This post was originally published on my website.
Photo by Matt Ragland
The chase for being the most productive version of yourself has quite a bit of hype surrounding it right now, and for a good reason - being productive feels great.
That feeling of success at the end of the day when you've crushed a load of work is almost addictive.
However, being productive is definitely far from easy. With so many distractions around us it is easy to slip into that mindless zombie mode of scrolling through Instagram, also known as procrastination.
Over the past couple years I've read hundreds of self-help posts (see the end for a list of my favourites) on productivity, and a lot have them have been really useful. I've tried lots of different apps to keep your phone from distracting you (like forest and hold) and I've also tried things such as bullet journaling. The problem for me, and maybe you too, is that because life is so fluid and dynamic it is really hard to stick to a rigid structure for organising yourself and being productive.
I consider myself to be a disciplined person, but no matter how much I tried to make sure I bullet journaled every day, it would eventually fade out and something else would take its place. I often found that this replacement was something organic that just felt like the right thing to do at that moment.
When thinking about why these solutions don't seem to stick, I find that a metaphor seems to help explain things. My mind doesn't like to pack away it boxes into someone else's shelf. Sure, that shelf can be as generic as possible so that it attempts to cater for any mind. It can be extremely well compartmented so that every minute of every day can be slotted away neatly, but its just not my mind's shelf. I haven't made it myself, I have to learn where stuff goes and if it goes together well and quite frankly, after a while I'll wish I had got my own shelf.
Now, I'm really not sure whether that makes sense at all or if it actually makes it harder to understand but... yano, it's some sort of metaphor - which means extra points right?
What I was trying to say in the two paragraphs above, is that you should develop your own system, possibly based on others, that feels natural to you and that doesn't require effort to use.
When learning to bullet journal it was a massive pain to remember which symbol meant what and problems like 'Where should I put this extra note that the structure hasn't accounted for?' arose frequently.
I've realised that it is very important to create a system that is as frictionless as possible. It doesn't even have to be a structured system that is the same for every day, it can mould to your days if they vary a lot.
When I know that my day is completely free, I like to write up an agenda onto my whiteboard or in my notebook of each hour of the day from 6AM to 10PM. Filling in my entire day the night before also helps me wake up and be on track straight away.
Motivation, however, is only a finite resource and I used to find myself running out of steam in the early afternoon. I've found what works best for me is to take a long break, chill out, maybe go for a walk and have a cup of coffee. During this break I like to visualize that feeling at the end of the day where I have completed all the work I lined up to do. This seems to restore some of that motivation and gives me that last little bit of mental energy to finish up.
When I know that my day is going to be interrupted or I have other plans that can vary in time I won't plan out each hour. I've tried it before and all that ends up happening is that I only get through one or two tasks and I finish day with this long list of stuff that I said to myself I was going to do and didn't. This isn't a great feeling and can add a lot of pressure if you have deadlines looming.
For these days, I like to make a small list with one or two tasks that I am confident I'll be able to do and also my other events and plans to give a small outline of my day.
It is safe to say that these days often don't go as planned and sometimes I end up with a lot more time than I was expecting. I sometimes use this to do more work, but other times I just chill out and watch some Netflix and YouTube. There's no point in feeling guilty about not getting stuff done, you need those days to give yourself a little reset.
Chillhop. That stuff is a godsend. Plug yourself in, press play and you're away.
Other than magical sounds, I like to tell myself that I'm about to get a shed load of work done before I sit down to complete it. It helps get me in the frame of mind for deep work.
Phone on silent. On the other side of the table. Face down. Simple.
Know how long you're going to work for. This helps a lot when you're struggling to stay on task. Just know that you can push through to the end.
Shameless plug of my Spotify playlist...
- Millennials, Want to Be Successful? This Is the 1 and Only Habit You Need to Master
- 100 Blocks Per Day
- This Exercise Will Help You To Stop Wasting Your Time
- Pocket Book of Productivity Hacks
- How to be Ultra-productive in 30 days: 17 basic practices
So that's it for this post. I'm still very new to writing these so hopefully it wasn't too bad. Any feedback would be greatly appreciated!