This is no profound realization, but then again, most things we need to remember most aren’t.
The most effective action I can take for increasing my productivity on any given day is to write a schedule the day before.
I’ve kept to-do lists, but the problem is the tasks on the list take longer than they should. I’ve tried scheduling open time without a specific task attached to it, like saying I’ll simply “edit” footage for 2 hours, but the problem is that this is ambiguous and I loaf around or sneak in unimportant things.
But when I assign a task to a time a day in advance, my productivity skyrockets.
This actually does several things:
- It removes dead space. – Especially the time spent scratching my head and trying to prioritize what to do next. This should done as little as possible during the day.
- It holds me accountable. – Time is precious and shouldn’t be wasted. Most tasks don’t take nearly as long as we estimate if we focus all our attention on them. It’s best if the amount of time you allot is just short enough to make you uncomfortable.
- It creates momentum. – When my whole day is written out in advance, I realize the costliness of procrastination. If I don’t do task A at 10:00 for 30 minutes like I planned, I won’t have time for task C at 2:30, which I really want to do. The chain will be broken if I don’t keep the schedule. This is motivating.
- It gives a sense of accomplishment. – Few things in the world feel better than knowing I used a day to its full potential without chaos, scatteredness, or procrastination.
It’s so simple. This is nothing you don’t already know. But do you do it?
Think of how many times you’ve been handed a schedule made by someone else for you to follow. Now think of how many times you’ve done this for yourself.
Try it today! (Sounds like an infomercial.)
There’s a vulnerable moment in the process of getting a chore done. It’s that tiny half-second flash of a thought where I take inventory as to how I’m feeling and whether I want to actually do it. Most of the time, when I stop to ask myself this, I don’t do it.
Words popped into my head before a workout one day: “Don’t consult yourself!”
I don’t need to ask myself if I feel like working out—or doing the dishes or straightening the office or any of the thousand other chores I could put off if I want to—I already know I should. No need to revisit the subject. There’s nothing more to reason out.
The voice in my head is quite the talker. He can smooth his way out of any commitment, no matter how much he told me yesterday he’s all in. I’ve realized one of the best things I can do is just close my ears. There’s no new information. He doesn’t need to be consulted. He needs to be ignored.
Once I realized that this is the beginning of procrastination, I started jumping in more. Then I realized a second thing that might be even more powerful: once I start in, he almost always shuts up in a matter of seconds.
You already know what you need to do. Don’t consult yourself. Future you will love you for it.
The difference between efficient and lazy is not always clear.
Do we order groceries online because it saves time or because we don’t feel like going to the store?
Do I research faster methods of doing things so I can do even more things, or is it because I don’t feel like working?
It’s more efficient to move boxes between the U-Haul truck and your house with a dolly, but it’s also easier. There’s nothing wrong with wanting easier. There is something wrong with the feeling that work is a bad thing.
I hide my laziness behind efficiency all the time. I’ll spend 120 seconds strategizing how to save one 60-second trip to the car.