We all have the same amount of time, so why do some people seem to be able to get so much done in a single day? What do they know about productivity that we don’t? Can procrastination be a thing of the past?
Science has shown that some people have a genetic abnormality that seems to allow them to thrive on only four hours of sleep. Most of us don’t have that gene, so reducing sleep to gain more waking hours is not the answer long term. In fact, many successful people, including Arianna Huffington and Bill Gates, value sleep above many other parts of working life. This post is not about sleeping less to create more time. If you haven’t already guessed, that’s unhealthy and unsustainable. Today we’re talking about being more productive in the time you have.
Straight up. If you’re snoozing for half an hour each morning, you’re probably not getting enough sleep. Snoozing is wasted time. You’re not getting quality sleep and you’re not being productive. It’s a waste! Set your alarm half an hour later to benefit from more sleep, then get straight out of bed. Go to bed a bit earlier and train yourself to get out of bed within a couple of minutes of waking up.
Kevin Systrom, the creator of Instagram, has spoken many times about his “five minute rule” where he simply makes a deal with himself that if he feels like he is avoiding a task, he’ll do just five minutes of it. Try it. Boost your productivity by setting a timer for five minutes and do as much as you can in that time. Chances are, after five minutes you’ll be in the groove and keep going. Even if you decide to stop, at least you’ve got five minutes of solid work done, which is better than nothing.
The Five Second Rule
Nope, this isn’t giving you the chance to do a task for five seconds; even I don’t think that would work. This one comes from Mel Robbins who believes that when we have an instinct to move towards a goal, we should act on it within five seconds before our brain talks us out of it. When you think about taking an action, she suggests you countdown to yourself, “5 – 4 – 3 – 2 – 1 – Go” and just take the action.
Robbins is a fan of physically moving when you say go. This distracts your brain and stops you talking yourself out of action. Here’s how it works: You’re thinking it’s time to get fit: 5 – 4 – 3 – 2 – 1… Pick up the phone and join a gym, book a PT session or make some other commitment to go. You’re goal is to get a new job: 5 – 4 – 3 – 2 – 1… Submit your application. You don’t want to snooze anymore: 5 – 4 – 3 – 2 – 1… Get out of bed. You just want to be healthier: 5 – 4 – 3 – 2 – 1… drink a glass of water.There is some neuroscience to support this rule, and that physical movement activates your brain’s prefrontal cortex. For now, just know that it will take you out of autopilot, and your autopilot is currently set to make excuses why you shouldn’t go for your goal. Shut that down!
The One Thing
Consider this: What’s the one thing you can do today to take you towards your goal that will make all other actions easier or unnecessary? That’s the One Thing you need to do: First and above all else. Just get that done. This comes from Gary Keller and Jay Papasan’s book of the same name, and is based on the idea that multitasking is a flawed approach. Is there one thing you can do today that will move you closer to your goal? It’s probably not the most fun thing; in fact, it’s probably the thing you’ve been avoiding. Be honest with yourself. You probably know what it is. Do that. Productivity isn’t about doing more things, it’s about doing the important things.
The Pomodoro Technique
Often tasks will expand to fill the time allotted to them. Humans seem to dislike “spare” time, so we busy ourselves with things that can be done more quickly. You know the people who leave assignments to the night before they are due because they, “work well under pressure”? That would be fine if the only time allocated to the task was the time used, but usually they have wasted time procrastinating. They’re rushing with the task, but they haven’t adequately used the time spent not working on their goal.
This productivity hack builds on the five minute rule, but works in half hour sections. You do 25 minutes of work and take a five minute break, then repeat. Something about the time pressure of the 25 minutes makes you far more focused and productive. It sounds too simple to work, but it really does and plenty of successful people use this every day. After four rounds, give yourself a longer, 15 or 20 minute break. Pay attention to how much more you are getting done.
Make a conscious effort to try some of these techniques. If they work for you to increase productivity, keep doing them.