Do you take a long time to get things done even though you know exactly what you need to do?
Here are 6 simple but effective, last-resort hacks to force yourself into productivity when you’ve already wasted too much time.
Since quitting my day job a few months ago, and now have complete discretion over my day, I’ve never had more motivation to be effective and efficient as I do now.
These hacks works best when your tasks are clearly defined. For example, “3 mock-ups for my client’s website”, “Reading 100 pages of a manual”, “Writing 1000 words for my novel”.
The premise behind the hacks is simply to:
Limit the time spent on the task
It sounds easy, but hard to follow. If you’re not disciplined with your time, you can easily find yourself using 3 hours to do an hour’s work just because you didn’t set a time limit.
By reducing the time available, you boost productivity by:
- Creating a sense of urgency (even if it’s false)
- Forcing yourself to focus and optimize
- Getting a lot completed in spurts
- Eliminate unnecessary tasks
So how do you impose time limits on yourself?
Here are the 6 extreme tricks I’ve discovered – they seem funny but they’re effective at forcing focus. If you have other hacks, please share them below.
1. Take your laptop to a coffee shop – with no power cord
Your goal is to finish as much as possible before you’re out of battery. Seeing only 20 minutes left on your battery should bring you to an instant panic (and focus) if you have lots to finish. (If you have a Windows-based notebook, you’re in luck because the battery life is usually under an 1 hour) ;) You’ll surprise yourself by the amount you can accomplish in one hour.
2. No bathroom visits until you do get something done
Every time nature calls, jump on your computer or grab your pen and get some work done before you allow yourself to use the bathroom. The more you have to use the bathroom, the better this trick works – it’s particularly effective first thing in the morning.
3. Schedule only short periods of time to work
For example, work for 4 hours a day, and give yourself permission to do whatever you want outside those hours. A lot of work that looks like it takes 8 hours can be done in half the time, if we filter out the distractions such as excessive email checking, chit-chatting or drama. If you think working 4 hours a day sounds extreme, read the 4-Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferriss for even more productivity.
3. No eating until you complete something
You might continue procrastinating for half the day, even the entire day, but eventually you will have to eat or drink. Just get something done before you let yourself eat, even if it’s a first crappy draft. I routinely crave Starbucks white chocolate mochas or chocolate in the afternoon, so you can bet that I kick myself into gear when I haven’t achieved my goals by noon.
4. Overbook your calendar
The more time you have available, the more time you’ll spend on tasks. A 15 minute activity can easily turn into 1 hour of work if you have nothing else to do. To prevent time-creep, jam pack your calendar with meetings and appointments with friends, particularly right before and after your “work hours”.
This ensures you have no choice but to get things done in the time you’ve set aside. Plus, you’ll maximize the time used for other work and social activities as well.
5. Work in an uncomfortable environment
Go somewhere loud, sit in an uncomfortable chair or listen to music you despise. There’s nothing like sitting in the middle of a loud Starbucks at lunch, on a hard wood chair that makes your butt numb, next to someone with foul perfume, or at a small coffee shop where the owners give you the evil eye for staying too long, to motivate you to finish things.
6. Hop on a bus or train, don’t get off until you’re finished
Sitting on public transit can be uncomfortable, loud, smelly or overcrowded. Good thing is that you’ll be forced to concentrate and tune out the environment. Aim to finish by the time you reach a certain station, but don’t let yourself get off the bus or train until you finish what you were supposed to do.
Still can’t focus?
- Cut your to-do list For activities that have lingered for a long time on your to-do list, either a.) do it immediately, b.) get someone to do it, or c.) cross it off your list and resolve not to do it. Continuing to dwell over a task without taking action uses up mental energy that could be used for fun activities like writing a love letter, jogging or napping.
- Practice your concentration by regularly meditating, doing hot yoga, rock climbing, swimming or other challenging activities that require concentrating in the moment.
- Wake up early. Your mind is clearest in the morning before it’s had a chance to wake up and you bother you with chatter. I find an hour of work at 7am is just as productivity as 3 hours of work in the afternoon. How to get up when your alarm goes off is a good article about how to consistent get up early.
- Imagine you have all the time in the world. This sounds contradictory to getting things done by limiting your time, but if you’re overwhelmed by the quantity of your tasks that you don’t know where to to start, this can trick you into concentrating. Pretend you’ll be in prison or in an igloo for the next 20 years and that you have all the time in the world. I type of thinking instantly helps me pick a task to focus.
What other productivity tricks or procrastination hacks would you add to this list? Please share your tips with me below.
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