Productivity 101 – Finally, A Solution That Works

Lovely procrastination. We’ve known each other for decades and it’s an on-off relationship to this day.

Long-term, I’m trying to get with productivity, but she’s going hot and cold on me. I’m not ready to give up yet.

Most advice on getting things done is complete garbage. Commonly a bunch of rehashed motivational fluff that’s supposed to keep you pumped for the next 20 minutes, at best something that stimulates your own thinking.

Procrastination is often branded as lack of drive or clarity.

Knowing what you want is important, but rarely does lack thereof prevent you from getting started. However, it’s a good excuse to keep spinning your wheels only to end up buying another self help book.

When is lack of clarity ever on obstacle to taking the first step?

  • You might not know what to say, but the real reason you don’t approach her is fear.
  • The workout plan might not be perfect, but it’s the perceived effort why you skip the gym session altogether.
  • Lack of motivation is not why you don’t get your latest blog post published, it’s feelings of overwhelm and pressure.

No worries, before I’ve had these realizations, I was also in the dark about the root of procrastination. Here’s the more amusing reasons I came up with at the time.

  • I lack social contact throughout the day and would need it to refuel batteries.
  • Working from home, the environment is too distracting – if I just get somewhere without Internet, I will get all of my tasks done!
  • I think and fantasize too much, it’s a distraction that I need an additional outlet for.

All of that…

… when it’s really certain emotions that are blocking creativity and flow.

There’s many of them – pressure, overwhelm, anxiety.

Whenever I think about writing a blog article, just the act of getting started is a huge challenge. It’s perceived as a giant task.

That’s precisely the reason why I don’t do it anymore. All that’s really happening is me sitting in front of my computer, word processor opened until a designated amount of time is over. There’s little resistance because the outcome is easy to achieve and the pressure is very low.

Just sitting there, it’s easy.

The fascinating thing? I have never ended up staring at the screen for an hour. Quite the contrary, I usually start right away and finish in record time. For others pressure might be fuel, for me it’s a big hindrance.

When the target is so easy to achieve (e.g. just sit there for an hour), there’s no feelings of overwhelm, perfectionism and thus no urge to escape through procrastination.

So far, that’s the only reliable strategy I’ve discovered for getting demanding, creative work done. It’s not a magic pill, but works remarkably well.

I’ve tried other approaches such as chunking down the goal to a certain number of words, or simply brainstorming ideas for a blog post – I still ended up putting it off. Sitting out a certain time is low effort and frees up enormous amounts of mental energy, creativity seems to flow.

Currently, I work in 1 hour sessions and take a break between each.

That’s where basic self awareness is required. At times, I feel tired and know continuing with another 1 hour block wouldn’t yield satisfying results, so I decide to take a break, sometimes even a nap. There’s no cookie-cutter solutions, it’s about being attuned to personal needs.

For the sake of simplicity, I like to do things in bulk. It’s not super important, but helps boosting productivity and focus. Some days I might only write blog articles, on others, I only do brainstorming.

Finally, I’d like to mention that all of this is work in progress. I am still struggling with procrastination on a daily basis, it’s part of being human. Improving daily and coming up with strategies that work, that’s where the money is at.