How to reset your productivity prowess in one week

How to reset your productivity prowess in one week

An old work friend once told me that the sign of a good holiday is forgetting your password when you return to work.

I returned from leave recently and while my password was intact (thanks to my fingerprint), I did arrive at my team meeting late after forgetting how to enter the virtual meeting space (it turns out there’s a link in the calendar invite… who knew?!).

Combine this with an overflowing inbox and endless meetings; I knew that a productive week was not ahead of me.

While holidays can do wonders for your mood, returning to work after even just a week away can take a significant toll on your productivity.

So, I decided to take one week to reset my productivity prowess. Here’s how I did it, and how you can too. 

Monday: the ‘fresh start’ effect

To kick-start my reset and combat my feelings of overwhelm, I started with a boost of motivation.

One of my favourite habit change strategies is the ‘fresh start’ effect. This refers to the extra motivation we feel when beginning something new, like a project, habit, or goal.

I shifted my first week from something to ‘just get through’ into an official productivity reset. I wrote down the strategies I would use to reset my habits this week.

Success for this week would be implementing one strategy per day. Simply re-framing this week as a fresh start to re-commit to my productivity was motivating as I wrapped up my first day back at work.

Tuesday: the ‘to-discuss’ list

As I worked through my inbox, I was tempted to send off emails to my team members when quick questions arose with each email opened.

I instead created a ‘to-discuss’ list that consisted of post-it notes titled with the name of each of my team members, and a list of things ‘to discuss’ with them.

Whenever I read an email that prompted a query from me (e.g. ‘Where did you land on X project?’), I added that topic to the list for the relevant person in my team. I then booked catch-ups with each team member to work through these items.

Instead of sending a collection of unscheduled emails to each team member, which would set off a chain of responses, I knew I could more efficiently discuss and address those items in a single meeting.

Wednesday: deep work sprints

Day one back at work was not a time for focused work. Neither was day two. It felt more achievable to start my third day back at work with my first sprint of ‘deep work’. And it was painful.

Across Monday and Tuesday, I had numerous articles, research and videos to catch up on. They sat at the top of my browser, tempting me as I sluggishly tried to focus.

Then, I got the urge to email my accountant to check up on a late tax return. The distractions were coming at me from all directions.

So, I gave in. I scratched those distracting itches for an hour. I then used the relief of ticking off a few small items to get me through one sprint of deep work. It was a small achievement for my return to focused work.

While my Wednesday strategy was to re-commence my daily deep work sprints, I was reminded of the ingredients needed to ensure this happens: removing my phone from my office, closing all unnecessary browsers and using full-screen to remove distractions from my visual field.

Thursday: the appointment scheduler

Meetings are a consistent frustration for knowledge workers. Many of us spend our working days booking, attending, and following up after meetings.

I used this week’s ‘reset’ mindset to encourage me to try a new feature in Google Calendar – the appointment scheduler (here’s the same in Microsoft).

This feature creates a link to send to people to book in meetings with you directly, which saves emails back and forth to land on a time that suits both parties.

I created a link, sent it to a client and  was happy to see a meeting scheduled within minutes. There’s nothing like immediate success to boost your commitment to something new.

Friday: reflection ritual

We don’t work on Fridays at Inventium, thanks to our four-day week policy. However, I decided to create an end-of-week ritual to close out the week (and schedule this for Thursday afternoon).

This is based on a daily ritual of shutting down my day, but now I’m asking a weekly question: “What is one thing I did this week that got me closer to achieving my goals?”

Can you guess what I celebrated this week?

Charlotte Rush

This article was written by Charlotte Rush.

Charlotte is an organisational psychologist and certified coach. She works as the Head of Product Development at Inventium.