Time Magazine ran an article recently on their site, but it originally showed up on a site called “Barking Up the Wrong Tree”. The article, This Is How To Be Productive Without Being Miserable: 8 Proven Secrets, was of interest to me because of how Time repackaged it for their site — “8 Ways to Be More Productive Without Feeling Like a Robot”.
It is one of the biggest challenges with To-Do lists and time management, and even goal-setting — the feeling that you have given control of your life over to mindless box-ticking, even when you are the one who set the boxes that would be ticked. The article says you don’t need help with knowing what to do, but rather more often than not, how to get going on it. I’m reading Jeffrey Kottler’s “Change” book, and it has similar thoughts early on in the text. The idea that something is holding you back. But I like the different approach here.
The changes in the article are relatively straightforward, and you can read the full list in the above link. Here are the pieces I liked that were a bit newer research areas.
- Start the day happy — it has links to help you figure out how to start off the day in a good mood, as the momentum of the good mood far outweighs the drag of a bad mood. So find what helps improve your mood and do it first. Eat breakfast, get some annoying task out of the way as long as it won’t drag you down too much (i.e. if the bump of doing it and getting it out of the way is greater than the drag of doing it), avoid getting bogged down in email right away, etc. If you can, find something that will be later in the day that you’re looking forward to, or even better, PLAN for something to be later in the day to drag you through the morning mugwumps.
- Stop worrying and make a plan or list. For me, this is the most important step. I actively do what is called “inbox zero” which is that I almost never have an inbox with more than a screen full of messages in it. If there is something to do from it, I note it on my to-do list, and move the email. So that what is left is actually things I’m going to do really soon i.e. usually before the end of the day. I also have a temp folder where I move stuff that I haven’t logged in my to-do list yet, but aren’t urgent so that I can do mass logging later. But by moving them out of my inbox and on to my list, I can then focus on managing my to-do list with priorities, timelines, groupings, etc. and NOT managing my inbox as a default pile of anxiety makers all saying “do me first”. The goal though is not about the to-do list or even managing your inbox — it’s to get it out of your head and on to paper so you don’t worry about it anymore;
- Track your progress and NOTE it by having a “did it” list. I’m not great on this, but it does help a bit with longer-term tracking. For a while, I was trying to write notes to my boss each week to say “Quick update, here’s where we’re at, what got done, etc.”. It was overkill and I stopped, but the positive part was to say to the team, “Okay, this is done, moving on.”
Overall, a better than average round-up, hence why I’m sharing. Click on the original link for the full article.