7 Tips for Staying Productive When Life Throws You a Curveball

How do you stay productive during tough times?

Sometimes just when you think you have a good read on life, you’re blindsided with a difficult issue or obstacle – what many refer to as “a curveball.” At one time or another, just about everyone will face a curveball. Whether it’s a breakup, job loss, family issue, financial problem, health setback or other issue it’s hard to stay focused and productive when your personal life is in turmoil.

Maintaining professionalism at work or school is difficult when you’re facing personal problems — especially when negative thoughts are consuming you. But, allowing your personal life consume your work life can result in poor productivity, mistakes and bad choices.

Today, I compiled a list a strategies that I personally use to help me stay productive during rough times. I hope you find these helpful in your life.

1. Set Priorities and Stick to Them

When life gets rough, you need more time and energy to deal with your personal crisis. At work, understand what’s essential and most important. Limit the time you spend on non-essential tasks or busywork. Keep a prioritized to-do list and stick to it. Communicate your priorities with your supervisor often. Delegate tasks when possible.

2. Leave the Drama at Home

Have you ever had a coworker confide in you about a breakup or other personal issue? Did you find the situation awkward or did the coworker become a nuisance or burden — sapping your productivity? It’s okay to confide in others in whom you trust, but beware of sharing too much at the office. Eventually, you can become a workplace scapegoat and could be a target of blame for mistakes due to your “public” personal crisis.

Instead of discussing your issues with others at work, seek guidance or support from a personal friend, counselor or family member outside of work. Knowing you have a scheduled time to consult with a friend or counselor will help you resist the urge to over-share with coworkers.

3. Schedule Your Work in Time Blocks

In times of personal crisis, it’s important to be very diligent about properly managing your time. Good time management practices help you feel more in control and reduce your stress level.

An excellent time management strategy is to organize your work into blocks or chunks of time. Many of us have different types of tasks to complete such as meetings, phone calls, generating reports, creating budgets, etc. When you schedule similar tasks together, you use your time more efficiently because you’re not regularly shifting contexts. Constantly shifting contexts results in poor concentration and depletes you of energy.

To use this method, make a list of all your necessary tasks and then use a digital calendar to group them according to the type of task. For example, schedule meetings together; return phone calls in blocks of time; and schedule budgeting activities together. And don’t forget to schedule time to just think. It’s important to reflect and plan – not just “do.”

4. Take it Day By Day

One of my favorite adages is “This too shall pass.” I think about the times that I’ve faced challenges, family crises, illnesses and other life trials. They seemed traumatic at the time, but I’ve always emerged stronger and more resilient afterward.

Not everything is under your control, but when you can change the situation take positive steps to ensure a good outcome. Write down or record your goals that will set you up for success. Don’t dwell on the possibilities of a negative future. Take each day one at a time. Change doesn’t happen overnight, but you can make positive change happen over time.

5. See the Situation from a Different Point of View

When you’re blindsided by a crisis, it helps to get some perspective on the situation. Step away from it and see it from a different point of view. It might not be as bad as it seems. Consider your history and learn from the past. Has this situation ever occurred in your life before? How did you handle it? Was the outcome a success? What can you do differently this time?

If you’re feeling rattled, focus on your strengths and the things that matter; and prioritize accordingly. Build a plan to set yourself up for future success and happiness.

6. Take Care of Your Health

Staying healthy plays an important role in being productive. During stressful times it’s even more important to take care of your health and well being because your immune system becomes weakened. Channel your stress and anger into healthy activities that you enjoy. Yoga, meditation and aerobic exercise such as walking, running or cycling are great ways to relieve stress and make new friends. Ensure that you get at least eight to nine hours of sleep every night and stick to a healthy diet. Make yourself accountable by keeping an exercise and nutrition journal.

7. Don’t forget to Ask for Help

Seeking help from family, friends and therapists during difficult situations is a great way to heal and take your life back. Sometimes we take the burden all onto ourselves when others are ready and willing to help. Keeping feelings to yourself and taking on too much can lead to more stress, depression and anxiety. Imagine yourself as a friend in need. What would you do for that person? Most likely, your friends and family would happily do the same for you.

Your Turn

How do you stay productive when you’re dealing with a personal crisis? Please share your ideas and experiences!

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