Do you have some downtime this week? I’m sure if you thought more careful about how you spend your days, you could probably find 30 minutes on most days when you are not really doing anything. Do you have any unfinished tasks on your to-do list from last week? It could be an annoying task you have been putting off for a few days such as dropping off your laundry or rearranging the books on your shelf. What if you chipped away at those catch up tasks for 30 minutes each day during your downtime?
Nobody likes doing dishes but most people would agree that dishes are tasks that need to be done. If you don’t, you’d eventually run out of clean cutlery to use. We all have repetitive tasks that no one particularly enjoys but can acknowledge they need to get done. Tasks like these are the ones we are more likely to procrastinate on either.
Unpleasant but necessary tasks such as doing the dishes are best done by batching them. For example, if you washed all the cutlery you used for breakfast before getting out of the house, you wouldn’t have to come home to an overflowing sink. If you tried to wash each item immediately after you use it, you might get bored but if you made a commitment to wash each item after meals, you would be committing to doing the dishes only three (or 2) times a day and this seems more manageable.
If you ask most people, what hours they would consider their peak periods of alertness, they would say early morning hours. After a good night’s rest, they are fully rested and have the energy to dive into almost any task with greater enthusiasm. It also helps that at those hours, there are often fewer distractions. People are yet to have their first arguments for the day and as a result are often in a happier place.
Unfortunately, the early morning hours are the time that a lot of people waste on trivial tasks. Many people wake up at dawn, reach for their phones and start checking social media. Unless you are managing the social media profile of a company for a living or work in customer care, that is probably not the most productive use of your time. How much more could you get done if you learnt to harness an hour or two each morning?
My previous post was about the reasons you just can’t seem to take that crucial first step towards getting your goals achieved. For many people, fear seems to be the factor that stops them. If you regularly find yourself in a productivity slump, there are a few techniques you can try to help you get in the mood for work. The most difficult step is often the first one.
Schedule your tasks
If you can’t see it, you can’t get it done. Write down what you want to do. Use a to-do list. If you have recurring tasks, try and schedule them for the same time of the week or day. After some time, they will become habits and be easier for you to do. Having a schedule means once it’s time to get a task started, your brain automatically goes into work mode and you can jump into your tasks straight away.
Do you ever have days when you wake up knowing what you are supposed to do but somehow just can’t seem to get started? Days where you know the next step to take because you have written in your to-do list but something stops you taking that first step and building momentum. It’s a fact of life that we will all have good days and bad days. There are a lot of reasons why you find yourself struggling to start tasks. Most of those reasons stem from one thing: FEAR.
Fear of the unknown
Achieving goals requires stepping out of your comfort zone. It is never easy to do that. We are creatures of habit and we like staying where it is safe. The average person is content to do the same things again and again because they are what he/she is used to and that comfort is not something they want to let go off. Working on your goals requires pushing your limits and trying new (sometimes scary) things. If you aren’t ready to ditch the comfort zone, you won’t get started on important tasks.
Raise your hand if you use a to-do list. You’re my best friend if you do. To-do lists are a great way of capturing tasks you need to get done. The satisfaction of crossing off items on your list as they get done or the ding you hear after marking a task as completed on your digital list motivate you to start working on the next task so you can get another feel good hit as soon as it’s completed.
November has been the personal productivity system (PPS) month. I hope you read the three preceding articles that cover what you need to design your own PPS. In case you didn’t you can find them here, here and here. I felt this series wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t share some of what I used for my own PPS. I believe there is no such thing as the perfect productivity app and encourage everyone to experiment until they find what works best for them. However, if you are curious about what I use, here you go:
Last week, I wrote about the best ways to deal with a task, an event and a process. Processes are generally more complex and are made up of many tasks being performed by different people. In order to keep processes, running smoothly, you will need to deploy a task management system.
The ideal task management system consists of three things:
- A medium for capturing tasks
- A calendar for noting events
- A system that can handle processes
Last week, I wrote about what a task, an event and a process are. Just in case you missed that post, you can read it here. A good personal productivity system is one that has been set up to handle tasks, events and processes. Each requires a different response.
Tasks are often the easiest to handle. They are to be done by you and you are the only person responsible for them. A task is best handled by being written down as an item on a to-do list. Optionally, you can also write down when a task is due eg Buy onions at ‘Yankaba market 10am. Adding due times can be helpful when you need to arrange tasks in the order to start first. Write down tasks in simple, clear sentences using an action word. Avoid ambiguous words like “Contact” instead use visit, meet with, call, email etc so there is no doubt what you need to do.
I have written a lot about some of my favourite tools and principles of personal productivity. I hope they have been as helpful to you as they have been to me when I began my journey towards making conscious decisions about how I spend my time. This month, I would like to write about how to bring all of those things together to create a personal productivity system that works for you. If you don’t have a personal productivity system (PPS) yet, you can use the posts I will be making in November as a template to build one for yourself. If you already have a PPS, I believe you can still find something in here that will be useful to you.
Before you create your own PPS, you need to understand the difference between a task, an event and a process.