1. Attack Your Most Important Task
Even if someone was the most effective mouse juggler in the world, it wouldn’t matter if they flawlessly juggled 7 mice for 24 hours straight – they would not make much of an impact in the world.
“Doing something well does not make it important.” – Tim Ferriss
However, you’ve got mad skills that can make a difference.
Use your talents to tackle your hairiest project. Even 25 minutes of intense concentration on your important project can move the needle more than 12 hours working on unimportant mouse juggling tasks.
2. Clear to Neutral
My Evernote was open and I rewrote my life goals. WordPress was open and I re-edited an old post. An article I had written on another forum was open and I decided to post it on my blog. Omnifocus was open and I started messing with the controls. My notes were open which lead to some unnecessary research which lead me to some unnecessary HipChatting with a co-worker.
That, my friends, is how not clearing to neutral leads to 3 hours of unproductive time. Worse yet, it was morning, the time I normally work the best. If I had taken the time the night before to close all of my programs and tabs, I would not have lost half a day running down unproductive rabbit holes.
3. Realize When It Is Happening
Were you just on Wikipedia the last hour? Had a 45 minute fling with Pintrest? Chatting a bit too much in the work place?
As soon as you notice that you are not being as productive as you know you can be, reset.
Tell yourself, “Self. You are not completing the tasks you set out to do today. It’s okay. I forgive you, but lets get to work. In the next 10 seconds, I am going to [fill in productive task].”
4. Decide The Next Best Action
Consider the time, place, resources at your disposal, and energy level. With these factors in mind, what is the best next action you could take to move closer to your long term goals?
5. Espresso Nap
You are significantly more likely to be unproductive if you do not have the energy to focus properly.
If you have the capability of taking a midday slumber, do it. You’d be in good company with fellow nappers Winston Churchill, Napoleon, JFK, and Thomas Edison.
A technique I have successfully used to re-energize is the ‘Espresso Power Nap’.
To do it, down a double shot of espresso and a glass of water then crawl into your bed or find a couch or comfy chair in a low traffic area at the office. Then set an alarm on your phone to go off in 20 minutes.
It takes the java about 20 minutes to travel through your gastrointestinal tract, giving you time to nap before the caffeine kicks it. Additionally, a 20 minute nap is just enough time to prevent your prefrontal cortex from shutting down, which would cause a half hour of drowsiness while the grey matter reboots.
The ‘Espresso Power Naps’ is one of the most powerful (legal) energy boosting techniques out there… be sure to use in moderation.
6. Cold Shower
Your grandma was wrong, being cold and wet does not make you sick.
In fact, cold showers have many health benefits including improved mood, increased immunity, increased metabolism levels, and most importantly for productivity, improved blood circulation. So if you’re in a slump, take a cold shower and try again. Also, as our friend Stefano at collegetopia.co has to say about his strange addiction to cold showers:
If you want to achieve anything great in your life, you have to get comfortable with being uncomfortable.
Turning around your day to achieve big goals requires discomfort… taking cold showers will build your mental stamina for doing things that are outside of your comfort zone.
7. Just Do It
Perhaps your lack of productivity is due to worry about not being able to do the task flawlessly. Don’t worry. Don’t keep your focus on the other people involved and be willing to be imperfect.
“You’ll stop worrying what others think about you when you realize how seldom they do.”
– David Foster Wallace
8. Make a List
Perhaps you are procrastinating because you are not actually sure what the next action is. The best thing you can do in this situation is to write a list.
The top of that list should have your desired outcome (a.k.a acceptance criteria) and why you are doing the project. Then simply write out a sequential list of all the next actions required to accomplish your goal.
Why: All employees need to fully understand the company’s goals so the team can work to accomplish its strategic objectives.
What: Plan the agenda for the quarterly review meeting.
- Come up with 10 possible discussion topics.
- Send brain stormed list to Jeff and ask for his input.
- Gather data and create a rough draft of the morning presentation.
Seeing the doable actions down on paper makes it a lot easier to get started. There is less resistance to brainstorming 10 discussion topics than the more daunting task of planning the whole quarterly meeting.
9. Start Now
Don’t let what you can’t change interfere with what you can. It’s never too late to start. You can’t change how unproductive you were up to this point, all you can do is change what happens moving forward.
10. Decide your reward
There are always some tasks you just don’t want to do. For me it’s my taxes, every year I dread them. Since I know am likely to procrastinate on that task, I break the job down into bite sized tasks.
- Decide tax prep software
- Collect tax documents
- Open software and work for 25 minutes
I also have a pre-determined reward I give myself for completing the terrible, no good, bite sized tasks.
- Decide tax prep software => 20 minutes of guilt free Reddit.
- Collect tax documents => Take dog on a walk.
- Open software and work for 25 minutes => Watch a full episode of Walking Dead.
Bonus: Time Yourself
To kickstart your ‘productivity reboot’ set a timer and challenge yourself to get a task accomplished in a short amount of time. I have the Pomodoro site www.moosti.com bookmarked on my browser. Whenever I need to get working on a task I time my first 25 minutes. One timed block of work is usually enough to kick me back into a productive mindset.
*On really bad days, you can try the reverse Pomodoro. Do something productive for 5 minutes followed by a 25 minute break.
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