How Transitions Can Dramatically Improve Your Productivity

You may swig down your coffee between emails, trying to get all your tasks done, but you still can't keep up with all your work. This hyper-active pace creates productivity gaps.

Instead of smooth transitions from one task to the next you are probably jumping around like a caffeinated dog. I've seen my friend's dog drunk on coffee and it isn't pretty.

You're missing out on a vital need.

The time to process your thoughts from the previous task to the current one. Sure you're getting your work done, but how do you feel at the end of the day? Do you feel energized to hang out with friends and family?

Our brains are sponges constantly soaking up information, but we need to take the time to squeeze it out every once in awhile (well, it really should be all the time) to keep ourselves healthy. Burn-out wastes more of company money than vacations. Actually people need to take more vacations in America because we are over worked. When employees take time off they are able to shake out the emotional crap that builds up throughout the year. When they come back to work they have new ideas that they can't wait to share with their co-workers. Well...not everyone, but the ones that enjoy their job.

Wring Out Your Brain More Often

All the information builds up and like any memory drive it needs to be cleaned out or it can't run efficiently. When you just go, go, go until you just can't "go" any longer then it's time to squeeze that brain out by giving it a break.

A break is always good for your health, but most of us only take short breaks in the morning and afternoon. This isn't enough. And most of the time we are so busy worrying about work that it doesn't even feel like a break. You need to take the time to process the emotional data that had built up over the past couple of hours.

To take an actual break that leaves you refreshed, you should take small breaks between tasks. When you finish an email, give yourself one minute to process and set up your next task. I usually make a mental note, but you may want to make a physical note when you first start (I'll explain in the 4 step process).

My 4 Step Process to More Motivation and Less Stress

Step 1: When you finish an email then it's time to take a moment to let out a breath. By actually being aware of this out breath you are taking the transition by the horns.  This allows you to process the email then think of what you need to do next.

Step 2: Let's say you need to edit a three page report next. Lean back in your chair, get up and do a stretch or just take a moment to let your thoughts settle. If you need to look busy because you work in a cubicle (I've been there), then write down what you will do next on a little Post-it note or create a small list on your computer. This keeps you looking busy while allowing yourself to relax your mind.

Step 3: Before you dive back in to the next task I suggest a ten second inner dialog. Tell yourself what you want to accomplish in this next task and how long you expect it to take.  This helps create mental leverage.

Step 4: Then right before you start, notice how you feel before you begin your next task. This last step is most important. Why? Because it reinforces the good that you do when you take time to process, relax and set yourself up for your next task. The only way to change a bad habit and replace it with a good one is to show yourself that the new one is worth doing. If you do this once an hour, that's only eight minutes in an eight hour work day. We can all spare eight minutes to reduce our stress and improve our productivity.

Results: Taking the time to transition between tasks will keep your motivation high and your brain functioning at an optimal level. This small reoccurring gift to yourself will allow you to relax on your breaks and during lunch. And when you get home you won't feel as tired. This is the best part. My wife has seen such a difference in my attitude, she asked me if something changed at work.

I smiled and replied, "Yep, me."

You have the ability to make work fit into your natural rhythms. It will take a little pig-headed determination and discipline, but believe me once it becomes a habit you won't ever go back to rushing through your work. If you encounter any problems, just let me know in the comment section and I'll help you find your own way to improve your happiness and productivity.

Do you have a routine that you use to transition between tasks? Let's discuss in the comments. You probably have another idea that could help people enjoy their job just a little more.

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Image courtesy of Carplips Family and jj judes

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