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glad my basement wasn’t this bad! (image courtesy of Zdenek |

Has your basement ever flooded?   It’s no fun.  The worst part is listening to the rain hit the roof, wondering if, this time, it’s going to come inside!

Whenever my basement has flooded, it has been because the water flowing from the surrounding areas gets stuck behind my house, puddles, then comes in through the cement wall.

The water needs an outlet.  I’ve had to knock some holes in the retaining wall, unclog downspouts, and dig some trenches for a temporary fix to let the water out.

If you’re anything like me, sometimes your work flow resembles my house.  Tasks and projects get lodged in your system, not flowing through your hands and getting accomplished.

As these projects and tasks build up, they present the potential of flooding your life with negative results.

Sometimes you get things done quickly, and other times you can’t seem to move forward on anything.

Sometimes, the system is just clogged.  Other times, circumstances have rendered us ineffective.

Here are some steps to take when your workflow needs to be unclogged:

1. Determine the cause of the clog

What is causing the clog?

Here are some of my causes:

  • Paralysis – Several big projects looming over my head or a big project that is due soon may render me ineffective.
  • Physical Fatigue – A lack of sleep can slow my thinking or dampen my enthusiasm.
  • Urgent mode – Feeling like everything has to be done now, while I’m limited by time.
  • Backlog – A lot of little tasks left undone.  One thousand plus “notes to self” on my desk.  Unfortunately sometimes being unproductive begets more “unproductivity.”

Is the problem that I can’t focus on any one project because there are several projects urgently calling for my attention?

Am I just too tired to deal with the demands?

Identify the problem, then…

2. Break down the clog 

Once you’ve answered what has clogged up the workflow, you need to identify simple steps that will dislodge the clog.

These steps need to be small, especially if the problem is paralysis due to big projects.  The point is to get projects moving.

So, identify simple steps that will move the work forward.

Ask these questions:

  • What’s one thing I can do with regards to this project?
  • Do I need to intentionally plan some extra sleep so I can recover effectiveness?
  • Do I need to clean off my desk in order to remove distractions?
  • Do I need to unplug the internet to remove distractions?
  • Can I afford 30 minutes to attend to the “notes to self”?

3. Do what you can, and trust God

Often, we are paralyzed from doing the work because we take too much of the responsibility for the work on ourselves.

You can’t do everything.

You must do what you can and trust God with the rest.  You only have the power to do so much.  

So, go ahead!  Identify the clog, break it down, and then get to work!

Resource recommendation:  David Allen has written a very helpful book based on a workflow system that is set up to identify what the “next action” is.  I would recommend his book, Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress Free Productivity.

Question: What makes you unproductive, and what do you do to unclog the workflow?