The other day, I woke up, and got straight to work. I powered through until lunch and got all of my work done on my to-do list in just five hours.
This is work that I thought would take closer to ten hours, but because I was productive and got down to it with hardly so much as a breath of a break, I got it done in half the amount of time – without sacrificing quality.
I wrote three articles, answered some questions for an interview that I had committed to doing, sent off a pitch, managed some relationships, updated some spreadsheets for tracking information and did some small tweaks on one of my websites, all within just a few short hours.
This isn’t rare for me. I’m generally a very productive person, but I wasn’t always this way.
A few years ago, I really struggled with productivity – particularly when I was in school and working full time. I spun my wheels and got some things done but procrastinated until the very last moment for my school assignments.
Here are some lessons I learned about productivity and how I took control of my not-so-productive self:
1. Schedule Your Tasks In
Scheduling is one of the best ways to beat procrastination and make productivity a habit as opposed to struggling to slay the procrastination dragon.
Every night, spend a small amount of time scheduling the tasks that you need to get done into your day. This will not only set realistic timelines, but also solidify the tasks in your mind and you’ll be far more likely to do them.
2. Start Small (You’ll Probably Keep Going)
This is a really good productivity hack:
Just get started. Tell yourself you’ll do five minutes of whatever the task in, and you’ll likely end up doing far more than that. Getting started is the hardest part but if you just decide to bite off a small chunk of the task, you’ll keep it going and end up completing your task.
If you have a report to write, start by outlining it. You may find filling in some of the outline irresistible and keep going.
3. Break The Tasks Down
Let’s use the report as an example in this case. It’s hard to comprehend starting a report when it will take hours upon hours to complete it, so you procrastinate and hold off on starting.
The best way to battle this is by breaking it down.
In the case of the report, you might break it down to micro-tasks, like “write the executive summary”, or “create the table of contents”. These are bite-sized chunks that you can do right away and aren’t too daunting. When you finish them, they will provide a “small win”, which is very motivating to keep going.
If you have to clean the entire house, break it down to “clean out the sink”, “wash the floors in the living room”, or “clean the master bedroom sheets”.
4. Keep Focused on Productive Tasks
It’s easy to think that we’ve been productive if we’ve been working on our businesses all day by “researching”, but be honest with yourself: is the task that you were doing today really productive, or was it a time waster?
Answering email isn’t generally productive. The base of the word “productive” is to “produce”, so always think “am I producing something meaningful with this task?”. If the answer is no, you may be just wasting time.
Productivity isn’t a huge, big secret. It’s not that hard to hack if you have a few good systems in place, and know what methods you need to employ.