From Productive to Unproductive

Originally published and written on Medium, Dec 11 2017

For the past few weeks I haven’t been feeling like myself.

I’ve had low levels of productivity, was struggling to find motivation to do work, and was drained of energy. I kept telling myself that it was just the change in weather, or my weird sleeping schedule, and that I only had to wait a while to get back to normal.

I was wrong.

The truth is that I was activating on both extremes of productivity levels, and my inconsistency was draining me. Some days I was either majorly productive and checking off all the goals set for the day. Other days, I didn’t even bother opening up my goal-setting cards.

Recently I joined The Knowledge Society, a highly competitive innovation program for highschool students. Being in an environment where I wasn’t one of the smartest people in the room kept pushing me to do better and be more knowledgable. I was in a frenzy to catch up, and was exploring several topics in a week. Everything was exciting, everything was alluring, everything was just really really cool. Trying to catch-up and be super productive put me in a place where I was actually falling behind.

2 weeks went by, I didn’t say anything to anyone. My productivity levels kept falling, along with all my motivation and energy. Stress and procrastination was building up from countless school assignments, extra-curriculars, and university applications. I thought I could wait it out just one more week. Nothing got better. After another week of waiting, I decided to call Navid Nathoo (co-founder, TKS). It was a bad idea: I should have given him a call earlier.

Talking to Navid really helped me out. I can’t believe I sat on a problem for 3 weeks that only took a 30-minute conversation to resolve. I want to share some bits of that conversation with you, because I know I am not alone.

Advice from Navid:

  1. Think: “What is right for me?”

It’s really easy to want to do everything. It isn’t as easy to actually do it. Instead of trying to do everything, hone in on one thing that truly speaks to you. If you don’t know what that is yet: it’s okay. You’ll figure it out. For the time being, focus on one thing. If it doesn’t speak to you, you can move on to the next thing. But take it one topic at a time, trying to find interest in multiple areas will actually make the experience much more worse for you.

Take a step back. Think: ‘I’m in a marathon right now, not a race’

2. “What is an energy drainer?”

Identify the things in your life that do not add value to you. Are you stressing because there’s a lot of work to do? Or are you stressing because you don’t like the work that you’re doing? If you’re passionate about something, you should love learning about it. The answer to the question above easily identifies what it is that you need to drop. Stop convincing yourself you have to do something just because you have spent a lot of time working on it.

3. Find a consistent mental routine.

The fitness vloggers know what they’re talking about when they say this: consistency is key.

From me:

  1. It’s ok to not be ok.

We all have times when we’re feeling low. The important thing is to realize what the problem is, and confront it. You’ve got this. Pick yourself up. Reach out for help, especially if the problem persists.

2. Reflect.

If you’re an IB student, you cringed reading that word. I know. But seriously, force yourself to think about what it is that you’re doing wrong. Taking just 5 minutes out of your day to reflect on your productivity and how you can be better creates such a huge difference in your performance levels. Be vulnerable. Be honest with yourself.

3. Set Goals.

Set attainable goals so that you can measure your progress. Don’t wait until New Years. If you have just started to set goals and it’s difficult, that’s alright. Start with weekly goals. Start with daily goals. Start with hourly goals. What do you want to accomplish within the next half an hour? Okay, let’s do it.

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