Most of us encounter one of these two scenarios every day. It’s rare to find the sweet spot of productivity. Either our plate is too full or is not full enough. It doesn’t matter if you are a professional in corporate offices, a team member on a factory line, a teacher, medical professional, stay at home family member or self-employed. You have days where you fall on either side of the two extremes. You have projects and those projects either go to quick or never seem to finish. What do you do?
Plate Too Full
When your plate is too full, it’s hard to focus. You see time slipping away and you know you can’t get it back. That deadline seems to be creeping up on you faster than you think. Or that project that you budgeted two hours for turns into a six hour project. Everything else has to slide back. A project you thought you would get to today has to be pushed back to tomorrow. You get frustrated. Your mind doesn’t seem to focus on the task. You’re not getting anywhere.
You’ve been there, right? You know this feeling. It’s annoying. Your head is throbbing. Your coffee cup is empty. Your e-mail keeps piling up. How should you respond to having your plate too full?
1. Start Another Project
One of the best things to do in this situation is to try to work on something else. Start another project. See if that gets any traction. Sometimes in the middle of this new task a neuron will suddenly fire and you’ll have all the puzzle pieces click into place on the other project. That happens so often to me.
2. Pull Away for a Break
Another idea is to take a break. Get up and go for a walk. Visit with a co-worker. Call your home and check in with your family. Grab an early lunch. Listen to a song on your playlist. Sit quietly for five minutes and pray about the situation. All of these idea will help bring you to ease.
3. Enlist Help
Sometimes we never think of the obvious solution. Help comes when we ask for it. Maybe your visit with your coworker is to ask for advice. Or maybe you need to go to your boss and admit that you don’t have it altogether. That’s hard! Most of us wouldn’t want to go to our employer for help because then that makes us look like we are incapable. But they are in that role for a reason. He or she could be your biggest help to pull you through your plate too full situation.
Plate Not Full Enough
Then there is the exact opposite problem. You find yourself in such a sweet rhythm that you knock all your projects out early. You don’t have anything on your plate. But you’re a productive person. So this frustrates you. You don’t want to let your time fritter away without having anything to show for it. How do you respond when your plate is not full enough?
1. Create New Work
Maybe you need to go back to a project you finished and see if you can improve it. Or try evaluating another project that you have already completed. Is it optimized? Are you satisfied with how that project turned out? If not, now’s the time to put more time into that project.
2. Have a List of New Projects Ready
This requires forward thinking. Sometimes we think of ideas for great new projects, but then we never write them down. It may not be that you don’t have more work to do, you just haven’t figured out what that new work should be. If you regularly make a list of projects that you could do, then you’ll be ready to tackle those projects when your plate empties.
3. Look For Someone to Help
Surely someone around you is looking for help on one of their projects. Check in with everyone else around you to see if they need assistance. Regularly make it known to those you work with that you are more than happy to help them. If people know that you are willing, they will be more likely to take you up on any offer you make to help.
What do you do when your plate isn’t full or is too full? What other tips would you add to this list?
This post first appeared at Joey’s blog and is posted here with his permission.