Favourite productivity hacks from an ex-professional procrastinator
Hallo, my name is Lieze and I am a procrastinator.
I mean – it is not that bad that I would need to go to procrastinators anonymous, but I do have problems focussing. When I was a toddler one of the school doctors mentioned that I might have ADHD. My parents decided that this was not the case and that I was just a very active and bossy child. (These were the nineties, you know…) And I am glad they did. Not that I do not want to be labelled with ADHD, but just because taking medication might tone down my energy, my thousand-ideas-a-day brain and my entrepreneurial outlook on life.
But with that comes that I need to keep my procrastination in check. I freelance and there are days that my brain goes offline. And with that I mean: I want to check A but as I check A I notice B which side-tracks me onto B. Before I know it, I have spent an hour working – thinking about – looking at B And when I finally get myself to focus on A again – I notice this tiny little detail on C I can work on.
Blergh! This can be really annoying. Especially since I am someone who wants to get a shitload done in the least amount of time – just because there is so much to do. You would too if you could see my to-do list. This is where little productivity hacks come in play. I basically manage myself through to-do-lists, positive reinforcement and loads of other little details to help me finish the job!
To do lists…
I am a big fan of working with To-Do lists. I know that there are loads of apps and online websites that allow you to create and manage To-Do lists. To-Doist, Asana and wunderlist spring to mind.
I personally do not use any apps or online to-do list tools as they make me an even bigger procrastinator. Yes you heard it: they make everything worse! The real power – and pit fall, of To-Do lists lies in the fact that you need to be accountable to yourself. This means that if you did not manage to finish your tasks, you are the one who should give yourself a kick in the ass, but just ass well give yourself a little reward if you did.
I personally find it a lot easier to be accountable when using pen and paper. Even more: when using a bullet journal. I am not one to make her bullet journal all pretty and jolly as it is an important instrument for me. It is not just some album I make to keep track of my mood – no, my bullet journal is as important a tool in my day-to-day activities as my laptop.
One of the ways I do this is by not including anything too personal into my bullet journal. If I would meet with customers, I do not want to look like some ditsy little girl drawing and colouring in her book. I want to look like I have my shit together.
So what are my top tips for keeping a bullet journal to increase productivity? First of all you need to give every day enough space in your journal. It doesn’t matter If you give it half a page or a full page, you need to be able to put down all your to-do items without exception.
When using to do lists, and you have – for instance, an item that says: write 10 pages for my paper, you can draw 10 little boxes you colour in every time you finished a page. This will make you feel as if you are actually making progress and will cultivate a winner’s mentality. It will make you feel as if you are someone who will get things done… because you are actually getting stuff done!
Positive reinforcement is amazing!
I love the power of positive reinforcement. For those who do not know what positive reinforcement is: it is basically rewarding yourself – or someone else, by reinforcing good behaviour. Have you ever seen someone train a dog? They give the dog little dog biscuits every time the dog obeys of does something good. That is positive reinforcement. It is widely seen as one of the best and fastest ways to change someone’s behaviour.
And procrastination is a behaviour. So you need to change it like I did.
Every time I was able to cross off 2 things from my list I gave myself a 5 minute break. I would go and get a cookie, I would watch 5 minutes of my favourite show or just go on facebook or Instagram – anything that I would really like and that would take my mind of the work at hand. Basically: every time I ticked off 2 things on my list I let myself procrastinate for 5 well-timed minutes.
But again: you cannot lie to yourself and you need to be accountable for and to yourself.
Another way I use positive reinforcement for massive tasks like for instance big translation jobs, is by working and procrastinating in intervals. I would work really focussed for 15 minutes or set a certain amount of work (such as translate 1000 words) after which I would be able to watch 5 carefully timed minutes of the show I was watching. Time moved so fast and I got so much done because I kept looking forward to seeing my show. And I could only see my show as a reward for doing a substantial amount of work. I was doggy training myself! And guess what… it worked!
Bite size chunks!
One of the main reasons for people to procrastinate is because they are overwhelmed by the amount of work there is to do. This is why it is important that you understand you cannot do everything in one day. Last week I wanted to edit an 85-page eBook in one day. I got really frustrated with myself because I felt that I wouldn’t be able to…mentally. There was no way in hell that I was able to go over everything in that book in one day and do it in a qualitative way. No. I now edit 10 pages every day and in 9 days I will have finished editing the eBook completely and up to standard.
Do the things you hate doing FIRST!
A long time ago – when I was still in sales, I went to a convention in Manchester. One of the key note speakers talked about how he would get up and do everything he was NOT looking forward to doing first. This way he had the rest of the day to handle things he actually liked doing.
And it actually took me a long time to understand the power of this way of working. When you are running through your To-Do list, pushing back the things you do not want to work on, they keep looming over you. They will ultimately inhibit you from being as productive as possible. Ever since I started doing those shitty little jobs first, I got a lot more done!