Some people are natural go-getters. They wake up with a drive to do and be everything they can be. These people are generally unstoppable and do what they set out to do almost daily. Other people have very little enthusiasm and drive for life. They often waste their time with pointless endeavors and go to sleep wondering — without much worry — what they did all day.

Most people fall somewhere between these two extremes. They want to retire to bed at night, knowing their daytime exertions meant something. They want to be industrious members of society and make good use of their time. However, they may wrestle with procrastination, indecisiveness, fear, or other common obstacles to productivity. They may also struggle to maintain an equilibrium between productivity at work and leisure time (otherwise known as work-life balance).

If you fall into the well-meaning but under-performing camp above, don’t worry. You have time to change your ways, though you may need help developing a strategy. Your primary motivation for boosting your daily output may be to meet work deadlines with less stress and last-minute scrambling. Or you may want to spend less time spinning your wheels and more time taking your startup business to the next level. Whatever your case may be, redefining your goals can boost your daily output.

How to Redefine Your Goals to Boost Your Daily Output

Many people fail to reach their daily output goals if they don’t write them down. It’s amazing how quickly the human brain can forget or discount the importance of something not written down. That’s why using a calendar or bullet journal to plan your day is crucial to good time management.

In addition to jotting your tasks into a calendar, you may also want to utilize the power of a daily to-do list. Such lists have been around for generations, and it’s easy to see why. They make it easy to sort your priorities and view them at a glance.

To begin, write down everything you need to do for the day without regard to the order you need to do them. Your initial goal should be to get all of your tasks down on paper simply. Once they are, you can reorganize them and put them in your preferred order. Here are some of the most popular ways people choose to reorganize and redefine their daily to-do lists.

By Deadline

Do you have some tasks due first thing in the morning and others due later in the day or week? If so, you’ll probably fare best by placing them in descending deadline order. That way, you can streamline your day by immediately tackling the projects that are due first. Move tasks that can be done the next day to tomorrow’s to-do list so they don’t detract from today’s deadlines.

By Order of Importance

You’ll often have days, weeks, or even months to complete specific projects. To avoid procrastinating every day until the due date, prioritize your daily to-do list by order of project importance. Then, carve time out of each day to work on the items that are at the top of your importance list. Once you spend sufficient time on those items, you can start working on items that appear further down the priority hierarchy.

By Order of Difficulty

Let’s face it: most people prefer to complete easy tasks over complex tasks. If you’re struggling to meet your goals because you always put the challenging tasks off until last, it’s time to reorganize your to-do list. Try placing at least one difficult task at the top of your list and tackling it before progressing to easy responsibilities.

You may be surprised at how much more you get done in a day when you force yourself to do the hard thing first. Plus, once you’re done with the most challenging things on your list, the easy stuff will seem like child’s play.

By Order of Time Requirement

Some tasks naturally take longer to do than others. To maximize your daily output, consider reorganizing your to-do list by order of time requirement. You’ll want to dedicate at least some of your daily efforts to the most time-consuming tasks. That will protect you from procrastinating and getting overly stressed when their deadlines loom in front of you. However, you may perform better if you put at least one quick task at the top of your list.

If your to-do list only has tasks that require hours or days to complete, you’ll end each day feeling unproductive. On the other hand, crossing a few quick responsibilities off your list every day results in a satisfying sense of accomplishment.

Common Productivity Obstacles

Most people want to live more efficient and productive lives. However, some people progress toward this goal, while others may consistently hope for progress but never reach it. Why is that?

As with all good things in life, being a dynamic member of society is complex. It takes consistent focus, passion, and effort. If you fall short on any of these things, your output will likely drop. Plus, there are a plethora of obstacles to productivity that you may face. Here are some common internal and external productivity obstacles that can make it difficult to accomplish your goals.

Internal Productivity Barriers

Internal productivity barriers aren’t easy for others to see because they originate somewhere inside you. They often lead to a vicious cycle of underperforming, feeling frustration and shame, then getting depressed and underperforming again. But you can overcome internal productivity barriers once you recognize them. Some of the most common obstacles in this category include stress or anxiety, low self-confidence, poor time estimation, and a low tolerance for discomfort.

Sometimes, you may need outside help to deal with internal productivity barriers. For example, chronic stress, anxiety, and low self-confidence may be best addressed with expert help from a therapist. Your problems may be rooted in past traumas or current situational circumstances that must be recognized, confronted, and addressed.

In the case of poor time estimation, you may not require outside assistance. However, you should seek to identify and utilize some self-help strategies to help overcome the issues. For example, you may need to download a daily planning app to help you stay productive and on track. Some good options include Calendar, Google Calendar, and Todoist. You may also wish to improve your sleep, nutrition, and exercise routines to help boost your focus and memory.

External Productivity Barriers

External productivity barriers may seem a bit less manageable because they’re often outside of your control. They include other peoples’ behaviors and requirements others place on you. Even though most organizations expect employees to be highly productive each day, they often unintentionally impede daily output. External productivity barriers include excessive meetings, social interactions, competing priorities, and other distractions.

You may have little to no control over some items in the above list. However, if your company schedules excessive, unimportant meetings, it’s worth having a heart-to-heart with your boss. Talk about how the constant meetings are making it difficult for you to reach your daily goals. Perhaps they can be consolidated into fewer meetings per week.

In the case of distracting coworkers, you may need to establish firm workplace barriers. For example, let your co-workers know that your office is off-limits when the door is closed (except for emergencies). That way, they’ll be less likely to come in and shoot the breeze when you’re trying to reach a deadline. In the case of competing priorities, ask your boss to be clearer about which priority comes first.

How to Avoid Productivity Anxiety

Increasing your productivity takes consistent, daily effort. There’s a fine line between achieving your ideal daily output and pushing yourself to the brink of exhaustion. Nothing is wrong with wanting to improve yourself and your daily accomplishments. However, things can go sideways if the desire to improve leads to something called “productivity anxiety constantly.” This is a condition that causes physical and psychological stress as the result of feeling like you never do enough.

If you’re experiencing productivity anxiety, the problem may not be that you’re under-performing. Instead, it may be that you’re expecting too much from yourself. Symptoms of productivity anxiety include:

  • Chronic procrastination
  • A never-ending, self-imposed to-do list
  • Paralyzing perfectionism
  • Problems obtaining work-life balance
  • Fatigue, muscle tension, headaches, and other anxiety symptoms
  • Difficulty relaxing

If you have any of these symptoms, allow yourself to step back and address the underlying issue. Perhaps you need to give yourself a more realistic to-do list each day. Or you may need to take a vacation and give yourself time to breathe before returning to the daily grind. In some cases, productivity anxiety may be just one symptom of a mental health condition that needs treatment.

Humans aren’t meant to push themselves to the maximum daily without rest. You need to recognize that you have physical and psychological limitations that should always be respected. Your to-do list can quickly become an anxiety-producing obstacle if you don’t recognize that. But if you give yourself reasonable boundaries and expectations, your to-do list can become an empowering tool to help you increase your daily output.

Featured Image Credit: