A few friends and I got in a discussion on Facebook about productivity, and how “productive” people do it. Based on this discussion, my dear friend, Katja Gee, wrote about procrastination, how to overcome it and how it’s a natural habit to tackle. I decided to focus more on the productivity tips and tricks that I use to motivate myself to get things done. The first thing you need to do is build willpower.
Willpower is often thought of as a trait that some people have and some people don’t. This is not true. Willpower is a trained skill. There are many ways you can increase your willpower, but basically they are all the same method. Find something you don’t want to do, but isn’t too hard, then make yourself do it. At first, it’ll be really hard to get moving, but as time goes on, the longer you practice the easier it will be to make yourself do something you don’t want to do. One of the classic willpower boosting techniques is cold showers. Cold showers are an unpleasant thought, but really not bad. I actually find them invigorating and refreshing. But the thought of the cold water is unpleasant. If you can make yourself just do it enough times, it becomes easier. Your willpower grows. But how do you make yourself do anything to build willpower?
I read a book called “The 5 Second Rule” by Mel Robbins. The basic premise is you count backwards from 5. 5…4…3…2…1 and after “1” you move your body towards your goal. Basically you throw yourself at the task. The initiation energy to start moving is the biggest hurdle when you are trying to do something. So if you launch yourself at the task, it can often get you moving. Now that we know how to develop willpower, and we have a technique to get started even when we don’t want to. Now let’s go over a few other productivity tips.
A lot of people will suggest making a list of tasks/goals. This works reasonably well, but if you are struggling to actually finish things, it’s less than helpful, and will often make you feel like a failure. That can cause you to feel less able to do even the simplest tasks. What you need to realize is, you should only be able to complete 2-3 goals a day. So take your list of things you “need” to do and pick 2-3 items that you need to get done today. Then focus your efforts on just getting those done. Once you’ve finished your top tasks for the day, you can still do more, but that’s gravy.
There’s a book called “Eat that Frog” by Brian Tracy. The main premise of this book is that you should start off your day with your hardest task. For me that is always phone calls. The idea is that once you’ve finished your hardest task, you should be able to pick up the easier tasks, and really. Everything else you get done that day will be gravy.
Finally, for longer tasks, use Pomodoros. Pomodoros are simply a technique to break up long tasks so you don’t get burned out. Start by setting a timer for 20 minutes. Focus on one, uninterrupted task for the full 20 minutes. No multi taskings. Once the alarm goes off, set another timer for 5 minutes, and relax. Go for a walk, drink some water, watch a funny cat video. Then you set another timer for 20 minutes and dive back into the long task. It should really only take a few cycles of this to wrap a task. For really long tasks, you should take a longer break every four pomodoros, or roughly every 2 hours. A longer break should be 15 to 30 minutes.
Today, we talked about training willpower, and using the 5-second rule to get started on tasks. Then we discussed how to set realistic goals for your day and to start with the hardest task for you. My hardest tasks are always phone calls, but you might really dread something else. Finally we discussed the pomodoro technique for taking good breaks during longer tasks so you don’t burn yourself out. I feel like these tips will help anyone make good progress and becoming a “Productive Person”, as my friend on Facebook said.
What are your productivity tips and tricks? What techniques do you use to build willpower and accomplish your daily goals?