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Productivity & Work

Why you should schedule nothing (sometimes) 

We live and die by our to-do lists.

From priorities, daily activities, to short and long-term goals, the to-do list steers our purpose and directs our attention.

But then we get distracted. We lose motivation. We gravitate toward doing the other things that grab our immediate interest. These miscellaneous tasks — scrolling Instagram for instance — go outside the realm of structured procrastination.

We all know our big must complete tasks. There’s no need to write them down.

Perhaps the best call to action starts with making our bed or converting unnecessary busyness into idleness by allowing our mind to float.

It’s the unwritten habits, and the deliberate pauses in our day, that really set us up for the work we’re meant to do.

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Arts Creativity Life & Philosophy Productivity & Work

The trick to staying motivated

Money and fame often serve as motivation. So too does doing good for the world. You’d think it’s impossible to be motivated every day.

But you don’t have to be 100% motivated to get stuff done. It only takes a little motivation to get started.

Fortune favors the motivated

Motivation is not a prerequisite to doing the work.

People often work even when they don’t feel like it. Whether they’re following a passion project or exercising pure grit, fortune favors the consistent.

For some like artists and athletes, the daily grind is a profession. It is through starting, action, that is both the cause and effect of motivation.

Motivation is a psychological muscle. If everyone was purely ruled by mood, they’d probably reach for a candy bar or a red bull. The right type of motivation takes looking inside yourself — intrinsic motivation — for the push forward.

Self-help blogs, books, and streams are wonderful but they only provide temporary motivation. Motivation is fickle.

The trick to getting better at any craft is through persistent practice.

Never let being extraordinary prevent you from starting. Even more, spending time thinking about how well things may go can also become also a demotivating force.

If all else fails to inspire, ask yourself whether you were really interested in the first place.

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Productivity & Work

The structured procrastination strategy

The biggest trick about email is that it gives you the feeling you’ve done something. Every time you open an email, your head lights up like a Christmas tree.

Can you imagine sitting outside your snail mail mailbox and opening it up twenty times a day? What a waste of time!

Running on the dopamine trail disrupts your productivity.

What you could do instead is structure your procrastination so you get other stuff done. The father of structured procrastination is Stanford professor John Perry, author of The Art of Procrastination. He writes:

All procrastinators put off things they have to do. Structured procrastination is the art of making this bad trait work for you. The key idea is that procrastinating does not mean doing absolutely nothing. Procrastinators seldom do absolutely nothing; they do marginally useful things, like gardening or sharpening pencils or making a diagram of how they will reorganize their files when they get around to it.

John Perry
The structured procrastination strategy

Repeat: Procrastination does not mean doing nothing

Don’t beat yourself up for avoiding things at the top of the list. Chew on them while you go to work on something else. It’s the overthinking and doing nothing that tears you apart.

Note that staying busy does not mean checking Facebook. Social networks and their variable rewards are even more addicting than email.

Keep in mind that you’ll have to put your ass in the chair and dance with the anxiety at some point. If you don’t do the work, you simply don’t care enough.

Procrastinators can be finishers. Until then, reframe procrastination by doing important smaller things.

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Creativity Life & Philosophy

Mental clarity begins in cleaning out the basement

The basement gets a bad rap. It’s the relegation zone. It’s a mess, with cobwebs on the door handles and mountains of dust building in the corners.

There may be mysterious sounds and unidentifiable creatures living in the cracks. But the basement also presents the biggest opportunity to turn disorder into something presentable.

When you start at the bottom, you’re working in reverse.

In cleaning out the canvass, you empty the head and suddenly envision how to fill in the blank slate with something more meaningful. You will give a new meaning to emptiness.

Anyone can emerge from the darkest places back to life if they’re willing to start from scratch. Accepting the Herculean task of debugging your messy ways can help reprogram your mind so you can breathe fresh thinking into the void.

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Life & Philosophy Productivity & Work Writing

Doing honest work

When it’s all said and done, your work’s satisfaction will depend on your level of completeness.

Should your efforts have skirted the task in any way, incompleteness may leave an indelible stain. Let the resistance win and it’ll sow you with regret the rest of your life.

Very few writers know what they are doing until they’ve done it.

Anne Lamott

It’s better to surround yourself with disciplinary practices to avoid laziness and to hinder the appetite for taking shortcuts.

Not to be overly obsessed but an achievement-hungry personality already makes one different than everyone else.

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Productivity & Work

Trust the routine

The writer, blogger, or boxer must always keep in training. The artist or athlete can’t wait for the muse to inject them with productivity serum.

Routine is much more compelling than inspiration, which is fickle, comes in flashes, and rarely sticks.

On the flipside of consistency, is also imperfection. The practician not only faces the resistance, they also face human error.

Showing up every day is one thing, doing it again regardless of the results is yet another habit to develop. All that you are is a result of what you have thought.

Error is human. You need some form of struggle to remind you what needs tweaking. However, when the going gets good, you’ll want to maintain it.

If you’re wondering how you’re going to do it all again tomorrow, build off the confidence of yesterday.

I’ll leave you with this advice from thought leader and psychologist Benjamin Hardy.

Get this clear: confidence is a direct reflection of past performance. Hence, yesterday is more important than today. Luckily, today is tomorrow’s yesterday. So, even if your confidence today isn’t optimal, your confidence tomorrow is still within your control.

Benjamin Hardy
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