5 Ways to Prioritize Productivity by Focusing on Your Personal Life
Photo by Richard Jaimes

5 Ways to Prioritize Productivity by Focusing on Your Personal Life

This is a guest post by Jessica Thiefels

We often think about strategies to be more productive at work, yet sometimes our personal lives affect job performance more than anything. Personal issues, anxiety, unhappiness, or distractedness can cloud your judgment and make you less effective as an employee, which may lead to lower productivity.

When this happens, you may automatically buckle down, put in more hours, and power through, but that’s not always the solution. P. Claire Dodson, editor at Fast Company, spoke with productivity expert Chris Bailey why the idea of working more to get it done doesn’t always work:

“For one of his experiments, Bailey alternated working a 90-hour week with working a 20-hour week. The result? When working 70 more hours, he felt busier and more productive, but he only accomplished slightly more than he did during the short weeks.”

Instead of just adding more hours into your workday, start first with the root of the problem: personal challenges that are following you into the workplace. Here are five ways to focus on your personal life so you can return to being a truly productive employee in the office.

1. Pay Attention to Your Health and Wellness

If your overall health and wellbeing isn’t a priority, you have a higher chance of getting sick, which means you can’t perform your job. Even if you don’t take an official sick day, but go to work when you’re not feeling your best, known as presenteeism, your productivity will significantly suffer. In fact, recent studies have even shown both absenteeism and presenteeism from health issues can equate to an overall productivity loss of 10.43 days per year.

Make a Change: Don’t get into the habit of putting work before physical and mental health. Make time in your daily schedule for your preferred exercise. Stick with a regular and healthy diet or make time for a gentle meditation practice. Many CEOs credit their success to regular meditation and mindfulness. A healthier you (both mind and body) will equate to a more productive you at work.

2. Get Familiar With Your Finances to Banish Money Anxiety

A recent study from Northwest Mutual shows that 85 percent of Americans are living with financial anxiety and 41 percent of those Americans say the anxiety negatively affects their career. With each American managing an average of $38,000 in debt, it’s hard not to let your money worries seep into your workday. It may seem overwhelming and scary, but get familiar with your finances. Avoidance can cause undue stress. If you can’t make significant changes right away, you’ll at least know where you stand.

Make a Change: Focus on the numbers: what you owe, interest rates for credit cards and loans, how much income you’re allocating to debt repayment. Most importantly, get rid of any guilt and, instead, get comfortable with your finances. “There’s no shame in wanting to be better with money,” explains Jacqueline Curtis of Money Crashers. “Remember that taking the time to educate yourself and organize your finances—even if the numbers make you squirm—can set you on a healthier path for the future.”

3. Outsource Personal Tasks

The concentration at work slowly diminishes as you reach the end of the day - you know that familiar afternoon slump that has you reaching for a second cup of coffee. This only gets harder to manage if you’re mentally thinking of all the things you need to do after you leave. This may be even worse if you’re waking up early to get personal tasks done, and get to the office, already exhausted at 8am.

If you feel like you’re drowning in personal to-do lists, with no time for yourself, it’s time to get help with your personal tasks. Luckily, this is easier than ever.

Make a Change: Meal prep services like Blue Apron or grocery delivery from AmazonFresh can be a huge time-saver when you have a full schedule. If you’re running late from a meeting, apps like Wag! provide on-demand dog walking, so you don’t feel guilty about leaving without giving your furry friend time outside.

In addition to these services, don’t forget about traditional options, like wash-and-fold laundry, the benefits of which are many, including same-day pickup: you to drop off your clothes on the way to work—when done, you can get an email or text notification and can grab them on your way home from work. Better yet, see if your company pays for a laundry service, and use that to your advantage.

4. Slow Down and Compartmentalize

We’re all guilty of checking work email outside of regular business hours. One-third of workers report working on the weekend, according to studies by the Bureau of Labor and Statistics. Compartmentalize your attention in two ways. What’s worse, on days off, we often make grand plans, like brunch with friends and long nights out. When the weekend is over, we feel like we’ve only done half of what we wanted to and are still exhausted.

Make a Change: When you’re at work, focus on one task at a time. Finish it, then move on to the next. When you get home, make time for true rest, without checking your email, like reading a book or watching a movie on the couch. When you get back to work, you’ll feel more refreshed and ready to focus, rather than having the Monday blues.

5. Be Realistic, Stop “Should-ing” Yourself

We’re all guilty of adding too many things to our to-do lists, which leaves us either stressed, because we can’t get it all done, or exhausted, because we stay at work late to finish it all. Instead, be more realistic and eliminate the pressure. Why? Because we should get it all done.

Make a Change: Focus on two things. First, focus on true priorities—you may not get everything done ahead of time, and that’s okay. Which tasks are truly important and which can wait until tomorrow. Second, stop the “should-ing.” Nicole Varvitsiotes, self-proclaimed perfectionist and Muse contributor explains her experience:

“Ridding ‘should’ from my vocabulary helped, too. It was an eye-opening experience, realizing how often I felt burdened by the 18 things I ‘should be doing’ instead of being at a friend’s bonfire. What things ‘should’ be or look like. The self-recriminations slowed as I lowered my unobtainable standards, and eventually I didn’t need to be an eight-packed runner with a 401(k) and a book deal to know my worth.”

Focus on Personal Productivity to Increase Workplace Efficiency

In our career-oriented world, we’re always focused on productivity hacks and efficient workflows. When our personal lives are unbalanced, however, even the most effective worker can struggle with staying productive. Find ways to focus on the areas of your personal life that aren’t working, and you may just find your productivity increases with your happiness at home.

Jessica Thiefels is an entrepreneur and CEO and has been writing for more than 10 years. She has more than 700 published articles worldwide and has been featured in FastCompany and Forbes. She also regularly contributes to StartupNation, Business Insider, among others. Follow her on Twitter @JThiefels and connect on LinkedIn.