How to Trick Yourself into Being Productive:
Can we be honest right now? Does anyone ever go to bed after a long day feeling as if they never actually completed anything? In my personal experience, this feeling of incompletion is derived from a lack of mental concentration, willpower and ability to selectively identify the most important tasks we should focus on.
But before I share some of the tricks I have that help me to go to bed feeling accomplished, I want to talk about a word that our world deems a golden ticket to success: productivity. Unfortunately I believe that many people wrongly view productivity as a term used to describe extreme and unwavering concentration, such an individual with the ability to wake up at the crack of dawn every day, run five miles, work diligently for eight hours and maintain a blooming interpersonal life. And while some productive individuals may live up what people think of, many productive individuals such as myself, are only productive because they have learned to adopt certain tricks that prevent them from constantly giving into their urge to sit and binge watch Netflix for hours at end. Again, I am living proof that there are highly unmotivated, but yet still productive individuals in this world.
If you could get a window into my life, you would quickly see that productivity comes in waves for me. Sometimes I feel invisible, concentrated and goal orientated. Hello Stanford. But other times, I seriously cannot focus on a single task for the life of me. During these times, despite how hard I try, my thumbs always seem to find a way to unlock my distraction device, also known as my iPhone, and before I know it I will have wasted over an hour looking at Pinterest recipes that I will most likely never try. But what I have learned is that mindless scrolling on social media sites and inability to focus on a task at hand is inevitably, the key for me however, is to find little tricks that help me overcome my natural lazy tendencies.
So incase you are curious here are my four favorite ways to get my lazy self to be highly productive:
1.) The Pomodoro technique. I just downloaded the Pomodoro application a few months ago, but it has already been a lifesaver when I am feeling totally unmotivated to do my work. Essentially the Pomodoro technique segments your work into 25 minute segments, with five-minute breaks in between each interval. This method is seriously awesome for college students such as myself, who can feel overwhelmed by all the work they have to complete and don’t know where to begin. I have found that after just one 25 minute Pomodoro interval, I already feel more focused and motivated. In addition to the application helping to force me to get started with my work, it also gives me 5 minutes to be a lazy rascal without feeling totally guilty about it. Rather than picking up my phone and wasting over 40 minutes without even realizing it, the structured five-minute break interval ensures that I won’t lose track of the time I am wasting mindlessly browsing social media. Plus after four 25 minute intervals, the application gives you a 15 minute break. Holler.
2.) Temptation Bundling. The other day I was listening to a podcast that actually discussed a productivity technique that I have been using for years now. Now I am sure so many people use this technique already, but incase you are unaware of this technique, it is not only worth a try, but there has also been research conducted recently that backs up its effectiveness. Temptation bundling essentially sounds what it is. When you temptation bundle, you allow yourself to do something you really dislike or want to avoid, such as running on the treadmill, studying or writing an essay, with something you do want to do, such as watching your favorite reality show, going to your favorite coffee shop or eating a delicious ice cream cone. Even though I have technically not entered the 9-5pm “real world,” I can still relate to the feeling you get when you are always being responsible and diligent, namely that life can begin to seem somewhat monotonous and boring. For this reason, temptation bundling has absolutely saved me. By allowing myself to do some of my favorite things under certain conditions, I feel motivated to get through the rough part of being productive or responsible, while still feeling excited about the little things in life.
3.) Learn to focus on your long term goals. Everyone has different long term goals, but I still think that in order to get through our inevitably difficult days without giving up, it’s important to learn how to close your eyes, re-orientate your mind to realize that what you’re going through right now, (think three hours of sleep with a work project or final due and an essay to write), is only temporary and a stepping stone to get you where you want to be in the long-term. And while focusing on your long term goals is not necessarily a radical productivity trick, it seriously helps me overcome the urge to be lazy and forget why I am being responsible.
4.) Take a break. Contrary to what we often think, taking a mental break now and then is not always a sign of lack of willpower. A true mental break after hitting a wall is different than giving up. I used to be terrified of taking breaks because I thought that it automatically meant that I was being lazy. In reality however, if you can learn to use breaks effectively you can actually become more productive. I found that sometimes you just need mindless breaks, like 30 minutes watching ridiculous cat videos, or a trip to the mall with your friend after a long week. But other times, we can still find ways to be productive while taking breaks, such as going to the gym, doing yoga, reading or cleaning out a closet. All of the activities I mentioned give your fried or unfocused brain a rest while simultaneously being productive. I call this non research based technique, the “trick your brain into thinking your being lazy, when you’re actually not.”