By Noah Henry • May 20, 2014
1. Break your larger tasks into smaller tasks. When we feel like there is one big imposing task on the horizon, we may feel more reluctant to take it on. This reluctance might slow you down. Break the larger task into smaller components so you can focus on each chapter of your project’s development. This will allow you to feel good about the progress you’ve made, helping you get closer to the goal of completion.
2. Do what you are least looking forward to first. Saving the best for last is a rule that equally applies to work. When you challenge yourself to take on the hardest aspect of your day first, the rest will seem easier. Similarly, most people find morning the most productive part of the day. This might have something to do with feeling fresh and recently dosed with high supplies of caffeine. After you are done with the hardest task in your lineup, you will be rewarded with a relatively pain-free work day.
3. Create deadlines. Providing some mental incentive to get the job done will coax you into finishing the job quicker. Many of us work in a deadline-free environment, with only our personal gumption to rely on. Make it personal: tell yourself that Shark Tank is off the table tonight if you don’t finish a particularly pressing task by 2 p.m. This mental trickery may provide you with a little extra motivation to get the job done.
4. Stop waiting for peak productivity time. The science behind positive feedback loops dictate that A produces more of B which in turn produces more of A. In other words, immediate action drives even more action. The act of procrastinating in wait for that elusive wisp of motivation is in itself unproductive. By biting the bullet and getting into the mode of productivity, you might find yourself thinking productively, which fuels even more of those juices. If you have ever been reluctant to begin cleaning up the house, you might have noticed that the dread of cleaning up goes away once you act. The same magic occurs the moment you dive into action.
5. Work in 90-minute blocks. This time may seem contradictory to the last, but it’s useful to note we all don’t have the same psychology. Some of us need our refueling time. Reward those 90 minutes of hell with a guilt-free break. The brain is an engine and engines need cooling. When you start to feel your cylinders breaking down due to overheating, give yourself 10 minutes of air conditioning.
6. Use the 1-3-5 Rule. Organize your daily production into one big task, three medium tasks, and five small tasks. Assuming office life brings unexpected distractions and last-minute requests from management, prioritization is easy when you have a lot to choose from. You accomplish what you choose to do in contrast to what you end up doing. The 1-3-5 Rule is a tactic used by many corporations for employee time management.
7. Use the break room for power naps. It’s only human to feel sluggish sometimes. Studies have shown the more hours you work continuously, the greater the toll on your performance. It’s not crazy to hypothesize that tuning out in a quiet place for a little while will revamp your creative juices. After all, sleep is the most perfect form of relaxation. And relaxation refills mental agility.
8. Don’t be paralyzed by perfection. Get over your inner perfectionist. The more tediously we criticize our work, the less we get done. Criticizing your work comes later, after you complete the first draft. The important thing is to synthesize what you learned during the process to refine your work and create a new-and-improved version.
9. Do a little each day. You miss out on the opportunity to build on your creation by revisiting it with a different mindset if you try to take it on in one shot. When I wrote for a newspaper in college, I found I was exponentially more creative if I wrote a few paragraphs of my columns per day. When I revisited the copy, I had new ideas for the column as well as ways to improve what I previously wrote. You will have all sorts of new ideas in your head when you come back to your project after a period of gaining objectivity.
Noah Henry Noah Henry is an amateur movie critic, foodie, bowler, and beer reviewer. But he's no amateur when it comes to saving money, so listen up!