Our emotions play a large role in whether or not we get things done. Even if everything is set up perfectly for a productive work session, there are moments when our emotions get the best of us. For those who suffer from anxiety or depression, this is magnified. Therefore, a key to productivity is emotional regulation. In other words, learning how to effectively deal with unpleasant emotions. Here are some tips to emotionally regulate for productivity:
Productive Mood Anchor
Before tackling your to-do list, prime yourself to be in a good mood with a productive mood anchor. Similar to starting the day off on the right foot to ensure a good day ahead, starting your work or study session on the right food is beneficial as well. This can be done by crafting your favourite beverage, creating a new playlist that gets you excited, or even setting up your workspace to make you feel joyful with a candle or cool set up. With a joyful mood, it will be easier to face that to-do list of yours.
Journal It: Clear Up Some of Your Working Memory Space
This study shows that writing about anxieties before taking a high-stakes test can boost test performance compared to those who did not write down their feelings beforehand. This occurs because worry-filled thoughts can take up space in our working memory, reducing its capacity to store more information and manipulate it to complete the task at hand. Therefore, writing down your emotions before starting your work can clear your mind, setting you up for success.
Create Your To-Do List While Being Kind to Yourself
Often, we procrastinate due to the beliefs and thoughts we have of ourselves. For some, procrastination is a way to protect ourselves from failure. For others, the need to be perfect stops us from even beginning. In addition to being mindful of these thoughts and journaling about them it is important to be kind to ourselves. In practical terms:
- Evaluate your to-do list. Rank them in order of priority, being realistic and crossing off unnecessary additions to the list
- Cut it down to one thing. On tough days give yourself permission to ask, “If I only do one thing today, what will satisfy me?” — and allow yourself to be satisfied
- Write non-pressure-filled task. For example, instead of writing entire goals on the to-do list like “Read and take notes on chapter 13” give yourself permission to write “Spend 2 hours reading chapter 13.” This focuses more on the process—immersing yourself in the learning rather than the outcome, overall reducing the pressure
- Write your to-do list in pencil or in your phone notes. Allow yourself to be flexible and adapt. Reduce the pressure of everything being set in stone and necessary to finish
- Practice kind self-talk. “It’s okay, you are doing the best you can. We can try again tomorrow.” Use phrases like this to introduce positive self-talk—especially if you don’t get everything done
Take Time to Feel it Out
If nothing is working, allow yourself to take time to feel the unpleasant emotions. Allow them to pass by crying, going on a walk, or booking a session with Vent Over Tea to talk it out. It is vital to allow your feelings to be felt so they can flow through and eventually leave. Try not to resist your emotions, as it will only make them bigger. Give yourself the time you need, and trust that when you are in a better state of mind, the clarity alongside it will guide you to get everything done in a more efficient way. Experiment with this and find what works for you in letting the feelings flow out.
Overall, mainstream productivity hacks focus a lot on doing, and often overlooks the important fact that we are human beings. To be is to feel our being and all that it entails—the pleasant and unpleasant emotions. When creating our to-do lists, we must do so with loving awareness of our limitations as human beings—that we are not meant to work non-stop for long periods of time. In the pursuit of productivity, we are human beings too focused on what we do and how much we do. Perhaps, we must focus first on being then doing.