraid I’d lose my train of thought and not be able to get back into it. That’s never happened. I forced myself to take the breaks at the beginning, and now I ALWAYS take my breaks. Sometimes they’re not quite 5 minutes, but I always take them because of the tremendous rewards.

If you want to get shit done, consider using a timer for brief periods, especially for things you hate doing. Try blocking your time and using the Pomodoro Technique as well. Let me know how it goes!

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