Everyone procrastinates. And, eventually, everyone gets shit done. You're going to do one of those things better than the other most days...and usually it's procrastination.
You know those click bait articles that are usually like, "TOP TEN THINGS PRODUCTIVE PEOPLE DO" and its usually something like....I dont know, eating a bowl of blueberries or something each day (which IS good for you, but likely wont solve your problems). The problem with those articles or lists or suggestions of how to stop procrastination or laziness is that it doesn't get to the root of the problem.
The first thing is understanding what the "problem" is. And I put that in quotations because, honestly, I don't think procrastination is bad. Laziness isn't bad. It's just not a trait that tends to be valued in the work world. Maybe you just like to relax. Maybe you like taking the path of least resistance. Those things tend to create lazy people—but those things aren't bad. If you're lazy, just own up to it. I'm lazy. I'm a lazy asshole most days, and I sleep an uncanny amount every night if there isn't a terribly good reason to wake up. I procrastinate for months on end. It's who I am, and I own up to it. I still get stuff done, but I accept the fact that i'm lazy. I'll never be that guy that wakes up at 4AM and hits the gym and powers through the day, running miles and miles while on a treadmill desk, juggling task after task. I'm the guy who will sleep in 2 hours past my alarm, eat a few donuts for breakfast, and get to work around 3pm.
Anyways, enough about me. I have this concept of Pillars of Productivity, and Lairs of Laziness. Both are bad, both are good. Each counters each other. If you want to be on one side of the spectrum, follow either the Pillars or the Lairs.
Pillars of Productivity
- Sleeping Less
- Maintaining Health
- Working Out
- Finding Your 'Zen' Zone.
First pillar: Sleeping Less
The best way to get stuff done and be more productive is to give yourself more time in the day. If you find yourself sleeping more than you need to (over 8 hours), then find a way to cut the amount of sleep down. Wake up earlier or don't stay up as late.
This becomes increasingly more difficult the order you get. I regularly slept around 3 hours a night in college, and now i'll sleep around 12-13 hours if given the chance (it's bad...go back to that "i'm a lazy person" point). After a certain point, you're going to max out on the amount of sleep your body needs. After 8 hours, you'll start to lose a lot of benefits. You'll feel groggy, sleepy (ironically), and your sleep cycle will become accustomed to needing more and more sleep.
And don't get me wrong: it's fine to sleep in on your days off, the weekend, if you're sick, etc. But the first step to being more productive is to really, REALLY plan out the part of day where you can literally do nothing. It's a point in time where you CANT be productive. The only way to be productive when you sleep is by planning how long you'll sleep. So less hours: better.
Just don't push it. Dip below say 6 hours a day, and you'll hurt yourself in the long run. The hardest part about this pillar of productivity is that people often think that they need to sleep less to do more work, or work until their death 5 days of the week. If this is ACTUALLY true, you need to change careers, because that isn't healthy. Do you actually, truly have 16 hours of work in the day? Is there something you can do to expedite a process? Or perhaps you should find someone to help you with work so you aren't stuck working all hours of the day.
Finding a way to manage time is the key to sleep: again, because its something largely out of your control, being able to manage time well means you'll be able to actually sleep as much as you need to each night. Most people can't sit at their desk for 4 hours and do 4 hours of work. They'll do 1 hour of work and procrastinate the next 3. That's either 3 hours of sleep, or 3 hours of being able to do something productive, so take your pick.
Time management is difficult, but if you start forcing yourself to getting a minimum amount of sleep (6-8 hours) is a step in the right direction.
Second Pillar: Maintaining Health
This is a WIDE category. This includes your diet, dental health, and mental health. This includes grooming, cleaning, and any form of daily maintenance your body needs. This definitely includes flossing, because lots of people seem to skip that...
The idea of this pillar is that a health 'you' is a more productive 'you'. Your body is in tip top shape, and ready and capable to conquer the day. This means:
- eating less unhealthy foods
- brushing well and flossing well. Like, ACTUALLY doing those things well
- Drinking less soda, beer, or drinks bad for your health / teeth
- Spending less time on social media (too much of that will get you depressed!)
- Eating less carbohydrates but more fruits and veggies. This goes if you are a vegetarian or not: carbs really aren't doing you a lot of good, and they add lots of weight. If you're American, you probably eat too much carbs.
- Finding ways to reduce stress. Meditation, taking a scenic route to avoid traffic, or calming music. Find what stresses you out and either fight it or avoid it.
- Eating less junk food. Really, you gotta stop it. Chocolate, Burger King, and multiple beers per night is not health (shame on you if you do this all at once too).
- COOK YOUR OWN FOOD. I can not stress this enough. Store bought and pre made food is often really, really delicious, but it can be loaded with fats, salts, and sugars to make them taste good.
The basic idea of this Pillar is that in order to be productive, your body needs to be a well oiled machine. Your diet and overall health is fairly easy to maintain, and its a great way to keep yourself fresh and active at all times.
I think one of the best parts of this pillar is dental health. Take the time to really brush and floss your teeth extremely well. Just take time out of your day, and make sure you are really taking care of your body.
Third Pillar: Working Out
This fits in with both of the previous two Pillars. In order to work out, you'll need time (likely before or after work), so you'll need to manage time better. You may need to sleep less to do this also.
While you are maintaining your health through better diet, working out is going to dramatically increase your productivity. Like the Second Pillar, you're finding ways to make your body in the best shape it can be. Yes, it'll make you tired. Yes, it takes time. Yes, its a lot of effort. But it helps.
