Do you have the ‘Sitzfleisch’to get things done?
Sitzfleisch translates literally as “sit-flesh,” but the German word has a strong connotation to productivity.
In German, if someone ‘has a lot of Sitzfleisch’, it figuratively means they can endure lengthy or boring tasks until they’re done. The cultural association is the ability to sit still for an extended period of time to get things done.
Sitzfleisch is the antidote to procrastination — getting through hard periods of uninterrupted work.
“I’ve seen it translated as ‘endurance,’ but I think the best thing is to say ‘to have staying power’- i.e., that you are able to sit in one place for an extended period of time,” explains Paul Joyce, a senior lecturer in German at Portsmouth University in the UK.
It describes a character trait of endurance — or the capacity to sit and put up with your uncomfortable tasks until they are done.
“To have sitzfleisch means the ability to sit still for the long periods of time required to be truly productive; it means the stamina to work through a difficult situation and see a project through to the end,” writes Emily Schultheis writes in BBC Capital.
Everything worthwhile requires concentration, focus and endurance. But developing Sitzfleisch takes practice. Getting good at anything requires time, perseverance, and emotional courage to keep moving.
Whether your ultimate goal is to write a book, complete a project, lead a team, or improve your skill, the underlying process is always the same — commit time, and energy to a single purpose long enough and you will get the results you seek. Don’t let distraction get in the way of what must be done. Work on one thing at a time.
So, how do you go about cultivating a bit of sitzfleisch? Lean into the discomfort of getting things done
To give you the best chance of succeeding when practicing Sitzfleisch, recognize you need to work on your endurance — and have the desire to improve.
Optimizing your environment for focus. It is easy to underestimate how adjusting your surroundings can make you more productive.
But your immediate work environment matters much more to your personal efficiency than you might think. Prime yourself for Sitzfleisch by taking care of the noise, notifications, and the small talk around you. But the right kind of sound can relax your mind, hone your focus, and drown out distractions.
Research suggests that a high level of noise hurts creativity. “Process measures reveal that a moderate (vs. low) level of noise increases processing difficulty, inducing a higher construal level and thus promoting abstract processing, which subsequently leads to higher creativity. A high level of noise, however, reduces the extent of information processing and thus impairs creativity.”
If you like working to music, your personal preferences will play a part in what you choose to listen to. Optimize your productivity by making your work environment a positive, attractive, and organized space. Experiment and stick a comfortable work environment that supports focused work.
Your staying power in an optimized environment can help you achieve personal efficiency. “If you feel threatened by a situation, you’ll be stressed,” writes Tchiki Davis, PhD. “But if you instead view it as a challenge — or an opportunity to overcome adversity — you may be able to transform some of your stress into invigoration.”
Finding the ability to embrace your work, no matter how difficult, as a challenge instead of a threat can be one way to overcome the emotional challenge of finishing what we start.
Next time you want to make progress on the tasks you’ve been putting off, think about all the external (e.g, notifications) and internal (e.g, feeling anxious or restless) triggers influencing your actions. Examine why starting or finishing scares you. The better you are at noticing the negative behaviors, the better you’ll be at managing it over time.
You might just uncover your sitzfleisch and ability to power through. The great thing about this word is that it can refer to anything you can’t muster the courage to overcome or get done.