What Is Your Best Productivity Advice?
I was a very unproductive employee while working full time. Mostly it was because I hated the job. Partly it was because I got away with it--everyone did. But now that I'm working for myself, time is money. Instead of my breaks and web surfing being on someone else's bill, I'm paying for every moment I'm not being productive. After three years of trying all sorts of ways to keep myself away from the couch and TV, I've found that the most effective productivity trick is simply to get enough sleep. Many people take for granted what consistent good sleep can do for the body. I know it took me a long time to get out of that college mentality of sleeping late, taking naps throughout the day, and sleeping in on the weekends. Now my sleep schedule is consistent, no matter what day of the week, and any time I get less than my usual amount of sleep, I'll be groggy and unmotivated the rest of the day.
I asked fellow Wise Bread bloggers what their best productivity advice is. Share yours in the comments and be entered into a random drawing for a $25 Amazon Gift Certificate!
CONGRATULATIONS TO RAY, OUR WINNER FOR THE $25 AMAZON GIFT CERTIFICATE DRAWING. THANK YOU TO EVERYONE FOR PARTICIPATING.
I don't work on Friday.
Yep, that's right, I just don't. Sure, if someone has a catastrophic failure, I'll go fix it, but as a general rule, I don't schedule anything for Friday, and I don't spend the day in the office working on things.
I like to spend the time doing things I need to do (whatever that may be) or doing something neat with friends, but inasmuch as possible, not doing work. I find that it helps make the rest of the week a lot more productive, because I know I need to get it done so it won't affect my Friday plans. I don't need to weasel away time to goof off on Tuesday morning, because I've built it in all day on Friday.
Since I've been taking Fridays off, I've found that I don't wander off to do other things when I'm supposed to be working, and I actually end getting so much done that I end up working less *every* day as a result. Also, it's really fun to dangle over my friends: "Oh, no, I don't work on Friday. No, really. I don't. Ever."
Personally, I'm one of those sickly-productive people.....usually. When I was in school and we received assignments with deadlines weeks away, I'd go home and complete the assignment that night. (told you it was sickly)! Friends would wonder why I was doing it, and I said "so I can go out and play not having it hanging over my head"!
And when the deadline approached, I was out playing my little heart away while my friends were toiling on the assignment they procrasinated over.
When I worked for "the man", I found my tasks for the day complete by early afternoon, and then I was forced to "look busy" for the rest of the day - a soul-sucking task if you've ever had to do it and can't web surf or read a book.
I always said "If I am so productive, I should be rewarded for finishing my work early. I have other stuff to do!"
So, off I went into the wonderful world of entrepreneurialism, where I controlled my day from start to finish. If I had all my tasks done, I could take time to play!
I shortly discovered that the irony to being self-employed is.....your tasks are never done!!!
So with that in mind, lists are my saviour. Boring and predictable, they constantly remind you what you need to do. When you cross an item off the list, it feels good. I'll even write things on my list just so they can be crossed off!
You never forget to do anything, because in the very moment a new task crops up, it goes on the list. Even if I think I'll remember, I write it down. I have a memory like a seive, as do most people I know.
And when I decide it's time to go out and play, my list will be waiting for me when I'm ready to work again - and my list won't have missed a beat.
I'm one of those people who does all of my personal projects at the last minute. I don't do this at my real place of employment, because companies expect all kinds of daily milestones, plus when I work collaboratively, it doesn't help team dynamics to leave other people dangling.
However, for my own work style, if I'm writing an article or a freelance submission or some marketing prose - I procrastinate until the last second and then do it all at once. Why? I just work best that way. The pressure helps me focus on the task at hand, and the procastination time allows me to ponder and mentally file away some good ideas for the project, when I finally get around to it.
For years, I felt really bad about this work style, but I finally realized that if that's the way I work best, so be it.
So, in terms of productivity, find your style and work it. Assuming your style doesn't cramp anyone else's, there's no need to apologize for it, whether you're super-slow and meticulous or ultra-speedy and mega-creative.
I've always thought of myself as a fundamentally lazy person. I never wanted to do most school work, so my elementry school report cards always said "needs to improve study habits." I got through school anyway, and by the time I got to college I had gotten things together enough that I managed to finish most of my assignments, pass my classes, and get a degree. Through a twenty-five year career as a software engineer I got quite a bit of work done, but was often unmotivated and found it difficult to be productive.
I eventually realized, though, that I'd been selling myself short. I'm not fundamentally lazy, I just don't want to do stuff I'm not interested in. I find it easy to work hard and be productive when I'm interested in the work. I need to be internally motivated.
Internal motiviation: I saw a kid once who was working on a new skateboard trick. It was on the quad at the University of Illinois, just behind the student union, where there's a concrete patio separated from the grass by a low wall. The kid would skateboard in a wide arc that ended with him riding parallel to the wall just a few inches away. He'd then try to jump the skateboard up onto the top of the wall. In the time it took me to walk across the quad he tried and failed at this trick eight or ten times. After each failure he'd right the skateboard, kick off and repeat the wide arc to try again. He didn't need a parent or teacher or coach standing there, telling him to keep at it. He did it again and again because he wanted to. That's internal motiviation.
The productivity part is easy: Do what you're internally motivated to do. You'll never be more productive than when you're doing what you have a passion to do.
If you want to be productive doing the dull stuff, you'll need to talk to someone else. I've never figured that part out.
Besides iCal, I use a program called (oddly enough) Notebook to organize my tasks. It lets you clip files, URLs, reorganize your lists, add check boxes, etc. Before Notebook I just used to write and rewrite a list of things to do on a pad.
Being self-employed and (for now) working from home, it's important not to get too distracted with a lot of domestic chores or errands that you think you should be doing; it's really a way of avoiding just jumping right in to working. For me, I try to set a start time for work, a lunch break (during which I'll run out to the post office, the bank, etc.) and, if possible, when to call it a day. For me, late nights can be counterproductive to my work in that my creativity wanes.
Basically, you set your own rules and stick to them. I suppose if you're someone's boss, enforcing those rules might seem easier than following them for yourself.
Productivity is not my strong point as I tend to be a slow (deep?) thinker and methodical worker. I love to learn new things, relevant or not to what's right in front of me; this approach is great in the long run, but not so productive in the short term.
Still, I've managed to develop a few productivity techniques: focus on one thing (or a limited number of things) for brief periods of time; stop working on a project for a bit to gain a new, unexpected perspective that will ultimately speed things along; exercise to get the blood pumping to the brain and de-stress; keep at it until you're finished.
Tell us your best productivity advice and be entered in a random drawing for a $25 Amazon Gift Certificate. Deadline to enter drawing is 9/2. Don't forget to enter your email address in the field provided and only one entry per person!
THIS DRAWING IS NOW OVER. CONGRATULATIONS TO RAY, OUR WINNER FOR THE $25 AMAZON GIFT CERTIFICATE DRAWING. THANK YOU TO EVERYONE FOR PARTICIPATING.