Get Ahead

While procrastination may successfully contain a task in a narrow window of time, it leaves little room for error. Why not ramp up, cross things off of your list and finish early? If you are ten steps ahead, any setback has a cushion. You will be less likely to fall behind. And from the mouth of a man who deserves the procrastination crown, trust me, it feels better to know you’re ahead. Stay ahead if you can.

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Batch Like-Minded Processes

Every January, my parents do a brilliant thing: they map out the year’s birthdays, buy cards for everyone in a single trip (often armed with coupons to save big bucks), sign & address every card in a single sitting, and slip them into the mail one by one as each birthday approaches. They save dozens of trips to the store (as much as 35 hours per year in round trips!) and finish the project with an annual peace of mind.

It might sound like cheating, but how many people’s birthdays have you missed? When faced with impending birthdays, it’s a lot of work to go to the store every time – the deed rarely gets done! Better to do it in a batch than not at all.

Batching like-minded tasks plays a key role in productivity. While multi-tasking, priorities get disheveled. You only carry out part of a task before moving on to another. By the end of the day, you’ve touched hundreds of things and finished nothing. Better to finish one stack and move on after it’s done. You may not make progress in other areas, but at least you can take pride in crossing something off your list.

The “like-minded” part is important. Managing money uses a different part of your brain than design. It takes a lot of mental effort to switch gears between creativity and cold numbers. The transition between may cost you time and quality. While the financials and design may fall under one project, they are not like-minded processes. Better to do the financials for three different projects at once – even at the expense of crossing a project off your list. You will hone your focus and build mental momentum to get you through similar tasks much quicker. In aggregate, you will save a lot of time and yield better results.

Study your to-do list. Group similar items by tool used, skill needed, energy level, people involved or any other comparison metric. Split tasks into sub-tasks if they need more than one different thought process. Tackle the biggest group pile of like-minded processes first. Then revel in your accomplishments.

Take Life At Your Own Pace

There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s your life, you can do what you want. Do not let anyone slow you down or push you along. You learn from, work through and experience life differently than everyone else. Embrace that – and fight back if you need to. Going too fast may burn you out and going to slow may drain your soul. Only you know your own equilibrium. Find balance and stand up for it.

Meet the Better Day

Waking up early has advantages. First and foremost, rising early awards you the time to prepare for your day rather than straggle to work or school having dragged yourself out of bed. A leisurely pace in the morning is much healthier and less stressful than a race against truancy. You can make yourself breakfast (the most important meal of the day) and squeeze in some exercise. You have time to get extra work done (like posting to your blog) and enjoy peace & quiet enough to do it. If you get out of the house early, you can beat the rush and save even more time getting to and from. Charged with all of these benefits, you are better-equipped to have a better day.

Can’t Solve Your Problem?

More often than not, you trap yourself in a logic loop by staring at the same problem for too long. Take a break. Change your scenery. Revisit the puzzle with a fresh set of eyes. Your brain struggles to invent a different approach without new variables to experiment with. While inspiration or counseling may help, tweaks as simple as snacks or fresh air can alter your mental state enough to tackle your situation from a different angle. If you have the time, sleep on it. Trust in the change of pace and you may find the answer you are looking for.

Consistently Persistent

Do you have plans to write a book? Make a film? Start a company? Do you work on them every single day?

You do not achieve goals by taking breaks here and there, chipping away when you feel like it. You achieve goals by consistently persisting forward and never taking a day off. Thirty minutes per day yields better results than three hours once per week. If you take a break, you will lose momentum. Lose momentum, and your passion project may fade to the back of your mind. You will lose.

If your mission is tied to your very core, then maybe you can survive output droughts. To intertwine your mission to your core in the first place, you need to consistently believe in it. There are feature films I have wanted to produce since I was eleven years old. I have no polished screenplays or financing to show for them, no plans to produce anytime soon. I touch these projects once every few months at best. But I wake up at night after dreaming about them every so often. They will not leave me alone. To make the films, however, I need to commit. I will need to start making daily progress to finish them. They will never get made otherwise.

Don’t Stop!

Spurts of energy and productivity are rare – whatever you do, do not waste them. Don’t stop until you drop. This may be antithetical to my advice on health and rest, but sleep is far more accessible than inspiration. You can always sleep; you cannot always break the personal sound barrier.