Have you ever had a great idea that you wanted to pursue but after overthinking it, you decide not to go for it because you were hit with feelings of self-doubt? Or, are you the type of person who is always putting things off until the weekend and when the weekend comes, you just can’t seem to find time to tackle your project? Why do you suppose it is so difficult to increase your productivity and get things done?
For as long as I can remember, I’ve always had an issue with getting things started and getting things done. For me, it had nothing to do with laziness but everything to do with my negative thoughts that I allowed to consume me at times. For example, this very blog is a project of mine that I should have started many months ago. I had thoughts of not being a good enough writer, of not realistically having time to blog on the side, of not coming up with topics that people would be interested in discussing and the list goes on.
These situations are enough to really get you down and have you feeling sorry for yourself. If it happens enough times, after a while, it can be extremely difficult to remain positive or enthusiastic about anything. Sometimes negative thoughts consume us and it can be nearly impossible to stop dwelling on those thoughts. In fact, research by American Psychological Association determined that when people were told not to think about a specific topic, they found it much more difficult to get that topic off their minds. A perfect example of something being easier said than done, isn’t it?
It’s inevitable that we will, at one point or another, have to battle negative thoughts. We are all imperfect people and we cannot expect to have stellar performances everyday—life just doesn’t work that way. It is especially difficult to be productive when negative thoughts are getting you down. However, we recognize that we need to do something if we are ever going to increase our productivity.
“While every household has a medicine cabinet full of bandages, ointments, and pain relievers for treating basic physical maladies, we have no such medicine cabinet for the minor psychological injuries we sustain in daily life,” says Guy Winch, Ph.D., psychologist and author of Emotional First Aid: Practical Strategies for Treating Failure, Rejection, Guilt and Other Everyday Psychological Injuries. “True, we could seek the counsel of a mental health professional in such situations, but doing so is often impractical, as most of the psychological wounds we sustain in life are not serious enough to warrant professional intervention.” Fortunately, according to Winch, there are practices that we can incorporate to stop dwelling on negative thoughts and refocus on positive ones. All we need is the determination if we truly want to increase our productivity.
Winch suggests a distraction technique where you visualize yourself in a grocery store. “Try to picture all of the items on one shelf in the store, and the order that you see them in,” he says. You don’t necessarily have to focus on a grocery store, as long as you focus on something that requires concentration. I personally like to visualize my future. I typically see myself successfully completing whatever project or goal that I am pursuing at that time. This helps me refocus my negative thoughts into self-determination thoughts. You don’t have to do this visualization exercise for very long either. You can do anywhere from 30 seconds to a minute, every time a negative situation occurs. “It may seem temporary, but if you reinforce these patterns enough, it can improve your mood and your decision-making abilities,” says Winch. “You can actually train your brain to go in a different direction when these thoughts come up.” Distracting yourself with visualization of positive outcomes rather than the negative, can help you get back on track with your productivity.
Have a Healthy Social Circle
It is important to surround yourself with positive and uplifting people who help you to become your best self. It may be difficult but you may have to gracefully let go of old friends who are a negative influence in your life. It is imperative to do your best to maintain a positive environment whenever possible. There will be some situations where it will not be feasible to do so, like at work or school for instance. So any areas where you have complete control should be addressed. Personally, I had to let go of “friends” who weren’t very encouraging. I had goals that I wanted to pursue and needed support. I took matters into my own hands and I started associating with people who were just as driven as I was. Some of the people who I was privileged to associate with were already where I wanted to be career-wise and they helped me by giving me great advice, as well as the extra push I needed.
Write It Out & Then Toss It Away
Ever been so incensed by co-workers or classmates that your productivity goes down? A really good friend of mine was pretty upset and hurt by a co-worker. He didn’t want to bring up the situation to his co-worker because he felt like the moment passed and wasn’t worth revisiting and causing unnecessary tension. Someone suggested to him that he write out a letter to her as if he were going to actually give it to her and then throw it away. Well, he did just that and felt much better afterward. It may sound a bit silly but this technique really works. Writing out your thoughts and then throwing them away can really help you clear your mind according to a study published in the journal Psychological Science.
It isn’t uncommon for us to use temperature to describe the emotional state of people. Saying things like ‘cold shoulder’ or ‘warmhearted’ paints a pretty good picture in our minds of someone’s personality. We all know that negative thoughts and feelings will occur from time to time. If your thoughts are of loneliness, then you might want to try taking a warm bath or drinking some hot cocoa. No really. Psychologists at Yale University found a strong correlation between people who suffered from loneliness and the amount of time they spent bathing. They spent longer periods of time in the bath. Yale researchers also conducted another study where they asked people to recall a lonely time. When given a hot pack to hold in their hands, they had less negative feelings about their lonely experiences over the people who didn’t hold a hot pack.
Look On The Bright Side Of Things – It’s Good For Your Heart
Instead of focusing on the negatives of a situation, try to turn that situation into a positive. It may be necessary to reappraise your current situation and think a little differently. If you are stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic, for example, don’t think about how it normally takes you a half hour to get home and now it will take you an hour. Instead, focus on your productivity. What can you get done during that time? Would it be a good opportunity to catch up on phone calls to loved ones, or brush up on your Spanish by popping in your Spanish CDs into your CD player? Also, it’s good for your heart to be more optimistic, according to a study by the University of Illinois. “Individuals with the highest levels of optimism have twice the odds of being in ideal cardiovascular health compared to their more pessimistic counterparts,” said lead author Rosalba Hernandez, a professor of social work at the University of Illinois.
What about you? How do you cope with negative thoughts and increasing your productivity? Have you tried any of these techniques? Do you have some techniques that aren’t mentioned that you would like to share? Write them in the comments below.