When is the last time you found yourself in a productivity rut? Or a creative desert?
I’m talking about a situation where you want to get things done, you want to create something fresh and innovative – but you just can’t seem to muster up the necessary ingredients.
In such situations, it’s tempting to point to external factors outside our control. We might catch ourselves saying something like, “Well it’s a beautiful day, so my mind is at the beach,” or “They’re doing construction next door and I can’t concentrate with all the noise.”
Or maybe something bigger is at play: a relationship breakup, an unsettling geopolitical event, or a crazy boss.
It’s easy to blame things that aren’t in our control because it leaves us with no accountability to fix the issue. We are blameless and helpless.
Well today we’re going to bust that fantasy. Because the truth is that you have a lot more control over the situation than you think.
In this lesson we’re going to discuss how you can take the reins and get things back on track.
Okay, so we want to put an end to our productivity slump.
And we know the easiest thing to do would be to blame someone – or something – else.
But the problem is, that type of thinking won’t get you out of your slump. All it does is punt the responsibility to someone else. Meanwhile, you’re still stuck in the desert, and boy is it hot.
So are you ready for your camel savior to lead you to the oasis?
The solution is simple. Focus on your inputs. And I’ll explain what I mean by that.
You’ve heard the phrases “You are what you eat” and “You get out what you put in”. Those are at the essence of what we’re discussing here.
Consider high-performing athletes. Are they eating junk food and binging Netflix? Not the ones I know. Instead, they are extremely careful about what they eat and spend hours priming their muscles and cardiovascular system for optimal performance. Their specialized diet and training are their inputs. It’s those inputs that allow them to perform at a world-class level.
Now just because you might not be endeavoring to be a high-performing athlete, that doesn’t exclude you from this law of nature.
Good writers are voracious readers.
Effective engineers spend their free time solving problems.
Successful monks seek peaceful natural settings.
You’re probably seeing the pattern here. People who are good at what they do feast on the ingredients that make them better at their work.
Author and creativity expert Austin Kleon puts it succinctly: the “problems of output are problems of input.”
So the key here is to focus our attention on our inputs. If we can get our inputs right, then we dramatically increase the likelihood of a positive output.
As David Cain of the blog Raptitude says: “I like this focus on input because it suggests that we’re not directly in charge of our output. Rather, we’re charged with the care and feeding of the complex, semi-autonomous system that generates the output.”
Ok so now that we understand the vital role that input plays, let’s take this a step further.
Not all input is created equal.
Meaning, just having input is not enough. It needs to be high-quality input.
That makes sense, doesn’t it?
If we fill our free time with mind-numbing TV and video games, we can’t reasonably expect those activities to lead to breakthroughs in our life. The same way you can’t expect to run a six-minute mile without conditioning your body for the task.
So to get back to fixing our productivity problem, if we’re feeling sluggish and uninspired, we need to stop stressing about producing and creating. Instead, let's shift our focus to the other end of the spectrum.
We need to audit our inputs.
Now a machine can’t operate without fuel, and since this is ourselves we’re talking about, we want the primo high-octane stuff.
Your challenge is to figure out what your premium fuel is.
For me, nothing beats good sleep, healthy food, and high-intensity exercise. If I can get all three of those going consistently, I can virtually guarantee myself a productive, creative week. And that’s true for most people.
But we all have a few other special ingredients that are unique to ourselves. I happen to love fantasy and science fiction novels. When I read them, my brain lights up with all kinds of ideas and I get fired up for my own work.
For someone else, that could be building model trains, or solving brain teasers, or having deep conversations with friends and family.
The most important thing is that your special ingredient challenges and stimulates your brain. It needs to get you thinking in new ways that promote fresh ideas and inspiration.
As you start to fuel your mind with nutrient-dense articles, media, books, and quality conversation, you’ll notice a dramatic uptick in your mood, energy levels, and ultimately, your productivity. The ideas will begin to flow through you so quickly your fingers won’t be able to keep up!
So that's the secret to breaking out of a productivity slump.
To fix your output, start by fixing your input.
First, make sure you are nailing the basics of sleep, food, and exercise.
Once those are dialed in, make sure you are feeding your brain with your special high-octane fuel.
And if you don’t know what your special fuel is, perfect. Your mission is to figure that out.
So now that I've shared our thoughts, I’d love to hear your own ideas for jolting yourself out of a productivity slump. What’s your special fuel? What gets your brain energized and inspired?
Share that with me and the Explearning community in the comments down below.
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With that, have an awesome week, Explearners.
Thank you so much for joining me and I’ll see you next time for your next Explearning lesson.
Happy Explearning ⚡