How to Be “Productive” Without Actually Being Productive
If you’ve ever tried working on the most manageable tasks first to help you build momentum for the more complex tasks, you’ll know it doesn’t increase your productivity. Instead, you’ll fall prey to what’s commonly known as “procrasti-working”.
𝘞𝘩𝘺 𝘪𝘴 𝘵𝘩𝘪𝘴 𝘴𝘰?
Shouldn’t getting more crossed off your to-do list motivate you to keep going? In theory, yes. But the reality is that hard work will always be hard. Working on the more manageable tasks and building towards the most difficult ones is often more exhausting than empowering. Instead of building momentum, you’re wasting precious energy and focusing on tasks that don’t need much of it, leaving none for the critical work that needs to be done.
When you first feel good doing all the more manageable tasks, your brain will crave more of that short-term satisfaction. Moreover, once you’ve run out of easy things to do and the happiness in your hands seems to be slipping away, you’ll look at everything you’ve crossed off the list and comfort yourself, saying, “I’ve been quite productive today. I guess I’ll start this super important, top-priority task tomorrow.”
Avoiding complex tasks won’t make them go away.
In the end, procrasti-working is still procrastination. A much more insidious form of procrastination, in fact, because we’re convinced we’re doing something productive, except we haven’t made any progress towards our goals. For example, you are going through your inbox instead of doing just about anything else. It feels good to have responded to every email and sorted them all in neat little folders, but when that’s all done, you won’t have anything to show for your efforts. You’ve been working on someone else’s to-do list the whole time!
𝘚𝘰, 𝘩𝘰𝘸 𝘤𝘢𝘯 𝘺𝘰𝘶 𝘴𝘵𝘰𝘱 𝘱𝘳𝘰𝘤𝘳𝘢𝘴𝘵𝘪 -𝘸𝘰𝘳𝘬𝘪𝘯𝘨?
First, you need to identify how you prefer to procrasti-work.
Do you default to checking your inbox when you want to feel productive? Or scrolling through social media is the culprit. Even reading articles on LinkedIn can become procrasti-work if that’s not what you should be doing!
Only by knowing your procrasti-work habits can you set about changing them.
Next, audit your to-do list and remove all your typical procrasti-work tasks.
Think about your priorities for the day and list the most important tasks first. Sure, you might need to respond to your boss’s email by the end of the day, but if it’s going to become the reason you can’t do anything else, then it’s better not to put it on your to-do list.
Finally, start your top-priority tasks first thing in the morning!
If time blocking helps you focus on your work better, use that. If the Pomodoro technique works for you, do it. Use whatever method enables you to complete those critical tasks best. Try time tracking if you’re freelancing and need to keep yourself accountable.
The key to getting work done is to get the job done! Procrasti-working is challenging to break because of how good it feels. But once you know where your pitfalls are and resolve to make a change, half the battle is won! All that’s left is to roll up your sleeves and get to work.
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