I am a born procrastinator. I’ve been called “too smart for my own good” at times, and I think I let that go to my head a little when I was younger. I never really learned how to study, because I had a good memory for the facts when I needed it. (This bit me in the ass in my senior year of college, my dudes. Hoo boy.) My first couple of jobs were food-service or retail-oriented, so yeah, I could procrastinate some, but they were mostly physical jobs, and there’s only so much procrastinating to be done there. Then came my first office job, and the need for a solid productivity method began to take hold but wasn’t completely necessary yet. That’s where discipline came to save me and would continue to save me later on.
My real wake-up call was when I accepted an offer for a job that required me to move across the country (a second time – more on that later). It was a promotion! It was also more responsibility and, frankly, harder than expected. Did I walk in with a little ego? Yeah, probably. But at the end of the day, I was in a new role, in a new city with no support system. It all became overwhelming until I devoted a little bit of energy to laying down some best practices that I have found to be my lifelines in the past few months.
This is definitely a work in progress, but my secret is a combo of techniques and mindset.
Productivity Rule 1: Get to 80%.
The newest, and hardest, part of this methodology is something that Hank Green, internet guy and an inexplicable fountain of ideas and opportunities, uses. As he says in a video on his channel, “I get it to 80%, and that’s it.” What’s beautiful about this is that it gives you that room to test it out. You can’t ever get to 100%, that’s not realistic. You’re always going to want to find something to tweak. If your goal is 80%, then that gives you room to finish, to test it on potential customers, and to let you move on to the next thing.
Boom. Mind blown.
So what does that mean for folks who are not entrepreneurs? Think about the things on your to-do list. I bet a few of those things, as you dive into it, will be larger, hairier projects than what you initially thought. What you do is get those to 80% before sending it to someone else to review. That accomplishes those 3 things – you finished (as much as you could in the time frame given), you’re testing it out on who needs to receive it (handing it off to a person to review or use as they see fit), and you get to cross something off your to-do list and move on. Ta-da!
Productivity Rule 2: Institute a time limit.
One of the more popular productivity techniques that I subscribe to is the Pomodoro technique. (I use the little tomato timer, yes.) The idea is that you are breaking up your tasks into smaller pieces that you can then tackle within the time limits you’ve set for yourself. But, you have to pick what works for you. The “traditional” method seems to be 25 minutes on-task, 5-minute break. I’ve played with 50 minutes on, 10 minutes on, and even 15 minutes on, 2 minutes off, just to see what works for me.
There are a number of ways that you can institute a time limit, though, which is different from the possibly-unrealistic deadline your project may have. If you can, break down a project into smaller tasks, and challenge yourself to complete each smaller task in a shorter time frame. It breaks up the monotony of the workday a little, and you get things done on time, and possibly faster. (And you just got a bonus tip. You’re welcome.)
Productivity Rule 3: Pick 6 things per day, and that’s it.
This is actually my favorite part of this method because I am a serial list-maker. There were days where I had to-do lists for my to-do lists, and it simply paralyzed me. I couldn’t spur myself into action. Then I stumbled upon an article that talked about a methodology a man came up with a century ago. It is so beautiful in its simplicity, you guys.
So what is it? Every day, you write down 6 things that need to get done. No more than 6. List them in order of priority. Then you work through that list until everything is complete. If you have something that does not get completed by the end of your workday, put it at the top of the next day’s list. Not only does it put your overwhelming list into perspective, it allows you to put the right effort into each task and give it the attention it needs. (And it feels so good to cross off that last item. I’m a sucker for instant gratification at times. #millenial.)
Now, for me, the techniques are only part of the puzzle. The other part is my mindset. Right now, I’m focused on my productivity at work (and that includes side hustle). If my productivity at work is high and essentially on autopilot, then I can devote mental energy to other things. That also works with other parts of my life. When my eating and exercise habits are automatic, I’m able to devote energy to my work productivity. It’s a cycle, as with all things, and it ebbs and flows. Some months are better than others, and it’s important to take breaks every once in a while.
Is this the perfect method? No. What works for me is not going to work for you. (If it does, one of us is the doppelganger, and I hope we don’t meet because we’ll break reality.) There are a million* productivity tools and techniques out there – you can use apps, books, coaches, gurus, whatever to find something that works for you. The whole point is that you stick with it and make it work.
*Yes, I exaggerate. Slightly. There’s a lot out there, guys.
So, what works for you? How many methods have you tried? Do any of these spark an interest in you? Let me know in the comments below. Xx