How to Be More Productive using Productivity Triggers

by | Jul 8, 2020 | Productivity

For over two years of blogging and building up this brand and business I’ve naturally started to notice that there are certain little things, activities and actions that seem to go hand in hand with my productivity, or lack thereof! I was chatting to a friend about this phenomenon recently and thus the ‘productivity trigger’ idea was born. I’ve often worked alongside my business (side-hustle if you will) so I’ve had to get really smart about figuring out what makes me productive- the everything else outside of just planning that help me to keep going and put energy and time into this project. I call them my productivity triggers.

As I build my business and consider what I’m offering the idea of productivity comes up a lot. So far I’ve focussed mostly on Bullet Journaling because for me it is the perfect marriage of creativity and productivity but that doesn’t mean I don’t think you can’t be productive without using a Bullet Journal. Far from it, the Bullet Journal is just one planning tool in your productivity arsenal and to really understand how to get productive I think it’s important to examine more areas of your life than just your planning.

An alarm clock on a bed. Using an alarm is a good productivity trigger.
Mornings in particular are full of productivity triggers

What is a ‘Productivity Trigger’?

A productivity trigger is an action or activity that you perform at a sometimes at a certain time, perhaps totally unrelated to your productive focus, that has an effect on your ability to be productive, whether that helps it or hinders it. They can essentially be any of the things that make up your daily life from what you have for breakfast and what time you get up to whether you put makeup on or sit scrolling on your phone for an hour before you start your day. They’re the little things we do that can influence how much productive energy we have to give to something.

And when I talk about productive energy that doesn’t mean the physical energy you have (although making sure that you’re energised certainly helps in some instances). I’ve had days when I’ve been super energised and by that reasoning shouldn’t I be able to just get my sh** done? But instead I’ve faffed around and taken my time with things, got distracted and let my attention be pulled away form the task at hand. All my negative productivity triggers out to kill my productive energy or at least weaken it enough to let procrastination take hold.

Let’s Look at an Example

Morning routines are a great example for a whole host of productivity triggers. Starting the day right is a sure fire way to set your mindset up and focus in on being productive. There’s a reason why there are so many books and programmes that are dedicated to helping you get up and start your day right. They’re essentially teaching you how to use a whole host of productivity triggers.

I recently wrote a blog post about my morning routine and the value that building a sustainable morning routine can deliver. Essentially that morning routine is made up of lots of little positive productivity triggers and less of the negative productivity triggers. Here’s my personal example of my own positive and negative productivity triggers in relation to the morning.

Your Productivity Triggers May Look Very Different

Just like the Bullet Journal – one size does not fit all. Flexibility and getting in touch with the unique way that your mind and your body works is they key to harnessing productive energy. The triggers above are my own, you may identify with some of them and others you may disagree with. That’s fine. It’s all relative to you and your lifestyle.

Identifying your Productivity Triggers

By now, as you’re reading through this blog post you might have already started to think about some of the productivity triggers in your own life. You might be able to recognise some of them straight away, others might be little ninja triggers hiding themselves. If you haven’t really thought about it before you might need to run an experiment with yourself. Give yourself a week and every night do some self-reflection on what parts of your day helped you focus and what things seemed to make it harder to sit down and focus.

Sitting down with my planner and a coffee is one of my positive productivity triggers

Identifying those triggers is the first step to figuring out how to harness them and acknowledging the effect they have on your productivity. It’s really being honest with yourself about how you work best and then giving yourself the power to use the triggers to your advantage.

I’ve split the triggers into helpful and hindering, or positive and negative. Positive productivity triggers help you harness your productive energy. Negative productivity triggers hinder it. They won’t necessarily have the same effect each day. Some days you have that productive energy in you to just get stuff done. Some days it feels like things are just against you.

How Can I Harness My Productivity Triggers?

Tackle your Triggers Slowly

Now I know in my heart of hearts that scrolling through TikTok isn’t the best use of my productive time but I also know that sometimes I need that time to relax and not be productive. I also know that spending a few hours on Animal Crossing isn’t going to help my real life that much (unfortunately in real life I can’t just go fishing, catch bugs and trade turnips to make my money), but it does calm me and provide a really important escape from my working life.

Just like your parent might have said when you wer elittle – ‘You can watch TV after you finish your homework’ treat those negative triggers like rewards. One of my worst negative triggers is checking up on all my advertising revenue which often sends me into a spiral of furiously planning how I can make more money to sustain my business instead of actually focussing on the tasks at hand that will help me to build an engaged audience for an authentic brand which I know naturally will lead to more profit.

But just because I know it will often put me off my tasks doesn’t mean I’m going to stop checking it all together. I still need to do it. So what I can do instead is take control of it and allocate that to one day of the week. I have my own responsible inner adult that tells me “No Sarah, you don’t need to check it right this second, it can wait until the end of the week.”

A tidy workspace is such a great positive productivity trigger. And it means a tidy house yay!
A tidy workspace is a perfect example of using a positive productivity trigger

Try to Avoid the Crippling Guilt

Let’s talk about our old enemy: guilt. For me the guilt of giving into my negative productivity triggers usually only serves to reduce my productivity even further. You could say that the guilt is a negative productivity trigger brought on by negative productivity triggers which then… ok it’s getting complicated but you get me. Guilt often won’t serve to help you. It just makes you feel rubbish about yourself. And when you feel rubbish about yourself, you’re very unlikely to be productive.

Be kind to yourself. We are all human and we all need time to be a bit lazy and sometimes give in to our procrastination.But remember self care is not the same as self pity. If you can’t focus on something because you didn’t have a good morning be proactive about it. Is there a positive productivity trigger you can harness to help get yourself back on track and leave the guilt behind? Go for a walk, splash your face, put some make up on. It’s never too late in the day to try and give yourself a little positive boost even if you don’t end up being as productive as you set out to be.

Should I Be Aiming to Completely Get Rid of All of My Negative Productivity Triggers?

Hell nah! Productivity is not the be all and end all of our lives and although I feel that productivity is important I don’t think it defines our value as living breathing people who want to relax and spend time with family and friends or pursuing a random hobby. There’s a reason we do the things that might not make us so productive and that’s ok.

But if we know we want to give something some productive energy identifying those things that can hinder you can greatly help you to eliminate that unhelpful procrastination trap and harness your productive energy to get things done so you can free up more of your time for the things that you love.

Download My Free Productivity Worksheet to Figure Out Your Productivity Triggers

I’ve made you a free Productivity Triggers worksheet that you can download and use to identify your own productivity triggers. Either sit down and add them all in go or print it, keep it near and reflect at the end of the day on the effect your actions had on your productivity. If you use it show me and tell me if it helped! You can tag me on instagram or send it to me on any social media platform.

Get the worksheet by signing up to the free resource library here.

Can you think of any of your positive or negative productivity triggers in your life? Tell me how they affect you in the comments!

Harnessing productive energy requires more than just using a planner. You need to get to know your positive and negative productivity triggers and use them.


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