By Diana Illingworth
Routine can mess with our productivity. It’s difficult to notice the rapid passage of time when we’re wearing the same clothes, talking to the same people and staring at the same four walls every day.
Thankfully, incorporating variety into mundane tasks is simpler than it seems. These are my favorite ways to break the norm and reach a cheerful, productive mood.
1. Take a detour.
When you’re not in a hurry, find an alternative route to and from work or school. Maybe you’ll notice a new restaurant, a pretty building you had never seen or a stranger who might tell you an interesting story. Stepping away from familiar faces in search of new ones is a good method to discover what is happening in your community.
2. Carry a pen and notepad everywhere.
Yes, you’ll always have a notepad application on your smartphone, but carry a notebook or sticky notes with you. Your friends might tease you about it, but paper is great for brainstorming and free writing, especially if you’re a visual learner who uses arrows and diagrams. Autocorrect won’t be there to bother you. Bonus: if you’ve written a to-do list, you’ll have the satisfaction of actually crossing things off!
3. Spend time outside.
Find an outdoor activity you’d like to try and make room for it in your calendar. A day of rock climbing, a hike through a forest, an interaction with a wild animal or an afternoon at the beach will connect you to nature, allow you to meditate and shift your perspective. Even stepping outside your home for fresh air each day makes a difference.
4. Listen to new music.
Lyrics and sounds can trigger memories, thoughts and forgotten ideas that you could develop into big projects. New music will not only give you more melodies to dance and relax to, but it will give your brain a break from everything you associate with the songs on your usual playlist.
5. Ask for feedback.
We’re often our biggest critics, especially if we’ve been alone with our work for a long time. Asking a friend for feedback will detach you from your work, help you view it objectively and discover your strengths and weaknesses. Additionally, calling someone you haven’t talked to in a long time might remind you of old projects you could want to resume.
6. Face a fear.
Push yourself to do something you’re a little afraid of. Step closer to that balcony on the top floor, ride a roller coaster, ask for your crush’s phone number, carry your friend’s pet snake or offer to be the one who takes the spider out of the house. Even if it’s something completely unrelated to the task you’re working on, facing a fear will boost your pride and confidence.
7. Clean your space.
Unnecessary clutter of things you’re not using can make you feel like you’re drowning in “stuff” and add to your anxiety. It’s like visual pollution. Cleaning your workspace will make it seem bigger and provide a feeling of control.
8. Take breaks.
Instead of sitting in frustration staring at a blank page, use that time to go to the gym, walk your dog, cook or even take a shower. Ideas will flow naturally when you’re receiving stimulation from your surroundings. When you go back to work, your eyes will have rested and your mind will feel refreshed. Just don’t let your “breaks” last for hours!
9. Finish something.
If your errand is taking longer than expected, finish an unrelated task you’ve been putting off. Wash your dishes or reply to some emails. You’ll feel like you didn’t waste your day, even if you don’t finish that really big task by the end of it. Moreover, break up that big task into smaller sections or steps, and set deadlines for each one. This will add flexibility to your schedule by requiring a smaller time block to complete each step.
10. Turn off your electronics.
It’s tempting to search for inspiration online, but useful content often gets lost among garbage and information overloads. Putting away your phone, computer or tablet will not only allow you to detox from technology and social media, but it will also make your ideas seem more personal and authentic. You’ll know they came from you and only you.
Finally, don’t be too hard on yourself. Remember we all have times more productive than others — like seasonal fruits.