I don’t know about you, but I have had to employ all of my productivity tips, hacks, and prayers to get moving this week. I don’t know if it is the change in weather, the depressing politics, or the fact that the holidays are bearing down on us, but this week has been a struggle. Okay, this month has been a struggle. Still, some techniques in my back pocket seem to work even when my brain is jumping from idea to idea. So, if you are looking for some productivity tips that might help you get moving, keep reading.
Craft Time Management Schedules
When I absolutely need to get jump-started and have a full slate of things that need to get finished, I will literally schedule my day. I’ll assign a specific amount of time to each task and follow the schedule as closely as possible. Yesterday, I finished hanging up wall art before its allotted time was up. Rather than jumping on the Internet to read about what had gone wrong in the world since I last read about it, I moved on to the next task. At the end of the day, I found that I had done the mandatory things, and I actually had an extra hour to watch some Top Chef (for those of you playing at home, I am mid-way through Top Chef: Kentucky).
This scheduling idea is not a new one (it’s also known as time-boxing in some circles), but for some reason, it is my most effective productivity tip. It gets me moving. Sure, I could technically write up the schedule and toss it into the garbage, but I don’t. It works for me. Also, I schedule the entire day when I need this hit of motivation. But you don’t have to. Maybe you only need to be really productive for the next hour. So, break things down into 15-minute intervals (or whatever block works for you), and get moving.
Finally, I find this works best for me when I’m being realistic. Putting “write a novel” into a two-hour window is destined to fail. I mean, I type quickly, but not that quickly, and quality work takes time. But that doesn’t mean I can’t add “write another paragraph” to the schedule. Breaking each task into manageable bits is the best way to make scheduling work for me rather than against me.
Move – Walk, Qi Gong, Dance, Whatever
Andy is a huge fan of taking a walk to get the blood and ideas flowing. It’s critical when writing – otherwise, you get frustrated, tired, and stressed when trying to solve story problems. He’ll take walks, and the beat of his feet against the pavement and the fresh air help push away self-criticism and free up the brain to get creative.
Occasionally, a problem needs to be danced out – or so I think. By doing something entirely different and physical, I can clear the cobwebs out of my brain. When I’m stressed, I might choose Qi Gong rather than continuing to stare at a blank page.
Turn Off the Internet, Hide the Phone
I’m not a fan of social media anymore, so that one is easy to avoid, but I know it can be an enormous challenge for people. For me, it’s the news. That’s hard when elections are upon us, but scrolling story after story will not help. So, I try to limit myself to reading the news twice daily and avoid reading it first thing in the morning.
Andy went a step stronger, creating a program that stops him from getting on the Internet but still allows him to use Wi-Fi to save and sync to Dropbox and other file-sharing sites for work.
Whichever way you choose to do it, having control over your devices will help you focus on the tasks at hand. Unless, of course, your job requires you to constantly update social channels. That one is definitely trickier.
Make To-Do Lists
If you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you know that to-do lists are among my favorite things. Personally, I still really like writing down to-do lists on paper because I love checking things off. But I’m also a fan of having an excel spreadsheet for long-term to-dos. I like that I can prioritize what I need to get done, and having written them down makes them feel slightly more real. Oddly, I feel more accountable, even though there is absolutely nobody looking over my shoulder yelling at me for not getting task #87 done.
Schedule Task Sprints
Finally, another one of my favorite productivity tips is to embrace the task sprint. Basically, you make a list of tasks that could be quickly accomplished in a set amount of time. Then you set a timer. I find that when I create a 45-minute block (or even a 15-minute block) for a particular chore or set of tasks, it doesn’t leave time to waste. Something about that timer pushes me in a way that gentle personal cajoling does not. I turn to this productivity technique with chores I don’t necessarily want to do but definitely want finished – like cleaning the bathroom.
Those are my five favorite productivity tips. If you have any tips that you love, feel free to email me: firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d love to hear them.
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