Monday, February 15, 2010

I want to be productive

If you're reading this website, chances are you're already searching for the path to be more productive.  While there isn't a magic pill or a single secret trick that will instantly give you the motivation and energy to be the most productive person you can be, there are certainly tricks that can help you reach a higher level of productivity.

No, it's not about putting post-its all over your body.  It's about 1) reducing stress and 2) achieving the feeling of accomplishment.  But how can we achieve those 2 goals?  If you think about some of your most accomplished days, those days are typically days when you've crossed off the most number of items off your to-do list.  Notice I said the most number of items.  That doesn't mean you've done the most important things (though you certainly do not want to have completely pointless items on your daily to-do lists).

The psychological trick is that you will feel most productive and less stressed out when you finish a large quantity of tasks.  This has a bad flip-side, namely, you will be extremely stressed out when you have done very few items and you still have a large to-do list (again, even if those items are unimportant).  But the good news is that you can trick yourself into being more productive by putting down a lot of minor tasks on your to-do list and cross them off as you finish them.  For example, as insignificant as it maybe, you can put down 'call back Ron' on your to-do list if you've been meaning to catch up with a friend.  Or maybe you can add 'check phone bill' on your list of things to do.  These might be small, nagging items that you have been meaning to do for a while, but you didn't think they were worth putting down on your to-do list.  Now you know better, as finishing those tasks can often give you the jump-start you need to get your day going!

Now some of you nay sayers will say that one should not put insignificant items on your to do list, as they can just be time wasters or a method to procrastinate.  But for the sake of getting momentum to do work, to get motivation to do bigger tasks, and for feeling like you can take on the day-- well, then those minor tasks you crossed off on your to-do list have a good purpose.  This is the same reason why you will read a lot of productivity gurus talking about reaching for the low-hanging fruit on your list first-- the more you can cross off, the better you feel about your day.

Try this trick out and let us know how it works for you in the comments.

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