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I look at Deborah in the middle of our conversation, and say, “hold on, could it be that we haven’t updated our blog in two months?” She looked back at me, and we’re both scared to admit it, but with the nod of each of our heads, we try and think back to the last article we wrote. It’s not like we dread writing blog posts. It’s actually a really enjoyable process. Coming up with a theme, discussing a topic, and then putting pen to paper. Or fingers to keyboard or whatever. But things come up…or is that just an excuse?

Deborah and Christian Osmto smile for the camera in a pubThe word productivity is really kind of an abstract concept that comes up in conversation quite often. But what is productivity? How is it measured? It seems like we work constantly, but what are we actually producing? Sometimes, the answer really is “not much.” We feel the most productive when we come out with new content, further our goals, and get closer to our vision. Oftentimes, after having “not been productive” (if that means actually anything), I’ll tell myself something like, ‘I’ve been really tired lately, I can’t go to the gym’ or something ridiculous like ‘this week was laundry week, no one gets stuff done on laundry week’ or sometimes I’ll lie to myself and say, ‘I have been productive!’ In case you haven’t noticed, this post is as much a confession as it is a plan.

Ultimately, actually producing should be the measure of productivity. There are lots of things that come up that eat into your time, and it’s easy to lose track of what you really wanted to do in the first place. Let’s take a look at those first.

Common Ways to Fall out of Where You Want to Be

Do these sound familiar?There are only two options: Make progress or make excuses.

  • Jumping between tasks, you click Facebook between tasks. Sometimes a webpage I need will take too long to load. You know what can load before you’re done waiting? Facebook. Sometimes, I’ll find myself wandering Facebook for 30 minutes after logging on just because another website was too slow.
  • You have an overwhelming todo list, so you do something else instead. I think we all know this one.
  • Avoid the difficult tasks and stick to what you do. Like when you hate ab workouts, but you want a flat tummy. You stick to the easy parts. And, 15 minutes later..that’s good enough, right?
  • You forget what you set out to do, or you say yes to every event your friends ask you to go to. You know you’ve got that essay to write, but your friend X is having an awesome party! This, of course, assumes you have a social life.
  • You lie to yourself. You become bad at self-critique and self-judgement, calling your bad days good, and your worse days off. I do this constantly! Especially when it comes to working out.
  • Not setting an expectation/deadline for a task, and letting it take too much of your time and focus. You might have some art project that you’re really passionate about. You’ll spend 30 hours on getting it just perfect when you have a bunch of other stuff to do.

A few pieces of advice:
Baby Melaya Ostmo sits on dad's lap as he works on laptop

  • Delete Facebook from your phone. You can use the browser, but it will be a reminder that you shouldn’t be on it. Even set a time of day when you’re allowed to be on it. If you have a way of doing it, attach some electrodes to your testicles if you break the time rule. That’s probably what I should be doing.
  • Just start your todo list. Like, quit reading this article and come back to it when you’re done. It’s probably not as difficult as you think. You can even break each task down into smaller tasks if that makes it easier.
  • Have some respect for your own time. At least enough to tell your friend “no.” If you actually can’t remember what you’re supposed to be doing, write it down! Write in on a note next to your burrito in the fridge if you need to.
  • When you have productive day, don’t just leave it at “today was a good day.” Ask yourself, “why was today productive?” “How can I make tomorrow better?” Be specific and be genuine. If it was a bad day, be honest with yourself, it’s the only way you’ll make it better. That doesn’t mean you should be dogging on yourself. This is about constructive criticism.

The Trap We Fall Into

It's not about "having" time. It's about making time.Deborah and I have this problem-or trap-where we set a plan, but we often fall out. We sit down, use a few hours to createsome mind-bogglingly awesome outline. We feel super hyped after the session, but somewhere down the line, it falls out of place. Something gets in the way, maybe it’s something legitimate, like “my baby is sick,” or maybe it’s something superficial, like “I forgot it was football season.” Over time, we realize we’ve been lacking, and then it continues to get worse every day. It becomes an improv here and there or whenever we feel like it. And that’s the key phrase, “whenever we feel like it.” We’re learning now that as soon as we feel our plan is getting out of whack, we need to pause and ask ourselves, “are we setting a good example today for tomorrow? Is it just going to get repeated?”

They say it takes 21 days to form a good habit. They’re usually talking about things like good diets and exercise. When we’re talking about undesirable habits, however, we believe the time it takes is much shorter. It only takes a few days of skipping your responsibilities until you completely forget your plan in the first place.

Our Pledge

In order to stay productive, we need to be honest with ourselves, and hopefully we can shed some light on our own mistakes. We have less than three months left in 2017, and before 2018 begins, we plan to take things a little more seriously. No, that doesn’t mean taking the fun out of it. But it does mean separating each task into bite-sized chunks and real/tangible time limits. Here’s what we plan to do:

  • Communicate our expectations for the day, the week, and for the month.
  • Celebrate successes that we’ve already had.
  • Connect with people who are on the same wavelength.
  • Separate work into specific tasks, and focus wholly on each one.
  • Set time limits for most tasks.
  • Visualize our three-year plan, to realize we’re working toward a greater vision.
  • Create a good work/life balance.
  • Have an honest conversation about strengths and weaknesses to utilize each other’s talents.
  • Work with strengths, and work to strengthen our weaknesses.
  • If we stray from the plan, pause immediately and talk about how we can get back on it.

What are your common distractions and what can you do to stay on track and be more productive? Write in the comments below. Thanks for continuing to read this blog. We appreciate having our loyal readers!

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