The Mental Hooks that Snag our Productivity

The Mental Hooks that Snag our Productivity


OpenClipartVectors via Pixabay

This week, on my first radio show, my guest, Lucas Deschamps talked about doing research when it came to food and what we are eating. I loved Lucas’s comment “Don’t just eat something because it sounds good”. I commented that the advice about keeping an open mind and doing research sounded like what we try and do when we are mindful – are become curious scientists in our experiences. We step back rather than just accepting what our mind tells us.

So, having said that, and with #FocussedFriday in mind, I thought I’d suggest stepping back and noticing thoughts – mental hooks – that might get in the way of us doing the things that are most important to us. These are, I suggest, thoughts that trip us up and have us watching several episodes of Buffy (*cough* – you know who you are) rather than doing what might be more important.

Do any of these sound familiar or trip you up?

  • I’ll do that later – a common hook. My suggestion is to pin a time to it or discard it as a task. One productivity tip I read this week was about discarding one thing from your to do list before even doing it.
  • I’ll do that when I feel….(better, clearer, more sorted, etc) – tricky. Does that really need to happen? I see this in students who are avoiding writing research up because perfectionist thoughts intervene and the associated thought is unless I’m completely confident/sorted/organised, there is no point starting. My suggestion is to set a timer and do a burst of focussed activity on part of it.
  • It will just take 5 minutes – somehow, distraction tasks never take just five minutes. It’s also easy to get caught up in other people’s agendas.
  • There’s no point starting it right now…I’ll just….(check my email, go and have lunch, walk the dog, do…) – start small.
  • This is too hard/complicated/big– Things may seem very big and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. Notice your reaction and perhaps your urge to avoid. Deep breath. Is it important to do this task? Can you ask for help, search for an answer, delegate it, or break it up into smaller tasks?

Did any of these mental hooks ring true for you? Any other hooks that you hear?

I have a workshop coming up in Dunedin where I’ll be talking about those mental hooks that keep overthinking in place. 

Focussed Friday

Focussed Friday

“TGIF!” we say. Too often, it seems like we accept that Fridays are not going to be that productive and we are killing time until the weekend. Would you like to be getting more out of Friday (or, indeed, any other day)?

I recently posted a survey asking people who either felt they were overthinkers or they worked with people who were, if they could fill out a short survey for me. If you haven’t, I’d truly appreciate if you could answer these four questions.

I’ve been really enjoying the appreciating seeing the responses to this and it’s filled me with so many ideas. Two frequent themes that have come up are procrastination and issues of productivity.

I’m still learning to do things better and I think I’m somewhat obsessed with learning about productivity tips [it may have had something to do with my dad introducing me to authors like Tony Robbins when I was about 9 years old] and I thought I’d post some regular tips that I find useful or that I’m trying out.

So, here are three things that have come up this week in talking with people:

  1. You probably already know how fabulous the pomodoro technique is. I always use a timer. For example, even when cleaning the kitchen at night, I set my timer for 15 mins. Using the timer helps with focus.
  2. Sometimes we use our pomodoro space inefficiently because we haven’t set ourselves up to succeed. For example, you may have used the timer to study but you spend the time organising your materials. Set a timer (e.g., for 15 mins) and gather the materials for your pomodoro. I read a phrase in David Allan’s “Getting Things Done” book [fantastic read] which was about being your own PA in terms of setting things up for yourself to do well (e.g., having a to do list ready for the next day, notes to yourself, reminders, etc).
  3. Do something today that your future self will thank you for rather than simply reacting to things.

Will you be joining me on #FocussedFriday?

Do something today

What type of thinking do you do most often?

What type of thinking do you do most often?


Grateful thanks to Geralt for the image, via Pixabay

How frequently do you:

(1) try to push (emotional) thoughts aside, either by doing something that distracts you mentally or physically?

(2) feel overwhelmed by the speed at which thoughts are going through your mind?

(3) notice your mind wandering off and daydreaming?

(4) feel your way of managing your thoughts is efficient?

(5) deal efficiently with problems that arise?

(6) go back over conversations, replaying them and trying to work out how they could have gone differently?

(7) use your mind as a mental jotter-pad and use it to hold information?

(8) see thoughts as passing phenomena that you don’t necessarily have to get caught up in?

These are just a handful of questions to get you thinking about your thinking (otherwise known as meta-cognition).  Most of us take our default way of thinking for granted – it’s how we’ve always done things and it can seem surprising that there might even be another way of thinking. I’m not talking about the content of our thinking necessarily, but the style or manner in which we are thinking. Some ways of thinking (e.g. overthinking, and thought suppression) may not serve us well and may set us up to not only feel worse, but also solve problems less well, feel less motivated, and sap our confidence.

In this video (one of a series of five), I briefly talk about types of thinking. When we are trying to change from a habitual type of thinking that no longer serves us (e.g., overthinking or avoidance), it’s helpful to know other types of thinking exist.

In my CD “Overcoming Overthinking”, I have a guided exercise to help shift into Problem-Solving, rather than overthinking. I also have an exercise for shifting from Overthinking into Reflection. It’s useful to listen to the exercises a few times to learn the strategy and then, when you notice that you are overthinking, try listening to either track to shift into a different way of thinking.

In my upcoming workshops (a one hour intro or a half day version), I will be talking about overthinking, the 4 S’s that keep us locked into overthinking, and how to KICK overthinking.

Dream Big, Act Small

Dream Big, Act Small



Image from 95C through Pixabay. Grateful thanks!

I’ve always admired friends who have a regular schedule for household activities (e.g., cleaning the house on a Saturday, grocery shopping on a Wednesday). One of my big dreams is to have an ordered life where things are nicely scheduled in and I am not, for example, ahem, working out my provisional tax the day before it’s due (sigh). [It’s not as completely dire as it sounds – turns out that at some stage, my earlier self must have done my present self a favour and put together some of the trickier subtotals I needed. Thanks past self!] I recently asked my friends, on facebook, whether it might be possible to have a scheduled life, where, for the most part, things were predictable and planned ahead of time rather than putting out fires. For the most part, my friends thought no. One suggested that I might have to wait until Bear was 21.

I’ve borrowed the title of this post from the main title of the January NEXT magazine (Dream Bigger, Start Smaller). Rachael Harwood talks about “The Small Step Makeover” and suggests 20 small do-able things to improve wellbeing. I really liked the idea of making smaller, achievable resolutions that were progress towards grander things, rather than making dramatic resolutions for the new year that might not be so achievable. So, perhaps there are small steps possible towards my bigger dream of a regular predictable schedule.One small step, I thought, was putting into my diary, everything that had a deadline along with a reminder – warrants for the car, registration, etc. Another step, I thought, was trying to have regular days for things (e.g., filling the car with petrol). I’ve become increasingly aware of how much I need to (1) write everything down instead of keeping a mental list and (2) how important it is to try and automate tasks.  It’s been an incredibly busy time with the launching of the CDs and work on the upcoming workshops.  All the more reason to look at these tiny ways that life might be easier.

Are there any ways, small or large, that you organise your life to make things easier?


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