How to Reduce Productivity Anxiety During the Pandemic + Tips on How to Get More Things Done in Less Time with Productivity Expert David Allen

I am sure you have seen the joke floating around social media about “finishing” Netflix. Truth is, many people suddenly have a lot more time on their hands, and are not quite sure what to do or how to make their most of their self-quarantine. While I am not supportive of making this pandemic a productivity contest, I do believe there are ways we can use our timely wisely which will help reduce anxiety and stress, which is why in this week’s blog and podcast I talk about how to make staying at home more productive, how to get more things done in less time, and how to organize your commitments and make the most of your life with productivity expert David Allen. 

As David discusses in his best-selling book, Getting Things Done, many people have an addiction to ambient anxiety. They are willing to tolerate stress from many unclear and unwritten commitments—those “little” things that bug us, like buying cat food or going to the dentist, which we think about too much and take too much time to act on. Indeed, many to-do lists are incomplete and unclear, which can sometimes make us we feel like we are chickens running around without a head, and can easily lead to toxic stress and burnout!

The truth is, most people avoid or resist the thinking process of defining the outcome and planning specific action steps. In part, this may be a result of fear. Many people avoid making a choice and acting because they are afraid of losing control. They dread being imperfect: what happens if they make the wrong choice? 

However, managing our commitments and acting puts us in control of our lives. This doesn’t change the uncertainty we all face daily, but it does show us that we can do something about it. It shows us that productivity is not something that defines our self-worth-it is a good habit that helps us enjoy our lives more. Rather than letting things randomly pop into our heads and take over our thinking with a stream of helpless “should have, could have, if only”, which affects our mental and physical wellbeing, we can take charge of the situation and make a plan. The most productive people are the people with the “emptiest” heads: they think about something, plan to take action and move on to the next thing, so stuff gets done!

If we want to bring order to chaos and turn our problems into projects, we need to learn how to be appropriately engaged with our commitments. We need to be in the driver’s seat about whatever has our attention! This type of productivity requires critical thinking and decision-making, which can be challenging and takes time. And it is not something we automatically do—our brain is a lousy office! We often forget things because the conscious mind can only focus on around 4-5 things at a time, so we need to learn how to train our cognitive muscles, putting some kind of personal organizational system in place that helps us define the outcome we want and what specific action steps we will take to get there. 

David has an excellent 5-step program that can help us do a “mental sweep” and be more productive:

  1. Capture, or collect what has your attention. Write, record, or gather any and everything that has your attention into a collection tool, like a notepad or journal. This allows you to organize your thinking and capture the “20%”, or what’s important and what will enable you to get where you want to go in life.
  1. Clarify, or process what it means. Is it actionable? If so, decide the next action and project (if more than one action is required). If not, decide if it is trash, reference, or something to put on hold. 
  1. Organize, or put it where it belongs. Park reminders in appropriate places, like a post-it note on the fridge or in your office.
  1. Reflect, or review frequently. Update and review to regain control and focus. 
  1. Engage, or simply do. Use your trusted system to make action decisions with confidence and clarity.

When we have set up a personal and professional organizational system, we give our brains and bodies more time to rest, which is so important for our mental and physical health, and helps the brain recalibrate, so that we are ready to take on challenges and get things done. It also allows us to have what I call more “thinker moments” throughout the day, where we switch off to the external and just let our mind wonder and daydream. These moments give the brain a rest and allow it to reboot and heal, which increases your clarity of mind and ability to problem-solve when faced with a tough situation (which we all need right now!). For more information on thinker moments and how to make them a part of your daily routine, see my book, Think, Learn, Succeed.

We will also have more mental space to be innovative and creative when we have organized our thinking. We can be more present with our family, have more fun and be more spontaneous, because we are not spending all our time still thinking about what we have to do. We can engage with what we are doing at any given time with confidence and clarity, and enjoy life more. As David says, we can only feel good about what we are not doing when we know what we are not doing!

For more information on productivity and mental health, listen to my podcast with David (episode #153), check out hiswebsite, book, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. If you enjoy listening to my podcast please consider leaving a 5-star review and subscribing! And keep sharing episodes with friends and family, and on social media (don’t forget to tag me so I can see your posts!).

My new app SWITCH is a great tool for helping people deal with the root of their anxiety and burnout, overcome negative thought patterns and behaviors through the mental process of reconceptualization, that is facing and dealing with what is causing them distress before it takes over their lives. It is now on sale less 50% for a 3-month subscription, so check it out today!

Podcast Time Stamps

2:38 How David stays on top of his game

6:15 What is the greatest barrier to productivity?

8:45 How to get things done

16:30 How to stop being a victim

19:00 The most productive people are the people with the “emptiest” heads

20:25 The truth about procrastination 

24:41 How to be more creative and innovative

26:16 5 steps to getting things done 

29:00 How do we balance our schedules?

38:00 Capture those ideas!

40:05 Why we need to chill 

If you would like to learn more about productivity and mental health, join me at my Mental Health Solutions Summit in Dallas, TX December 3-5, 2020! This conference is for everyone: teachers, CEOs, students, parents, doctors, life coaches...everyone! For more information and to register click hereEarly bird special pricing end 4/30!

Switch On Your Brain is providing this podcast as a public service. Reference to any specific viewpoint or entity does not constitute an endorsement or recommendation by our organization. The views expressed by guests are their own and their appearance on the program does not imply an endorsement of them or any entity they represent. If you have any questions about this disclaimer, please contact

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