Tricking Myself Into Productivity

When I’m pressed for time, I put tasks off until later. So I’ve decided to do what I do when I’m convinced I have no time to garden in my yard. I think, “I can’t weed right now, I’ve got to take make dinner. Besides, the garden is a mess. I need a bigger chunk of time on another day to clean it up.” I trick myself. I promise myself that I’m going to work for a small amount of time: 15 minutes, a half-hour, hour, etc. This gives me a hard stop in my head. I promise myself freedom. I give myself an out. “If I weed one-sixth of the garden and the rest is still a mess, that’s okay. I accomplished a goal.”

How It Works

The trick works. I always focus for the allotted time. More often than not, I go beyond the allotted time. A half-hour passes and I’m on a roll. I’m into it. I’m cleaning up the weeds and seeing bare dirt and I want push on. I want to make at least half the border look good, then I’ll go in. And that is what I do. I’m not going to say, “And then I cleaned up the entire border and I’m awesome!” I do just the secondary, slightly bigger goal and that’s it.

You’d be surprised what can be accomplished in an hour. I know this from working as a professional on the clock. Sometimes an entire garden can be cleaned up. Sometimes not. The point is to set the bar low and either reach it or go beyond it. The task transforms from being  overwhelming to doable. In pieces, it’s downright manageable. And often, because it was simpler and more doable than you thought, you end up inspired to do more the next day.

Just Do Writing

Writing is different. You have to psychologically be in a quiet space. It’s harder to transition into as I talked about here. But I find, even if it’s opening a story I’ve already written and tweaking it, that if I try working on my writing for a short time, I accomplish goodness. Even it’s a little something. Then I have the words staying in my head. Later, I get new ideas. I get back into living in the story. I’m more apt to say to myself, “OK, you have an hour before lunch, let’s just dive in and start typing. See what happens.” It’s almost the National Novel Writing Month approach. Just do it! Don’t procrastinate because it won’t be good. Dive in and see what happens. I finally bought in to that approach this last November. What happened was I finished  the draft of a bad clunky novel. But I accomplished that. Now my goal is to revise it whenever I have a free 15 minutes, half-hour, or hour.