A Rebel’s Guide To Productivity


A Rebel’s Guide To Productivity

You planned your day, making sure to include tasks that would further your goals, move your projects along, and keep you on top of routine tasks, too. The problem is you didn’t follow your plan.

If this didn’t-go-as-planned day had been a rare occurrence, you wouldn’t worry about it. But the fact is, it’s happened more than once. You’ve tried to address it with various time-management hacks and apps, but you seem to end up with the same disappointing results.

I used to have this constant frustration until I started applying my clinical psychology and personal experience to the problem. Now I’m more productive and satisfied with how I spend my time. When I’m not, I can quickly identify the cause of my sloth and put in an appropriate correction.

Could You Be a Rebel?

My husband and oldest son are very strong-willed.  My experience as a clinical psychologist helped me recognize that a new approach to their temperaments was required. What I didn’t realize for a long time is that I have the same strong will.

I learned that I have an inner rebel who:

  • dislikes rules
  • requires a challenge
  • wants to lead
  • needs respect
  • and can be crippled by guilt

Rebels are Productive When…

If you share some of these characteristics, it’s possible that productivity approaches that work well for others will be disastrous for you. If you want to get things done, consider practices that:

Don’t demand adherence to meaningless rules.

“Because this is how said guru says to do it” isn’t a good enough reason for you to do likewise. Even if you’re willing to follow task management rules to the letter, your inner rebel might not be. An approach that’s heavily rule-based can work for you if you give yourself permission to break rules whenever you see fit.

Push you.

While doing the smallest task to move your work forward may motivate some people, you’re more likely to need a real challenge. For example, having to work longer hours to complete an important goal may be just what you need. Just make sure that the challenge isn’t keeping up with meaningless busywork.

Allow you to teach others.

If you have the opportunity to talk with colleagues about how you approach your work, take it. If not, consider sharing your experience online. I’ve been writing about my experience with different approaches to task management every week and my productivity has been greatly improved.

Are affirming.

Some of the ways we manage work can leave us feeling like a failure. Take the Inbox Zero philosophy, for example. There may be a very good reason you have been spending less time on email processing lately. But if you or someone else has been on your case about your failure to measure up, you can be sure the lack of perceived respect will lead  to a rebellious decrease in productivity.

Don’t rely on guilt to motivate.

Guilt can be a very potent motivator for you or someone else to use to get you moving. But because it evokes so much emotion, it should be used sparingly and appropriately. Feeling guilt for having an unprocessed inbox isn’t appropriate for rebels while feeling guilt for not calling your mother is.

The next time you’re struggling to be productive, ask yourself if any of these key ingredients are missing from your approach. If you’d like to learn more about how to help your inner rebel get more done, read this series of posts.

Are you a rebel like me? If so, have you been using any approaches that have been backfiring? Share in the comments.

This is a guest post by Dr. Melanie Wilson.  Melanie is a Christian psychologist turned homeschooling mother of six. She shares sanity-saving ideas about productivity and more at Psychowith6 and shares daily encouragement for Christians at The Inspired Day.




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  • http://www.barbraveling.com/ Barb Raveling

    This is interesting, Melanie. I don’t think I’m a rebel - I actually want to follow the list and think it would be good to follow it, I just can’t seem to make myself follow it. Often it’s because I spend too much time on one thing so there’s not enough time for the other things, but sometimes it’s just because I’m spacey and keep forgetting about the list! Making progress, though. Thanks for another great post.

    • http://www.theinspiredday.com/ Melanie Wilson

      Be thankful you aren’t rebellious Barb! It makes life much easier. :-) Thoigh distractibility is another issue, isn’t it?

  • http://www.struggletovictory.com/ Kari Scare

    I definitely have an inner rebel that I constantly am trying to figure out how to balance with the rest of me. One thing I do that helps is making a “to do” list of what I would like to get done in a week. I don’t assign specific days but just let myself structure the day & week as I go. This helps me get stuff done but feel like I can kind of do it when I want. I am not hard on myself when I don’t get to it all, but I usually get to most of it. Of course, I pray about each day & try to let the Holy Spirit guide my day. He’s the only one who has been able to keep my inner rebel in check.

    • http://www.theinspiredday.com/ Melanie Wilson

      So true that we need God’s help, Kari. I like weekly to-do lists and need to give that a test drive soon.

  • http://www.OurStoriesGodsGlory.blogspot.com/ Elise Daly Parker

    I absolutely am a rebel. I have my list of To Dos and so often, unless there is a deadline set by someone else, I don’t get them done. That means I get things done that have to be done, but rarely what I want to get done. It’s a pretty rebellious cycle that leaves me frustrated. Once in a while, I work with my Covey calendar. And that helps. Mapping out a plan by the hour seems to work. But I don’t do this often enough. Ugh!!

    • http://www.theinspiredday.com/ Melanie Wilson

      Elise, you might like the productivity series I write on Fridays. I’ve been finding a lot of strategies that help me fight my inner rebel.

  • http://www.mondayisgood.com/ Tom Dixon

    David Allen’s GTD changed my life… seriously. No book has impacted me as much in regard to task management.Even then, it should be a method that serves me, not for me to serve it. Great thoughts!

    • sespring

      Tom, thanks for your comment. I met David Allen in 1990 when we had a mutual client and his methodology changed my life too!

    • http://www.theinspiredday.com/ Melanie Wilson

      Tom, I plan to reread GTD and test it again soon. What aspect is most helpful to you?