I’m pretty sure there is absolutely no new information you could ever come up with as it relates to productivity and procrastination.
Just about anything I could tell you has been written about at some point, by someone, and in many cases at many points by many someones.
So with that in mind, knowing that you’ve heard some variation of this advice before, I’m going to share what works for me personally.
One of the most common questions I receive is “how are you productive when you’re working for yourself.”
Let me tell you, it’s not easy – and no matter how polished someone looks on the outside, I have yet to meet anyone who has it completely dialed in.
Yet when I look at my most productive days from the last couple years, there’s one very simple thing that they have in common – and that’s what I’m going to share with you today.
On any given day, there are going to be tasks you don’t want to do. It doesn’t matter how great your work is, or how much you love your life, plain and simple, there’s going to be shit that needs to get done that you just don’t want to deal with.
What usually happens? If you’re me you’ll put that stuff off until all your creative energy is gone for the day – and it inevitably gets pushed to the next day. Now, I’ve been working hard to minimize that stuff as much as possible – but no matter how much you try, it’s impossible to rid these things completely.
So, how do you make sure you get these things (and others) done on a daily basis?
It’s actually pretty simple, and I call it “The Top 5 Method”.
Every night before I go to bed I make sure I’ve got a list of “my top 5 things” that have to get done the next day.
I order them like this:
- Something easy and or fun. By crossing something off early, I can build momentum that makes me want to cross off more things on the list
- The Hardest Thing (and/or least fun thing). If you do this first, it can be tough to gain momentum. But if you put it off too long, you’ll have no energy or motivation to do it.
- The Second Hardest Thing – Build off your momentum and knock the sucky things off early.
- Something else that has to get done – By now you’ve already knocked off something creative/fun and the two things you wanted to do least, so it gets a lot easier from here.
- Something Fun – For me this is often something that isn’t work related. I try and have fun everyday, and according to my good friend Peter (who is much smarter than me), there’s a huge psychological benefit to this. So maybe it’s going golfing, going to the gym or something else that is fun, but still has positive benefit.
The reason we so often get hung up with procrastination is because we don’t know what to do next.
Decision making can be really hard, so you have to take that aspect of your schedule out of it.
By waking up and knowing exactly what you have to do, and in exactly what order, you can make your coffee and get right down to business.
By ending with something fun you’re also adding extra motivation to get your work done early.
Whenever I’m able to follow my “No work after Noon” rule, it’s always because I had this list setup the night before.
That night before part is crucial. You can’t trust yourself to make these decisions in the morning. You’ll inevitably put off the things you don’t want to do and not get them done.
So tonight before you go to bed, give it a shot. Create your top 5. I bet you’ll find that tomorrow is one of the more productive days you’ve had.
Image Credit: To Do List via Big Stock