Start slow, and work your way up. Can you run a mile in 9 minutes? Go for 8 minutes and 50 seconds next week. And so on, and so on. Hell, even if you ARENT improving in how much you can lift, how fast you can run, etc., you're still doing your body a favor by staying active.
For those of you who can't do these things: Even things like yoga, going for a walk, or stretch are great ways to get yourself into a productive mindset.
Fourth Pillar: Finding Your 'Zen' Zone
If you thought managing your time, sleeping less, eating healthier, and working out more was hard...this Pillar is the hardest. Your 'Zen' Zone are the places you can be most productive. They are both physical and imaginary locations.
Lets face it: there are places where you aren't productive. Quite often, ironically, this is at your desk. This is often where you are most comfortable, have the most distractions, and are most likely to do something other than the task at hand. Sometimes finding your 'Zen' Zone is by eliminating these distractions. It can be removing yourself from checking Facebook, Instagram, or watching Youtube videos (i.e: imagianary locations). It can be by listening to music that helps you focus. Maybe working at a coffee shop, library, or in a different room is better for you.
This takes a lot of experimenting, but do as much as you can to make sure your 'Zen' Zone can be consistency productive. This usually means eliminating as many potential distractions as possible. Unplug the internet and toss your phone in another room if you have to! Just get shit done.
So...let's review. Sleep less / maintain your schedule. Keep track of your health, diet, and grooming. Work out. Find a good place to work.
"So how the hell does this make me more productive?"
Well...it doesn't. That's the idea. It's giving you the tools needed to succeed. Being productive isn't something magical—you can't do some weird pseudo science or take drugs to magically make yourself more productive. The best way is to set yourself up for success.
A lot of the Pillars of Productivity are actually steps you should take if you ever get out of a bad relationship. And in a lot of ways, the same concept applies to a bad breakup and being lazy. You are often drawn into easy comforts, depression, and sadness. You sleep in, eat worse, and don't do what you need to do. These activities, these Pillars: they're designed to get you in a better mental and physical state so you are able to maximize the hours in the day to get work done. While it seems counter intuitive (you'll lose time by doing these things), you'll often find the time you do have leftover is more productive.
The idea is you're forcing yourself not to be in the mindset of a lazy person. You are putting yourself in the daily habits of a go-getter. You may not actually ever BE that person, but you're at least taking the right steps in becoming them. If you set yourself up for failure—you sleep in, eat bad, etc—you'll fail. So if you never give yourself the chance to be lazy / procrastinate / etc., you'll end up on top.
So...let's go into the last bit. It's not quite as thrilling, but its worth mentioning:
Lairs of Laziness
- Sleeping in / Getting the 'most' sleep possible per night
- Eating poorly / Eating out
- Not being active (physically and mentally)
- Finding your comfort zone
So, as you may have guessed, the Lairs of Laziness are the opposite of the Pillars of Productivity. Its important to realize that these points will creep up on you quickly and can undermine your success and will lead to being less productive.
You'll often find yourself hitting the snooze button or 'giving' yourself more hours to sleep because you deserve it. And, hey, maybe you do, but most likely....this is not true.
You'll start to eat worse. This is usually seen as "oh i'm so busy, i'll just get take out". Do you get takeout thats just fresh grilled veggies, a salad, and organic fresh squeezed juice? No? It's Pizza? Great, because that's really, really healthy for you. Take out food CAN be good, but it often isn't. Cooking your own food helps control what literally goes in (...and out....) and can prevent you from eating food that will slow you down and promote laziness.
(Eat less carbs. Remember that.)
Not being active: self explanatory. You may stop working out because you get tired, or maybe you start fooling yourself ("I'll just go to the gym two times tomorrow!") Your body is going to likely fight this every step of the way, but remember that the voice in your head that says "lets eat pizza, sleep in, and skip the gym" is the same one that says "Lets not write those emails, finish that paper, or turn in that assignment". A big part of the Pillars of Productivity is that you're generally doing things your body doesnt want to do naturally. Your fighting the inner demons and voices that tell you its OK to be lazy. The more often you can shut those demons up, the easier it gets to effectively do your work.
And lastly, finding your comfort zone. This is not the same as your 'Zen' Zone. Your comfort zone is your bed, your couch, or at your friends house. It's a place that isnt good for work, but is good for relaxing. If you want to be lazy, go to these places. If you want to be productive, avoid them.
Conversely, if you're looking for ways to be lazier or ways to relax more, this is also a great way to do that: Sleep more, eat out, dont be active, and just find a place to chill. Like I said, being lazy isn't a bad thing....but it often goes against what the world wants you to do.
A final, last tip: keep a journal. If you write down what you did in the day, it can be easy to judge for yourself if you are being productive or not. If you "worked" for 8 hours in the day but can only fill in 2 lines of a journal detailing what you did...well, maybe the thing you did was done ineffectively. Maybe you could have done more. Maybe you got too distracted? Etc.
So whether you want to be lazy or productive: follow the Pillars or the Lairs for finding the right balance in life. And there is a balance! Don't work yourself to death and don't be a lazy asshole all day. You'll never be happy in life if you commit to one or the other, so don't. Be a lazy asshole on the weekends and kick ass monday-friday. Or work a 4 day work week. Do what you got to do. Just remember that a balance in life is whats important, and YOU should always be the one to figure that balance out.