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By Lisa Caplan, LCSW-C

There is always lots to do, and with the pandemic and working remotely we may find it even harder to be productive. Many have to juggle child care,  school, and other family responsibilities that they didn’t need to focus on before. We are in a constant state of change which can challenge our productivity. In order to be more productive, we have to adapt good ideas and make them  work for us. 

We can read something and think, “That makes sense.” or “That seems like common sense.”, but unless we implement a new technique and adjust it to meet our needs, it may not work for us. Being more productive requires time management, how you view yourself and tackling some of your obstacles. Although there isn’t a magic wand to improve your productivity here are  some tips that might be helpful.

  • Are you your biggest obstacle in being more productive? Look at your reasoning for any loss in productivity you are experiencing. To whom and what are you attributing the loss in productivity?  Look inward. What thoughts do you have about work or a specific project? Is it fear of not doing well?  Are you having a problem with procrastination or perfectionism?  Once you can get honest with yourself and move out of your own way you are on your way to improving your productivity.
  • Get out of your comfort zone.  If we want to improve at anything we have to push ourselves out of our comfort zone.  This goes for any area of your life that you want to improve.  Get comfortable with being uncomfortable.  Start to sit with whatever feeling you have when starting a new project. I suggest to my clients to not push the feeling away because that makes it worse or try to analyze why you feel a certain way which also makes it worse. It might sound funny but imagine you take that feeling and put it in a chair right next to you and ask yourself what do I need to focus on. If you want to revisit the feeling it will be there or you can choose to let it go.  This technique  will allow you to go back to what you were doing.
  • What is zapping your time? Maybe  it is social media, apps, taking too many breaks, email or even multi tasking. We all have things that take away from our productivity. Get honest to see what yours are. Make an active decision to identify them and you will have better results implementing new techniques to be more productive.
  • Focus on actions not feelings. When you feel overwhelmed and have a hard time being productive, instead of thinking about how you feel, think of one action you can take.
  • Speak to yourself kindly. Beating yourself up and speaking to yourself in a judgemental way will not help. It actually will have a domino effect. You will spend a lot of time overthinking, feeling bad about yourself, and therefore decreasing your productivity. 
  • How we talk to ourselves is very important. Think of how you would speak to a friend with the same concerns.  Use positive language to help you feel good about yourself. For example, “If I put my mind to something I am usually successful.” or “I have the tools I need to do a good job.”  Instead of thinking about all the possible obstacles, think about the steps you can take to accomplish them. 
  • Adjust  the techniques to fit your personality and your needs. There are  a lot of suggestions on how to be productive from keeping  a schedule, making  lists, or setting a timer, but we all have to find what works for us. I like to keep my to do list on my calendar, and that way the time is built into my  day. A lot of the law school students I work with like a traditional organizer that they can write in. Some people prefer to do lists or sticky notes.  Find  a system that works for you. You might have to try several different kinds to find one you really like.
  • Delegate responsibilities. No one can do it all. If you are living with other people, divide the chores. I know what you are thinking, “No one will do it like I do.”  This is true and this goes back to learning to be uncomfortable. If your goal is to be productive, you can’t do it all.
  • Take things off your plate and learn to say, “No”. Look at what you have committed yourself to outside of work. Take off whatever you can and if someone asks you to take something on give yourself 24 hours before deciding to take on anything else.
  • Don’t  hold your breath.  We don’t realize how much we hold our breath when we are stressed. Check in with yourself to see if you are holding your breath and breathe.

For more tips on wellness check out the Wellness Portal https://www.msba.org/wellness-portal/

For assistance, please contact the Lawyer Assistance Program for free, confidential counseling. We have a network of counselors that can assist you no matter what state you live in. Lisa Caplan, LCSW-C, Director, (443) 703-3042, lisa@msba.org.Toll Free 1(888) 388-5459.  We offer financial assistance for mental health and substance abuse treatment. Please feel free to reach out to our LAP Committee Members and Volunteers https://www.msba.org/health-and-wellness/

Lisa Caplan, LCSW-C has over 25 years experience in her field, and extensive experience working with lawyers and judges in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and trauma. In her free time she enjoys spending time with family and friends, paddle boarding, sailing, rock climbing and doing triathlons.