Nearly everyone would love to improve productivity. One key is not letting challenges take you too far off course.
To dramatically improve productivity, we must learn to roll with the punches and go with the flow…
Okay, so life has thrown you’re a curve, or three, and you are tempted to give up, have a pity party, or simply spend hours, or days, rehashing the events or ruminating on fifty shades of revenge. In life, and business, challenges happen. And while average people waste more time thinking about them than problem solving, achievers take action. Time is precious and when we are challenged productivity can go out the window.
Over the course of my career, I have worked with, and observed, both types of people – those that shrink in the face of challenges and those that seemingly thrive. In my own life, and especially in business, I am no stranger to having one, or more, circumstances arise that can potentially yield provocation; this is why many people simply lack the stomach to be business owners. One moment your business is growing, and things are on track, and another you are dealing with supply chain issues, upset employees, loss of clients, and more. Challenges can, of course, arise on the personal level – getting served with divorce papers, a death in the family, a child who needs immediate attention, or a personal health crisis can all derail us.
I teach my Organize Your Life Students that it is important to be highly organized because when life events happen, and they will, they need to be ready. My students have had close people die in their lives, tax audits, a negative health diagnosis, and much more happen to them and those that were the most organized handled it the best. Those that were already in chaos were thrown into greater chaos and were often severely taken off course.
You do not have to let challenges derail your productivity.
In fact, by being highly organized you can come out the other side with grace, and perhaps even ahead. I encourage you to use the following questions to help you handle challenges that arise with greater efficacy.
What Will This Really Mean 5 Years From Now?
Not all challenges are created equal. Some are very significant while others hit us when we are vulnerable – think tired, overwhelmed, on the heels of another challenge. A simple technique is to ask yourself what this will truly mean five years from now? Will it still be significant? Will you even remember it?
I have had some dear friends lose their spouses at an early age. Although it was devastating in the moment, years later they were either content in a new relationship or deep within the bliss of discovering who they truly were. Some challenges will change our lives forever however all challenges can make us stronger if we let them. Five years from now you can be in a much better place even if, in the moment, it feels insurmountable.
What Is Most Important Right Now?
When, within the span of sixteen weeks, I was diagnosed with MS, my marriage fell apart, and I lost my business, I could only focus on what was important in the moment and that meant putting food on the table, finding a place to live, and getting a job. No matter how sick, stressed out, or broken I was, I was clear on what the most important things were.
Maintaining your productivity during challenge equates to the ability to see the forest through the trees so to speak. What is the most pressing? What must get done? Who are the important people in your life right now? Take a few minutes and prioritize.
What Can I Do?
Navigating challenge requires strategy. During challenges, many people simply break down and focus on the problem and not on the solution. Again, taking time to journal, ask yourself, ‘what can I do?’ Last fall, when I became severely ill after returning from Africa, I had several days where I was literally in bed. Getting out of bed was an arduous task which, for me, a former pro athlete was extremely humbling.
I still had businesses to run, kids to take care of, bills to pay, and basically life. My ‘to do’ list became very short and I asked myself every single hour, ‘what can I do right now?’ There were a lot of things I couldn’t do and those things had to go. Simple tasks like writing were severely challenging and unlike my usual ability to churn out an eight-hundred-word blog in under an hour, this task alone took me four days. By focusing on what we can do, albeit perhaps less than our usual abilities, we will still maintain productivity.
What Can I Let Go Of?
When we are facing a challenge, there are certain things in our lives that become less important. Did you promise to sell one hundred boxes of Girl Scout cookies and yet your father just passed? Did you commit to doing a training for your team and found out that several of your customers had gone to a competitor? Did you commit to expanding your business and were recently diagnosed with cancer? When we face any challenge, we realize very quickly where we have over-committed and must make a concerted decision to let certain things go.
Recently, I had a business challenge and one of the things I let go of was the frequency with which I went to hot yoga. I love my hot yoga classes however it takes fifteen minutes to get there, seventy-five minutes to do the class, fifteen minutes to get home, and I cannot not wash my hair after that much sweat; all in we are looking at a good two hours and fifteen minutes. Instead of dropping workouts altogether, I choose instead to run and do HIIT (High Intensity Interval Workouts) at home and shaved my time down to fifty minutes, finishing just a few steps from my shower and my office. Yes, I will be back at hot yoga, and did go on Super Bowl Sunday, however it was something I could let go of to gain and extra hour of production.
Who Can I Delegate To?
Lastly, this is the most difficult task of all for many people however in dealing with my own challenges, I have learned to delegate when necessary. We all have people in our lives who are ready, and able, to take on tasks when something is going on? Perhaps you had a death in the family and need to have your schedule cleared – who can take that on? Maybe you have been diagnosed with an illness and need help with the kids – who can assist? Who can help with the driving? Who can pitch in with homework so you can focus on getting well?
I have found, in my many years of coaching, and training, that people who are not good at delegating tend to struggle more. Delegation is an art. It is a sign of strength, not of weakness and the end result can sometimes mean that someone, who was just waiting to be given greater responsibility, can step up and do things more effectively than you can.
Two years ago, when a friend was diagnosed with cancer, he made some very significant life decisions. He wanted to focus on getting better and spending time with his family. He gave control of his company to one of his staff and went in the office very sporadically. The end result was that the company was well run and people rallied behind my friend, wanting to prove what they could do. At the end of the day, there are many companies that flourish when someone else is given more decision making power.
Lastly, challenges will happen. Do not dwell on them. Focus on the solution and what is important. We are always tougher than we realize and at the end of the day our greatest challenges can make us stronger than we ever thought possible.
PS – I would love to hear your comments. I read all of them. Please feel free to leave them below.
Susan Sly is a keynote speaker, best-selling author, entrepreneur, and mother of five. She resides in Scottsdale, Arizona. Susan is available for corporate consulting, and speaking, on the topics of work-life balance, time management, productivity, and transcending challenges.