In today’s blog, I’m going to let you into one of my little secrets…I’m actually not that good at sticking with a task once it’s become, well…routine! Consequently I’m always on the look out for old, new or novel ways to achieve more effective or greater productivity. The reason for this is that I become bored quite easily and so once I perceive a task to be routine it becomes an effort for me to keep doing it day in day out. That’s not to say that I don’t do these everyday tasks, I do, but on those days when I’m less motivated than usual, I like to ‘wrap’ these tasks up in little packets of novelty so that they are a little less ordinary.
So today I’m going to share with you some of the tactics I use when procrastination would like to have me glued to the sofa all day instead of ticking things off my to do list. Maybe some of them will work for you too, but in any event, why not give some of them a try…at least trying gets you moving!
Of course we all tend to tackle our tasks in different ways, some people like to concentrate on one task to completion, whilst others prefer the variety of working on multiple tasks simultaneously. My natural tendency is to fall into the latter group, possibly because I love to see a ‘To Do’ list with lots and lots of tasks crossed through by the end of the day, although if I’m honest, it’s probably because monotony creeps in if I’m working on just one thing which then makes me procrastinate and look for other inconsequential things to do to break up the dullness!
I’ve tried many different ways to overcome my tendency to multitask over the years, but have had to concede that this is just my preferred way of working, and so in accepting this, I’ve had to find ways to best utilise this ‘ability’.
One method that has worked for my quite consistently over the years is to work in packets of 3 tasks at a time. I have no idea why it’s 3 tasks and not more or less, but I find that the number 3 somehow works well for me. It seems to be a manageable number for my brain to work with to achieve progress in a reasonable amount of time whilst keeping the feeling of overwhelm at bay.
So, for example, after preparing a ‘brain dump’ of all tasks which are cluttering up my head by committing them to paper, I then look back over the list and pick out the first task I’m going to tackle. I’m picking my words quite carefully as I write this, because the first task will be determined by (a) whether it’s urgently needed for that day (first determinant), or (b) if (a) doesn’t apply, which task do I just want to get off my list (because it’s causing me some kind of stress), or (c) where neither of the above apply, I just feel like doing it!
In picking the next two tasks to make up a task sandwich, I usually look for things that will take a varying amount of time. With all choices, unless completion is urgently required that day, I’m only thinking in terms of making progress.
Finally, I list the 3 tasks separately to the main list and then just work on them in rotation. The aim is to do something, regardless of how small, and just to keep moving. Once I’m ‘finished’ (this doesn’t necessarily mean completion) with task 1, I move on to do something on task 2 and then task 3 then, back to the first task… I’ll continue in this way until I have either completed one or all of the tasks or reached a point where no further progress can be made on that day. Et voila! Three tasks progressed or completed and it’s back to the masterlist to choose three more…
There are some days though when even this little tactic can’t create momentum, but, in the same way that an object in motion stays in motion, I just need to get moving because I know that once I’m doing something, I’ll keep going. The issue here seems to be the daunting task of actually choosing which task to start with. Recognising that it is in fact making a decision which is the problem, I came across a nifty little tactic on the Mark Forster blog which works perfectly in this situation. The method is to make the choice completely random.
In a nutshell (you can check out Mark’s blog for more info), you just need to write a list of tasks, allocate a number to each task (1 to n) and then use some kind of random number generator to pick your task for you (I use a free app for this). You might be thinking that this method sounds really silly, but I can assure you that if you’re really struggling with procrastination, this method will break through! You’ll find that having the weight of choosing your task lifted, plus the novelty of not knowing which task you’ll be doing next is really very motivating and you’ll get through your to do list very quickly!
There are many, many ways to motivate yourself and a quick search of the web can turn up lots of ideas. I also wrote another blog post on some other methods I use here, which you might also like to check out.
So what about you? Are you the kind of person who can stick with one task until it’s complete..if so, please let me into your secret! Or are you more of a multitasker? What’s your secret productivity tip? Please share if you have a tip, I’m all ears!
Photo: Jon-Eric Melsaeter