Tips to Get Out of Your Comfort Zone and Be More Productive
By Jalene Case
Bring to mind your last off-the-grid, disconnected-style vacation. If you can’t think of one, you’re not alone. Even though we know (somewhere deep down!) that taking a complete break from work will increase our work productivity, we often resist.
I recently returned from a one-week vacation during which I fasted from email and social media. The urge to check-check-check was mighty. It reminded me of a chicken’s endless drive to peck-peck-peck its food. The problem was that my habit of continually checking was not nourishing me! Instead, I was doing a great job of sustaining a constant level of alertness mixed with anxiety, which was depleting my energy.
My coach wisely challenged me to leave my phone at home. I involuntarily gasped and wondered to myself, Could I do that? After negotiating, I agreed to take my phone so I could use the travel apps, and hide the email and social media apps so I wouldn’t check them for a week.
Like any fasting program, it’s important to plan in advance for not checking email and social media. Here’s what I did:
- Stopped 100% of the notifications on all my phone apps
- Moved email and social media apps so they weren’t visible on my phone’s home screen (I hid them from myself!)
- Notified clients with whom I had projects-in-the-works so they wouldn’t panic
- Set an Out of Office message saying I was on an off-the-grid vacation and would return email starting on a specific date (I felt that saying I was on “vacation” wasn’t enough because we still expect people will respond even though they’re on vacation!)
At the end of my email/social media fast, I felt simultaneously wildly expansive in my business visions and grounded in my willingness to make tough decisions. Then I wondered, If the opposite of work can nourish our work, what other opposites feed each other?
OPPOSITES THAT FEED EACH OTHER
Practicing yoga has taught me more about being courageous than I ever expected. Attempting to move my body into new poses, nuanced by energetic intentions, breathing, and sometimes flat-out guts has strengthened my ability to try new things at work.
Here’s what that looks like: I remember the first time the instructor asked us to do a handstand against the wall. I placed my hands on the yoga mat about a foot away from the wall, feet about hip distance wide, feet on the floor. My body was in a triangle shape. Then I tried to fling (my word, not the instructors!) my legs up so that my feet touched the wall. It was unexpectedly hard! I was scared. It took several tries until — wham! — I hit the wall.
There’s a direct correlation between stepping outside my body’s comfort zone in yoga and improving my skill of being innovative with clients. It’s all about getting more familiar and bolder outside my comfort zone.
What might you do to grow your courage for stepping outside your comfort zone?
Taking Breaks vs. Working Longer
I’m guilty of never taking breaks and even eating while working at my computer. When I started taking morning and afternoon breaks plus a whole lunch hour, I was surprised. I felt refreshed and produced better quality work!
To help yourself, set a reminder alarm or check out the The Pomodoro Technique in which the work day is broken down into intervals of working for 25 minutes then taking a break.
How can you take a baby step toward giving yourself breaks during the workday? Notice the results.
Letting Go vs. Over-Focus
The best ideas come racing in at times when we least expect them! I heard a poet’s story of catching poems as they came to her. She knew that she had to jot them down quickly or they’d be gone, on to the next poet willing to write them.
We could be in the shower, on a hike, or chatting with a friend and—zing!—in comes a great idea for a new product, service, or solution.
We could be working extremely hard on a project, focusing intensely, working for long hours with no viable results. Then suddenly, while we’re taking a break and NOT thinking about it, the perfect idea instantly materializes out of thin air.
Find your capture technique. I place the shiny new idea in my phone or on any piece of paper and then, transfer it to a “shiny ideas” folder in my organization system called Things.
How might you let go of the tight hold you have on a project and do something entirely different for a while?
When a bright idea comes, how will you capture it?
Unicorn Visions & Dog Strategies
I saved the wildest idea for last! This whacky exercise kicked my visions and strategies up a few notches!
Backstory: I read mostly nonfiction books so I asked my fiction-reading husband for a vacation book recommendation. He pulled a fantasy book from his collection called, The Last Unicorn. The unicorn theme followed me throughout our vacation! You know, like when you buy a new red car, all you see is red cars?
Surprisingly, the city of Ashland, Oregon that we visited has a high ratio of unicorn stuff to buy so I spotted them everywhere. Then when I got home, I felt an urge to let this wild, unicorn energy into my planning.
Here’s what I did:
- I drew a vertical line down the center of a flip chart page.
- On one side I wrote my Unicorn Visions. I went so big it bordered on ridiculous.
- On the other side, I wrote a corresponding Dog Strategy that was a down-to-earth action step for each Unicorn Vision.
I can be a bit too practical at times. This rather silly process stretched me into a much larger vision for my business. Plus, it was fun!
How might you shift your visioning and strategizing process to go bigger, bolder, and have fun?
WRAPPING IT UP
Fasting seems to be a trend these days. I say we add Email/Social Media Fast to the movement! Summertime is here in the Northern Hemisphere. Vacation time is upon us. Let go of your tight grasp on technology and open to what’s possible when opposites attract.