They are the words we use when we are thinking about doing work. If we are wishing, wanting or promising ourselves that we will, we have already been overtaken by procrastination. Instead of engaging in meaningful work, we click over to YouTube for our daily dose of mindless entertainment. Eventually inspiration will strike; we just have to wait it out.
If only it were that simple. But, it’s not.
Think about it; going to the gym is called working out, not wishing out. And, going to the office is called work, not fun or play. It’s the work, not birthday candles or shooting stars that will shape us into the kind of person we want to be.
The only logical solution on how to be more productive is to stop wishing and start working. Now you’re thinking like an entrepreneur!
Hard Work is, well, Hard!
When it comes time to do the work why can’t we just buckle down and do it? Instead of making the good choice – work – we’d rather do anything else. That’s because willpower is a finite resource. When it runs out, we crash and fly the white flag of defeat.
But, there is a way to get your brain and body off the picket line and back to work. You need a plan to be more productive.
Create a Productivity Plan
The work will never do itself. A novel needs a writer to bring it to life. And, the high-rise will never exist without the architect and engineer. Regardless of what you want to do, the first thing you need to do is show up. You might be in front of a computer or staring at a blank canvas. Wherever you are, be prepared to do the work.
Scott Belsky, creator of Behance and author of Making Ideas Happen, said it best; “ideas don’t happen because they are great – or by accident.” We need a process for transforming ideas into outcomes. That’s why having a productivity plan is so important; it helps us execute.
Get started, now! The more you think about starting something, the scarier it becomes. Your brain will try to show you all the ways you can fail. Don’t talk yourself out of doing the work. Create manageable, bite sized tasks that you can handle and get started now.
Create a routine. You have to do the work consistently. That means making time to hustle, everyday. You might be an early riser, so get to work first thing in the morning. Or, if you’re a night owl, burn the midnight oil. The goal here is to figure out a work schedule that works for you.
Schedule breaks. The experts among us, in any field, are relentless workers. But, they also take breaks. It’s best to work intently for 90 minutes and then follow that up with a brief 15 minute break, before getting back on the grind.
Disconnect. In the age of multiple screens and constant connectivity it’s almost impossible to focus on a single task. That’s why you need to disconnect. When it’s time to get down to business turn your phone off and unplug the internet. Work without distractions and see what you can accomplish.
Set a deadline. Get out your calendar and mark it with an “X”. As in, I will finish this project, task, section by “X” date. Otherwise, it’s unlikely that you will focus or commit to doing the work any time soon.
Say no. You can’t be everything to everyone. And, there’s not enough time in the day to pursue all of the grand ideas you have. Identify the things that are most important to you and devote your time, energy and resources to those things. Now, this isn’t a free pass to be a jerk. But, you do have permission to tell others – politely – that their requests will have to wait.
Make a list. Every night take a few minutes to think about what you accomplished that day, and then make a list of what needs to be done tomorrow. It’s like a to-do list, but you should have one for work and another for personal tasks.
You can also take your to-do list one step further by enacting the 1-3-5 method. It’s based on the idea that, on any given day, you can only accomplish one big thing, three medium things, and five small things. That means that you have nine tasks arranged in terms of importance. Stop wishing and be in control of what gets done and when.
Stop meeting. Time is your most valuable commodity. There’s only one of you and 24 hours in a day. That’s why you have to stop making pointless meetings. Granted, there are some meetings that are unavoidable; like when your boss requests your presence. And, networking can be critically important. But, your focus should be accomplishing your to-do list, not putting things off by making more meetings.
Fill your toolbox. Since willpower and discipline alone are not enough to make miracles happen, try building out your productivity toolbox. Creative types, like da Vinci, were always armed with a notebook used to capture random thoughts, inspiration and to-do notes.
Now, since everyone has a computer in their pocket, you can arm yourself with organizational tools and apps like Evernote, Mindmeister and followupthen.com. Take notes, create mind maps and send yourself email reminders for important projects.
When all is said and done, the purpose of your productivity plan is to create new, better, habits. Once you’re able to do that, you’ll be able to replicate the work process over and over, regardless of the task itself.
So, tell me, do you have a productivity plan? What does it look like? Is there anything you do that could help us become more productive? Please share!