Fight Lethargy and Get Productive with a “Productivity Menu”
Restaurant menus are great. They give us a narrowed list of an infinite number of options to choose. They even narrow down the options to an optimized list of options with a coherent theme. A theme that is set by the restaurant so you generally know what to expect before you even pick up a menu. It assists every patron in making a quick and effective decision.
We can create the exact same thing for being productivity.
When we’re sitting on the couch after a tiring day of work, it is so easy to fire up Netflix, open a bag of chips, and do a bunch of nothing. The excuses tend to be a variation of, “but I’m tired… It was a long day at work… I already worked hard today… I’ll work on my todo list tomorrow… I’ll exercise this weekend…”
It’s all excuses because the body is defaulting to its natural instinct – conserve energy.
But the reality is, we have a lot more energy than we realize.
We absolutely have the energy to get up, get to work, and get stuff done.
I have taken a page out of the restaurant’s strategy book and have created a Productivity Menu. This is a selection of productive options to keep my decision making focused and to a minimum. I no longer have the excuse of, “I’ll think of something to do while I turn on another episode of Scrubs.” I have a concrete list of productive options to tackle.
If I’m ever feeling lethargic, but want to get productive, all I need to do is select any item from this Productivity Menu and get to work.
Using the Productivity Menu
The key to this methodology is once you select an item, do not give up until it is complete. Whenever we do something, we are wiring patterns in our brain and we are more likely to repeat that action in the future. If I complete this five minute task, I am more likely to complete five minute tasks, or even ten minute tasks in the future. But if I cave on a five minute task, then I’ll be more likely to cave on future tasks.
Every item on this list is intentionally super easy. I don’t have any chance of failure for any of the items on this list. Furthermore, every item on this list helps advance my physical or mental health in one way or another. When I complete any item on this list, I will earn a feeling of success because I was productive and accomplished something positive in my life.
Upon completing the task, take a moment to mentally revel in the success. A simple, “Yes, I did it” helps ingrain positive emotions towards the chosen task – making it more likely to be repeated in the future.
That feeling of success will very likely generate momentum, enabling me to tackle any another productive task.
Here is a sample menu, but I encourage everyone to adapt the menu to meet your own priorities.
The Productivity Menu
- Read a book for 5 minutes
- Write for 5 minutes
- A short walk – 2.5 minutes in one direction away from home then walk back
- Stretch for 5 minutes
- 10 Isometric hold exercises for 30 seconds each
- 5 minutes of chores/cleaning
- Pray for 5 minutes
- Mediate – 2 minutes is acceptable if you’re new to meditation
- 5 minutes of something personal to you that is enjoyable and constructive
Things that should not be on this list are mindless activities such as endless scrolling on social media or watching TV. The key to the list is in the name itself – it’s not a “Mindless Menu” after all.
Once you complete one of these five minute tasks, nine times out of ten you’ll have generated enough energy and momentum to keep working further. The more you progress with that tasks the more you wire your brain to be productive in the future.
I encourage everyone to print out a Productivity Menu and when an item on this list is completed, add a tally next to it. If you complete an item on the list and continue for more than five minutes, add another tally. Adding a tally provides an opportunity to revel in success of completing something and over time, the page will become filled with tallies showing your progress. The more tallies you have, the more you’ll want to add more tallies to the page!
Don’t know what to add to your list?
Over the next week, write down everything you do. Big and small. At the end of the week, look at that list and identify what helps you towards your goals. Find five minute things you can do on that list and add them to the productivity menu.
While you’re at it, identify the things that don’t help you towards your goals. Consider cutting back on those things or cut them out of your life.
How does the Productivity Menu work?
The more positive actions we take over time, the more we wire our brain to act in a positive and constructive manner. Productivity creates momentum and momentum creates more momentum. The more momentum we have, the more we get done. The more we get done, the more we will get done in the future.
It’s an incredibly cyclical pattern that feeds on itself.
Just like slacking off on the couch makes us more likely to press play on the next episode, getting up and getting something done makes us more likely to tackle another productivity item.
Every time you complete an item off of the Productivity Menu, you develop willpower in addition to being productive. In fact, the more your inner voice tells you to stay on the couch, the more you strengthen your willpower by getting up and getting something done.
The more often you get up and complete something productive, the more likely you are to get up and get something done in the future. Consistency of effort makes future efforts easier and more fruitful.
Like I said – it’s very cyclical.
Completing items on this Productivity Menu allows me to accomplish something productive, generate momentum to tackle future tasks, and develop willpower so it is easier for me to be productive in the future.
Yes, completing a simple five minute task really can be that powerful, when it is paired with consistent productivity over time.