How many times have we all said, “I don’t have time”, “I wish I had time”, “There are not enough hours”, “It must be nice to be able to get stuff done”, or “If only I didn’t have to do x,y,z.”? Why is it that some of us are never able to get the things we’d like done, or wait until the very last minute to do it and ending up sacrificing quality? But then there are others who seem to knock tasks out, are reaching their goals, and kicking ass. If you find yourself in the first group, just know that there are easy mind hacks to get your butt in gear and onto nailing those goals.
I used to be (and still find it easy to fall into the trap) a huge procrastinator. I would say that I waited until the last minute because the stress gave me that extra energetic push. Well, it did. However, my work suffered, my sleep suffered, and the days leading up to this massive push of “creative power” were super stressful because it was on my mind. When I would create an action graph detailing where things were working and areas where I wasn’t balanced, I found a common theme. I was great at coming up with ideas, but not so great at getting started. Procrastination, lack of focus, and inability to start something were at the top of my list. There are mental roadblocks such as perfectionism that contribute to these issues. I had to find ways to push myself past the “well, if it’s not going to be a masterpiece, then I won’t start”. I researched and tried several methods to push past my procrastination. That mountain is a bitch, by the way, I still have to force myself to climb it. Right now, I’m using one of my Productivity Hacks, the 25-minute timer. This is my favorite of the six mind hacks to get the most out of your productivity listed below:
· 25-Minute Timer
· What can you do in FIVE minutes?
· Three goals per day
· Say “No” to what you DO want to do.
· Give yourself a deadline
· Have an affair (with your work)
I was introduced to Kat Loterzo’s work by a friend and stumbled on the gem of a book, “The 25-Minute a Day Productivity Formula: How to Achieve Everything You Ever Wanted, in Business and Life, In 25 minutes a Day!” I found the information fascinating and worthy of trying. She explains that setting a timer tells our brain “it’s time for business”. It’s almost like a competition for ourselves and as an ENFP, if I can make it a game, I will definitely play it. Why 25 minutes? If we are given two hours to complete a task, we will wait until the last 20 minutes or so to try to bust through it, while wasting the rest of that time doing nothing productive at all. You can break that two hour time frame into four 25-minute chunks and use the five minute breaks for checking social media, sitting in silence, returning a text, or just smiling about how much you just accomplished. The beautiful thing is how well we can work in twenty-five minutes. You most likely won’t require the full two hours to complete your task. Use your brain as your ally and tell it when it’s time for work. To your mind, twenty-five minutes is really not a lot of time, but can you imagine what you can accomplish in that time frame? I could get a really great cardio session in, and with only twenty-five minutes, I guarantee I will push hard. Just today, before writing this blog, I used the 25-minute blocks to do laundry while finishing a podcast and worked through journal questions in a book and discovered a lot about myself. I have been putting off writing a blog, but today I was inspired by this productivity hack to just DO IT!
What if you don’t have twenty-five minutes to commit in one chunk? What can you do in FIVE minutes? What if you are just dragging your feet on a huge project you have coming up? Just see what you can do in five minutes. You can actually get more than you’d expect finished, and it seems like there’s hardly any commitment to that at all! If you do have time, that five minutes will get the ball rolling. In order to gain momentum, you must give it a hard push or have already been moving. If you’re already moving, it is SO much easier and takes much less energy. So get started, with five minutes only in mind, and see what you can achieve. This also works with working out. You might be tired, but what can you do in FIVE minutes? Some pushups, sit ups, burpees, a quick run around the block? Sometimes that push is just what it takes to inspire you to move through a killer workout. What will you be doing for the next five minutes?
Another productive hack is to map out your day. I like to do it the night before so that I can sleep better knowing I don’t have to hold anything in my mind, and so I can visualize my day. I write down three goals in my personal and three in my business to-do lists. I would even suggest starting with three maximum. After you’ve so satisfyingly crossed them off, decide if you need to add three more goals to tackle. This makes your list doable and you’re also more likely to do it. It can be daunting looking at the 20+ things that you know “need to be done” which results in not starting at all. One (or three) steps at a time is more effective in getting up the hill than trying to scale a mountain in one day.
I read about this next skill in Choose Wonder over Worry, by Amber Rae (you need to read it), that when we feel we don’t have time for something, we need to cut away what’s wasting our time. The easy part is not doing the things we don’t want to do. The hard part is not doing the things we DO want to do. I have a hard time with this. I love spending time with my friends, I love my work, I love having sex with cute boys, I love going places, and exploring, and eating great food with great company. I love spending lots of time doing all of those things, but if I have a goal in mind, I need to know when to say “no”. She suggests writing down all of the things you’d like to do, and then writing down the one thing you really would love to be doing. Then, focus your energy on that one thing instead of spreading out everywhere. Once you’ve accomplished your glorious mission, decide from the other list what you’re doing next. In yoga, this is the practice of bramacharya, knowing where your energy goes and being moderate with it. Put your energy into what you are focused on accomplishing. When I was down in the cave in Belize, I was anxious because I could see everything around me as we descended. The moment came when I needed to turn my headlamp on and my anxiety disappeared. I was only able to see what was directly in front of me. It made me focus, and appreciate what I could see with my light. If you direct your energy and focus into the task at hand, you will be more present and efficient.
In school, I would wait until the last minute on a project, and would push through with stress to finish it. I knew when my deadline was, so I pushed to actually finish something. I know it wasn’t my best work, but I was addicted to the “gotta get this done NOW”. As an entrepreneur, it can be hard to push forward and tackle new goals if I don’t have a deadline. I think, “oh it’ll get done, sometime”. By putting my goals on the whiteboard to be crossed off that day, or dates next to tasks, it gives me that push. It’s best to map them out over the course of two week blocks, so it can be more of a marathon and not a sprint at the end.
Elizabeth Gilbert wrote about “having an affair with your art” in Big Magic. She explains that if you were having an affair, you’d do anything to have just fifteen minutes with your lover in the stairwell. How we approach our creative endeavors, and that one big thing you just can’t wait to reach, should be as precious and passionate as an affair. If you only have thirty minutes to paint, write a blog, map out a business plan, call prospective clients, promote your business, work on a school project, then do it. Those fifteen minute chunks will add up, and you’re spending your energy wisely. Turn off your phone, limit distractions, and get to work on what makes you feel alive.
I hope that these tips help you use your time wisely, produce results, keep you on task, and make you feel more alive. You don’t have to use all of them, just start with one suggestion at a time and see if it’s something that resonates with you. Send me an email or comment on which technique has helped you push forward to reaching your goals and increased your productivity!