I’m the queen of procrastination.
I turn on my laptop to write an article and, somehow, find myself watching cat videos on youtube. I start to send emails and before you know it, I’ve fallen into the Facebook black hole. And when I end up with a trackload of work to catch up on, I go out to dinner with a friend.
Sound familiar? It’s so easy to get distracted in the social media age.
When I first started working for myself, my procrastinating tendencies got out of hand. Without a boss to tell me what to do and when, I found myself working only a little and playing around a lot. Pretty soon, I began playing catch up. I started working long into the nights but that terribly backfired. I was so tired all the time, making mistake after mistake and taking longer to complete a simple task.
I knew something had to change. I started reading all the productivity books I could get my hands on and implementing the advice that resonated with me the most. Some of it worked. Some of it didn’t. But overtime I learned a few tricks that boosted my productivity and still left me plenty of time to play.
Swallow The Frogs First
Trello. Asana. Wunderlist. I’ve tried all the to-do lists app out there. They worked. For a week. Then, I’d fall back into my old habits. Making those lists made me feel so productive but they’d inevitably get out of hand. At some point, I had something ridiculous like 50 items in it. There was no way I could get all that done in a week!
A much better approach is having two lists. A first list where you jot down all the things you need or would like to do that week. This helps you get everything out of your head so you don’t forget anything important.
Once that is done, think about what you want to accomplish that week. Maybe you’d like to see your article published in your fave magazine. Maybe you want to create your first MVP. Or you need to finish an important presentation. In the second list, write down the things you must absolutely do to reach your aim. This keeps you focused on the priority rather than getting distracted by all the little things that are quick and easy but don’t really move the needle forward.
These days, I use the Productivity Planner. At the beginning of every week, the planner asks you to jot down everything you want to accomplish. Then, it makes you choose the five most important tasks for each day. Its a more organised way to keep all your lists in one place.
What’s your productive zone?
Productive zone: the magic hours when you get a lot of stuff done. Without coffee.
I’m an early bird. I like to wake up at 6:00 am, have a light breakfast and start to write. In the mornings, my brain is still fresh and full of new ideas. Inspiration comes to me naturally. It’s like my muse and I have a secret meeting. She knows I’ll be there, toiling away at my desk so she’ll pop in and starts putting ideas into my head. By the time noon comes, I’ve already finished three or four articles.
After lunch, my energy starts to deplete. I know my muse has left because writing turns from a sprint into a marathon. After 6:00pm, there’s no point in me even sitting in front of the computer. I’m too tired to write anything that makes any sense.
I’m lucky because working from me allows me to organise my workload based on my energy levels. I do my writings in the morning, check my emails and schedule social media in the afternoons and rest in the evenings.
Even if you work in an office or shop, you can still find ways to do most of your work in your productive zone. The first trip is obvious: if you’re a night owl, don’t accept jobs that require you to be at the office at 8pm. Likewise, if you’re an early bird, working night shifts in a club isn’t the right fit for you. If this is what you’re doing now, don’t despair. Keep the day (or night) job for now and look for something that’s more suitable for you.
Another trick is to do the most important tasks during your productive zone. Let’s say you work in an office and your productive zone is the afternoon. Use the morning to do simple tasks like organizing your files and replying to emails and start tackling that big presentation in the afternoon. You’ll be surprised by how much more stuff you get done this way!
Related: How To Find Your Productive Zone
Take Care Of Your Health
A car can’t function if you don’t put fuel in it. A laptop won’t run if you don’t recharge its batteries. Yet we’re expected to work overtime, often on little sleep and a truckload of coffee, to reach our targets.
Do you see how absurd that is? Working more than you can physically stand doesn’t make you more productive. It makes you more tired. More prone to mistakes. More likely to have a breakdown. Who does that help?
Your health, both physical and mental, is your most important asset. If you don’t take care of it, you won’t be able to do your job and take care of your loved ones.
I admit I struggled with this a lot. I thought that starting work an hour later so that I could get a workout in or taking a break for lunch would be a waste of time. I had a lot of work to do, how could I spare even just a single moment? But since I’ve started exercising regularly and eating more home cooked meals, I have a lot more energy. Now when I sit down to work, I get a lot more done.
I also take time throughout the day to do something for myself. It can be a 5-minute meditation session, a warm bubble bath or listening to soothing music. Anything that melts away stress and makes me feel more present and balanced.
Carving out time for yourself and putting your own needs first can seem incredibly selfish but the opposite is true. You can’t take care of others if you can’t take care of yourself.
Related: 3 Ways To Start A Self-Care Routine
Over to you, now. What are your favourite productivity tricks to get stuff done? Share them in the comments below.