One fine morning, I uploaded an unticked to-do list for the day on Instagram stories & by the end of the day a fully ticked one. I got a ton of messages asking me how I managed to complete so much in a day. Until this point, I thought my to-do lists are really mediocre and I don’t do as much as I wish to. But reading your replies and questions made me realise that I indeed have stopped procrastinating. There are no simple steps to achieve this though. It is a long but assured process.
1) Set the practice of awarding yourself instead of easily getting what you want.
While working, for e.g., if I complete my to-do list from Monday to Friday, only then will I eat (insert fav food) over the weekend.
It is necessary to set this practice not only for work but everything else as well.
For e.g., if I finish reading 50 books this year, only then will I buy myself the kindle.
This helps you stay focused on your goals, because you want to grab that carrot at the end of the stick.
2) Time set aside for leisure every week.
This is really, really, really important. I realised the importance of this only very recently. I was someone who would work 7 days a week for 9 hours a day. And that only lead my brain to feel very tired, not being as productive and eventually hating everything I did.
The solution was so simple – give yourself a break! Saturday and Sundays (or any two days!) are days you don’t go to work. But physically not being there is not enough, you have to train your mind to push aside all work thoughts on your break days – no work calls, no checking your e-mails, no talking about work – nothing.
This helps your mind to relax, don’t underestimate the power of breaks. The more relaxed you feel, the stronger you start your week – the more productive you are.
3) Discipline. (This should’ve been 1)
Discipline is a habit that you have to create which involves effort. No, people are not born with it – they work for it! Start small. Discipline yourself wherever you can. Let me give you my example: It was easy for me to take time off to exercise, because I enjoy doing it. I set a discipline of exercising every alternate day – no matter what. Next I picked the newspaper. I began reading the papers every morning – no matter what. Next, I set a discipline to work from 10.30 sharp to 7pm sharp (freelancing is hard sometimes) from Monday to Friday, not a minute before, not a minute after (still struggling here, tbh). Now you may ask – how is this helping me?
Setting a discipline is a practice. If you lead a disciplined life, it will automatically reflect on your work schedules. You will develop the will power to finish your to-do list for the day.
4) Start and end your day with anything but work.
I had a habit of grabbing my phone the minute my right eyelid managed to open, tapping on my Gmail icon (or social media) and checking my mail before my left eyelid could open. This made my half-asleep brain feel mushy and tired. I suggest starting and ending your day with something you enjoy doing. I set aside a couple hours every morning and night for reading (or solving Sudoku puzzles, or solving the Rubik’s cube, or meditating).
Starting and ending your day on the right note means sleeping well. When you’re well rested, your day is productive.
5) Don’t let your work consume you.
I felt like a lab rat when I would wake up, crawl to my desk, work, work, eat, shower, work, work, exercise, work, sleep. This is when you hear your friends say “Get a life!” and… they’re right. Now this may be subjective, but it has helped me so much so I will present my point of view anyway.
No matter how passionate you may be about your work and how your whole life seems to be defined by what you do– it’s very important to understand that you are not your work. I believe that some level of detachment from everything in life is very healthy – bringing a balance. The most important question here is – how can I give my 100% and at the same time be able to detach myself from what I do for almost 7 hours a day?
It is a practice (again!) and will take time (I’m not there yet, but I believe and hope I will be one day).
Nothing can absorb you until you let it. And one way to make sure of this is to be fully aware about your work (what you’re working on, why you’re doing what you’re doing, what are your goals). Being aware of what you’re doing (whether it is the goal of wanting to be a CEO or earning a xyz amount a month) helps you focus on your goals, instead of robotically ticking things off your list. There is no point being a part of a rat race that never ends.
Make sure you’re introspecting your work (and life, in general) from time to time so you know exactly where you stand. Because there will be times when you step out of your comfort zone and constantly ask yourself “Why am I even doing this?” That’s when the introspection will put things into perspective and you’ll continue to have a productive day.
6) Love thy Mondays. Here’s how:
I know, you can’t and shouldn’t force an emotion. It is very natural to want another break day after a lazy Sunday. But Mondays aren’t all that bad when you plan something exciting for yourself. My to-do lists consists of either something easy, or something I have been wanting to work on, or something fun but challenging on my Mondays. And this helps!
Starting your day of the week on the right note helps you stay motivated for the rest of the week!
If you aren’t a freelancer, you can still apply this by talking to your boss. I’m sure your boss will be happy to make this change for a motivated-you throughout the week.
7) Solution to a creative block is to break down your to-do list excessively.
Everyone has creative blocks or times when you just don’t feel like drawing/writing, etc. And I found a fun solution which has been working for me over the last year.
I break my to-do list into tiny, tiny, tiiinnnyyy lists. Because there will always be something on that list that you can do even when you’re beaten and tired.
For example, a short to-do list may look like this:
– Start Project ABC
– Keep the house clean before guests arrive
– Finish writing blog post
This can be broken down into:
– Start project ABC : 1) Write ideas on paper for project ABC 2) Draw rough thumbnails 3) Draw linear illustrations 4) Colour it up.
– Keep the house clean before guests arrive: 1) Put clothes in place 2) Dust the curtains 3) Place candles/glassware on the table 4) Replace pillow covers
– Finish writing blog post: 1) Jot down pointers 2) Write a rough draft 3) Edit draft 4) Add images
Now are you saying you cant tick one thing off this list?
(Tip: Always start your day with a simple task that can be ticked off fast – this helps you feel more motivated.)
This helps your mind sense the feeling of accomplishment. This may motivate you to do more/ better the next day. I always say – something is better than nothing!
8) Organisation and scheduling will save you a lot of time = productivity higher!
A good way to live life (not just work life) is to be really organised. Other than having fixed work timings and lunch hours, you should value your time and make others value it as well.
For example, don’t pick non-work calls when you’re working (unless you absolutely need to!) so that your friends value your work hours and speak to you by the end of the day = less distraction.
Schedule your calls with your clients. Allowing your clients to call you whenever they wish to will lead to disturbance in your schedule. Scheduling calls helps both you and your client respect each other’s time which leads to a more organised day, with lesser disturbances.
Less disturbance = more focus = more productivity.
If you have any questions feel free to write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org with “Questions” as the subject.
I would love to create a conversation with you, if you have anything to add to the post, feel free to drop comments. We learn from each other! 🙂
I hope this was helpful and I truly hope you have a more productive day today (and always!)
Have a lovely day!