Use these expert techniques to get yourself out of an unproductive wormhole.

A few tweaks to the way we approach tasks and challenges can make a radical difference to how well and quickly we complete them. Business coach Jo James, author of Make Your Mondays Matter, talks us through the mindset and practical changes that will transform a rubbish day into a really productive one.

Change your internal dialogue

Growing up, if I was stuck on my homework, I used to say, “Dad, I can’t do this” (and have a little teenage strop), to which he often replied to encourage me, “There’s no such word as can’t, young lady!”

Use these 3 powerful words instead and notice what happens in your day. “Actually, I can”

Sometimes it’s our own internal dialogue that’s stopping us from getting things done. If you’re saying “I should do x, y, z, or I could do x, y or z, or I would do x, y, z” and at the end of the day it still hasn’t been completed, stop for a moment and make a conscious change to the language you’re using.

Replace your shoulds, woulds and coulds with “I can”, or “I will”, or “I’m going to” or “I want to” and feel yourself being naturally more motivated towards the task in hand.

So review your internal dialogue. Is it helping or hindering you? Choose to change your language to help create new choices and get the results you want to see.

Are you getting in your own way?

I’d like to introduce you to reframing. It’s a way of ‘flipping’ phrases around to give you a different perspective on the situation. This then changes how you feel, which will make all the difference to you and your day.

For example, I could say, “Oh no, it’s raining again”. The reframe, or flip, is ‘It’s raining again, great, that’s good for the garden’ which feels better, doesn’t it? Flip it to a different meaning = getting a different feeling.

Flip things to get yourself unstuck, to stop negative thoughts and negative feelings. You’ll find solutions more quickly and easily, allowing you to get on with your day again with more positive outcomes. Is there a negative phrase that you often use?

Nerves or excitement?

When going through a big change, like branching out into a new career or launching a business, you have so many things to do that are new. You are in situations that are challenging which means being made to step out of your comfort zone on a regular basis.

But it’s by doing things that you learn so much and your confidence grows as you find out that actually, when you’ve done it, it wasn’t as scary as you thought in the first place. You’re still standing. You made it.

But maybe you felt nervous sometimes beforehand. If you’ve ever walked into a room full of people and felt jittery or got butterflies in your stomach and found you’re breathing a little faster, you’re probably experiencing a surge of adrenaline. It can help us, but sometimes it hinders us. And it’s all due to how we look at it and what we name it. Nerves or excitement?

Adrenaline is a hormone produced during high stress or exciting situations. When I ran a recruitment agency, I helped people prepare for their interviews and hone their presentation technique so they got the jobs they wanted. Interviews, meetings and networking are similar situations where your body might trigger a quick burst of adrenaline. So, to help you, first choose what you name it.

Instead of nerves, name that feeling as ‘excitement’. And notice the difference that makes already. Enjoy the extra energy it gives you, use it to your advantage and it will help you get the results you want.

Change your day around

Do you need to change when you do things during your day? Are you trying to cram too many tasks into one day, but not finishing things and getting stressed, or worse, deflated? If you’re doing the same thing and getting the same results and you’re not happy with the results, switch things up a bit.

First decide what’s the #1 Most Important Thing (or MIT) you need to do right now to help you move towards your dream or goal. By completing your MIT earlier in your day, it will send a good positive feedback loop to your brain, giving you more energy and drive to tackle the next MIT. It really works.

Here are some ways you can switch things up. Try them on for size, see which fits, what suits you best:
* Rather than reacting and responding to emails when you sit down at your desk, or getting drawn into something that drains your energy by 9.30am, do your #1 MIT first. Notice the difference in your mood and your ability to get more done in the mornings.
* Schedule your work differently. Leave the house earlier and arrive at your first meeting by 8am and have a coffee instead of a lunch meeting (which eats into your day). Or schedule a few meetings or work errands all in one day. You’ll be on a roll too as your confidence will grow during the day. Try it!
* When can you have video calls instead of travelling to meet people? Skype, WhatsApp, FaceTime, whichever works best for you. This is a great way to catch up with people and have a one-to- one meeting. It’s like being in the same room and you’ll SAVE hours allowing you more time in your day to get on with actual work and your MITs.

Jo James is a business coach and trainer. Her book Make Your Mondays Matter is available from April 2 on Amazon.