10 Weird Ways to Get Things Done That Might Work For You

by Mikey Rox on 23 April 2014 2 comments

It's usually not conducive to a person's productivity if he or she is placed in front of a computer for eight hours a day. (See also: 6 Rules to a Productive Workspace)

Ironically, that's what most of our jobs have done to us in a world run by technology.

Technology was supposed to make us more productive and efficient. It was also supposed to give us more time to spend with friends and family, to work on hobbies, and improve relationships. The personal computer was meant to make our lives easier.

Not only that, but we've now made these computers smaller and put them in our pockets in the form of smartphones, checking them an average of 150 times per day — which only further engages us in an uphill battle to retain our productivity.

Solutions do exist, however. And if we focus on the eight hours we spend in the office (wherever that may be) every day, there are some out-of-the-box methods to take back our productivity and accomplish more on a daily basis.

1. Structured Procrastination

Structured procrastination is built on the idea that prioritizing a dreaded task as the most important zaps some of the motivation to work on that task at all.

So instead of tackling it first thing, put if off in favor of working on other things on your to-do list.

Prioritizing those other tasks can have the effect of minimizing the desire to avoid and procrastinate the original dreaded task. Once you've accomplished a few other things, you can tackle that other task having already gotten into a sustainable work flow.

2. Do the Stuff You Hate First

Despite the advice about structured procrastination above, some people don't let dreaded tasks get in the way — they tackle them right away. If there are things on your to-do list that you're totally dreading, get them done first thing in the morning. The longer you wait to get those things off your plate, the less likely you'll be to get them done.

3. The Work Swap

A work swap is a fun way to deal with those dreaded tasks that hang over our heads and make us feel more like crawling back into bed. The idea is that you ship your most dreaded tasks off to one of your colleagues in exchange for taking care of something off their to-do list as well.

It works better between two people of a familiar skill-set or background, but it wouldn't be unusual to have an easier time with someone else's work than you do with your own.

4. Take a Power Nap

If you can keep your naps around 15 to 20 minutes, they can give you a jolt of energy in the middle of the day and boost your productivity. Sleeping while you should be working sounds counterproductive, but if the early afternoon tends to slow you down, take a quick snooze after you eat lunch so you can power through the rest of the day. (See also: Caffeine-Free Ways to Boost Energy)

5. Guard Your Time

If you're a freelancer or if you have side work that isn't governed by a schedule but still needs attention, you can section your time off into guarded hours that are essentially free for you to work on whatever you want.

One to three hours per day is usually enough and allows you to pursue your freelance work without being distracted by other tasks that are more predictable and mundane.

6. Manage Your Music

Listening to music while you work can be helpful, in that it enables you to finish boring, mundane tasks faster.

At the same time, it's better to press pause when you're learning something new or engaging something that requires critical thinking, like writing or putting together a presentation. (See also: The Best Music for Productivity)

7. Adjust Office Lighting and Temperature

Two of the most immediate and solvable workspace triggers are the lighting and temperature of your office. Figure out your optimal settings for both (if you don't know them already) by tracking your productivity at different levels of each.

8. Relax

When the to-do list is filling up and we're overwhelmed with work, our tendency is to pile on the hours and push harder without a rest or a break. In the long run, this can be counter-productive because we're not giving ourselves time to recoup and refuel.

So put in the tough hours, but then take some time for yourself, family, and friends.

Hold down the couch, watch your favorite TV show, go to bed early or even take a vacation. No email, no phone; just take the time you need to refuel.

Make sure you guard this time as zealously as you guard your work time. Doing so will encourage you to work smarter and faster to meet your "you-time" deadline. (See also: SImple Ways to Fight Burnout)

9. Engage Your Mind During Mundane Tasks

If you've got to do busy-work or time-consuming mundane tasks, keep your mind engaged by listening to something from iTunes U or perhaps a book on tape. It'll make the boring task go faster and keep your mind active and alert for whatever comes next.

10. Get Away From Your Desk

Ernest Hemingway and Thomas Wolfe both wrote standing up, and Agatha Christie never even owned a desk. Having a dedicated workspace can be helpful, but the point is to not be afraid to get work done in other places. For plenty of people that's a coffee shop, but it doesn't even have to be that complicated.

Wolfe didn't use a desk, either. He wrote on the top of his refrigerator. He was six feet six inches tall.

Whatever Helps You Focus on Work

Your best chance at maintaining a high level of productivity is to set up your work habits to stay focused. That's both an issue of practicality and mental discipline; battles that you're probably not going to win overnight.

Some people are just distractible by nature. If that's you, you'll have to fight a little harder to stay productive, but it is something that you can learn and master.

It's a bit of an art form, since a productive day works and looks different for everyone.

Do you have more ideas on how we can be more productive at work? Let me know in the comments below.

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Beth

I would also suggest checking out a coworking space (if you're location-flexible and especially if you're a freelancer or micro-business owner). Something about working in a communal environment is invigorating while also motivating productivity! See coworking.com for more, including a list of spaces near you.

Guest's picture

I like that you included music in your weird ways to be productive list, but there are more helpful option beyond just the two options you gave for music (use favorite tunes to power through boring stuff and turn off the music when critical thinking is needed). Taking the time to create playlists customized to your own personality and productivity needs can serve to further enhance what you can get done. Instead of turning off the music completely when you need to think clearly and be focused, how about a "thinking" playlist of music to have on quietly in the background that can "trigger" you into that critical thinking you need to do?