The Single Best way to Bust through a Productivity Rut

April 15, 2021

No matter how hard you try to maintain consistent positive habits day in day out, there'll come a time where life throws something at you and you get off track, it's inevitable.

I've been known to lose my way for months on end before working my way back into a positive program.

When you're in a slump, you feel guilty, you might start to lose your sense of self worth... you don't really enjoy your inactivity.  

Yet the thought of doing all those things that you know you're supposed to be doing is horrible.  You lack energy and motivation and the resistance is extreme.

Personally, I've fought through many of these down periods and I've found one thing that just works every single time...

The Secret to Breaking out of Inaction is Action Itself

Realize that no matter how long you ruminate, feel guilty, procrastinate, reason with yourself, make excuses and come up with creative rationalizations... in the end it all just comes down to getting started.

And when you get started you'll be amazed at how quickly that resistance dissipates.  

Sure it'll be really hard to take those first few steps, but once you complete something, you have a productive day and you feel good, the momentum starts to build.  Before you know it, just getting started turns into a positive cycle that feeds on itself.

For me, tax, accounting and bureacracy are my nemesis.  It was early January this year when I started to think about the pending April tax return deadline.  I spent the next few months dreading it.  When I finally sat down and forced myself to do it, after 15-30 minutes I felt great.  I felt relieved that I was taking this albatross off from around my neck.  

That's the fickle thing about resistance - it's always its strongest beforehand and the longer you spend attacking the task the weaker it gets.  Something that's been plaguing you for months can often evaporate within a 20 minute spell.

Getting started is the sticking point.  Just taking a small positive action is often all you need to get you out of a rut.

Forcing yourself to Get Started

Over time I've built up some practical manipulation tools that I use on myself during these situations:-

1. Start small with a minimum commitment

If writing a dissertation, just commit to writing a paragraph.  If building software, write a few lines of code.   More often than not, once you've got started, you'll end up doing more than you set out to do.  But even if you don't, you did something.  And you can repeat the process the next day.

2. Achieve a Quick Win

When doing my tax return, my first task was to literally just download all my bank statements from my online banking. That was it. It only took me 10 minutes, but it was a quick win.  I felt better, and the next day my bank statements were staring at me on my desktop, ready for my next step.

3. Get your day off to a flier

Borrowing an idea from the great Bryan Tracey. Do the thing that causes you the most resistance first thing before anything else.

When I am suffering from a lack of gym motivation, this is the tool that always helps.

I'll ban myself from doing anything until I've gone to the gym.  I'll get it out of the way first because it's the thing that I'm most likely to skip if I leave it until later in the day.

4. Streamline your Environment

Optimize your environment so that it's working in your favor.  

Want to go to the gym in the morning?  Get your gym kit ready the night before.

Procrastinating about recording a video?  Have a video studio set up and waiting so you don't have to go through the preparation when it's time to shoot.

Remove as many hurdles to getting started as possible.  

The last thing you want, when you're about to get started on something you don't want to do, is to have a bunch of other things to prepare first.  Ideally, your environment should be prepared in advanced so that when it's game time there's nothing in your way.

The next time you're in a rut...

...just realize that ruminating and rationalizing aren't helping.  

Instead use these practical tips to get started and remember that the secret to breaking out of inaction is action itself.

Seriously, do it.  You'll feel much better for it.

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