Note: This is the first in a three-part series on productivity and gaining momentum. If you find this helpful, please leave a comment–I love hearing from you!
The worst way to prepare for a productive day is to wait until the last minute to get started. As soon as we sit down at the computer, ready to work, we are instantly bombarded with distractions. Distractions spell only one thing–disaster. If you don’t have a game plan before you’re even ready to begin, your day will not be near as productive as it should be.
It’s still fairly early in the morning. You have an idea of what you want to get done today, and you sit down at your desk . . . and nothing happens. After several minutes to half an hour of sitting at your desk, checking email and perusing Facebook, you realize you’ve been sucked into the greatest time waster in history. Again.
Hopefully, that picture isn’t of you. It is of me—way too many days. I’ve often found that when I sit down, ready to write or fix something, I end up looking at the clock half an hour or an hour later and say, “Hey! What happened?” Then, guilt sets in because I’ve wasted so much time. Bad deal.
If you find yourself in my shoes, I’d like to share with you how I get stuck into my work—and actually make progress toward its completion, without wasting time or becoming guilty and stressed out over the fact that so much time is gone already.
I’d like to share seven techniques I use to prepare for a productive day and get stuff done.
Getting ready to start is an absolute must. Almost 100% of the time, if I don’t prepare ahead at least a little bit, I will not be nearly as productive, and I will also not get up to speed near as quickly. Preparation—so that momentum is already sitting there, ready to be released—is a must if you want to make an impact in the time you have.
Here’s how I prepare for a productive day:
- Find an inspiring quote. Maybe a quote for the project at hand, or for the day, or maybe even your quote-of-the-week! Find something that makes you want to sit down, dig into it, and finish the job. Don’t take more than five or ten minutes on this, though, because that would ruin the purpose. (For fun, my quote today is: “Success is the ability to go from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm.” — Winston Churchill)
- Break it down into simpler pieces. Sometimes, our projects are just too big. Breaking it into bite-sized chunks makes it doable, instead of blowing our creative energy to bits with just the thought of its ginormous size.
- Clear your brain. If I have a thousand things bouncing around in my head simultaneously, all my creative energy is used in solely remembering everything so that I am sure to get it all done. That isn’t healthy—it makes you feel out of control—and overall you can’t get anything done if you’re trying to remember all the different bits and pieces. Especially if you’re terrified of the consequences if you forget something. (*Be sure to come back to read my third and final post in this series, Resources, to find out about one practical tool I use to help with this!)
- Start the night before. I know this seems a little crazy, because the last thing at the end of a long day is the worst time to be doing anything but resting. However, I know from experience that if I start the night before, I’ll be able to get into the zone much easier the next morning. Each evening, I try to:
- Plan. Write down what I expect of myself the next day (generally trying to keep under five main projects for the day), and plot out what hours in the day I expect to get them done in—time slots help a lot in putting personal deadlines on your day.
- Gather the tools you’ll need. As a knitter will make sure she has enough yarn and a carpenter will be sure he has enough nails and screws to do the job, you need to have all your tools handy as well. Make sure all the bits and pieces for your project are ready to grab just as soon as you get to work in the morning. It will make the day that much less complicated.
- Do the first five minutes’ worth. For some of us, this is a ludicrous idea. We’re exhausted. The last thing we want to do before bed is work. But, really, it does help. The other day, I had a huge job waiting for me the next morning. I decided I could take just a little bit of time to work on it, and by the time my five minutes were up I realized it wasn’t as big as I had originally imagined. Remembering that realization in the morning made it that much easier to get into it first thing.
I enjoy the preparation process. When I am finally ready to jump into my project, I feel like I’ve already conquered it to some extent. When I can be productive early in the morning—without wasting time trying to get into the zone—I am a happier person.
Don’t wait until the last minute to decide what you’re going to do–plan ahead. You’ll be thankful for it in the morning..
Question: Do you struggle with losing time? How do you overcome it? How do you prepare for a productive day?