Sometimes you just have to get started to get done.
A simple Google search will probably net you millions of self-help articles about productivity. They’ll offer tips and techniques, life hacks, and specialized strategies designed to get you moving in the direction you need to go.
All of it will be great advice, and you’re sure to find any number of solutions that would work for you… but before you go and put all that effort into finding a way to be productive, just try starting in on the actual thing you’re trying to do. I have this crazy idea that productivity can be borne simply from productivity, and that we don’t really need all kinds of fancy strategies just to get things done.
On any given day, I likely have several content deliverables to produce (aka write) as well as several longer term projects that I need to make progress on. I have conference calls, emails to review and respond to, and social media channels to check up on and engage with (for work guys, I swear). So what’s my process to get it all done, you might be asking? Is it really as simple as just getting started? For me, yes, it is.
I get up every morning, make my first cup of coffee and sit down at my computer to begin working on the tasks of the day. If that includes writing a blog post, I just start writing with whatever happens to be in my head on the topic. Once I’ve gotten through the initial rush of ideas and thoughts I can step back, put my thoughts into an outline, and do the research I need to do to support them. I’ve found that if I reverse this order, starting with the topical research as might seem logical, I invariably end up on Reddit, and before you know it, I’ve spent an hour looking at cute pictures of cats and bemoaning the plight of the restaurant waitperson.
I’ve found that by starting my day out strong and being able to check something off my list rather quickly, I can carry that sense of productivity on through the rest of my projects. It makes it easier to avoid my personal time-sucking demons of Reddit, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. Since I’m already feeling that sense of productivity and accomplishment I get through my emails faster, and am able to clear out my inbox with less chance of being diverted into some other project. I’m an avid proponent of time management tool Wunderlist, so part of my productive day is translating my inbox into action items within my to do lists in the app.
Psychologically speaking, the Zeigarnik Effect even explains why my “just get started” method ought to work for you. In 1927, Russian psychologist Bluma Zeigarnik was the first to identify and prove the theory that humans are more likely to complete tasks once they are begun, and that we have an inherent aversion to leaving projects unfinished.
Productivity can be as simple as just getting started, if you allow yourself to recognize your productivity. Checking things off a list gives you a sense of accomplishment that lead you into the next task and allow you to stay productive throughout your day. That’s my process, and it’s so simple: Do a thing, check it off, then do another thing, and check that off. All you have to do is get started.