The longing gaze out the window. The post-lunch blues. The blank screen that glows back at you.
What is wrong with this scene?
Oh, right. It’s yours.
For the last five years, I’ve been working as a freelancer. This means if I don’t do what’s required by my clients, I’m not getting paid. There’s no skulking around on company time and I can’t afford to “hang out on Zoom” with other folks in the middle of the day.
But this isn’t a post to tell you how much better I am than you. Though, it does feel like it at times.
How to make your day better
Social media has become a toxic wasteland for people to announce how unproductive they are. And, like you, I still can’t bring myself to close all my accounts down.
Instead, I thought I’d counter the negativity and show you how to stop fussing around and make your day better.
Use micro-rewarding to stay inspired
Even before going freelance, it was important for me to be inspired to remain productive. This might be a holiday booked in several months’ time or a family event I’d been looking forward to. The knowledge that this was coming up and slotted into my calendar meant it was a constant reminder that I don’t have to work all the time.
At a lower level, I started to introduce this principle into my day-to-day routine. Using the logic that I was productive when inspired, I set myself goals or time periods where I would receive a reward upon completion.
I find the key is to start small then work your way up to something bigger at the end of the day. I normally start with not making coffee until I’ve finished writing 500 words. The other end of the spectrum involves finishing my five key things for the day and finishing early to play golf.
Quite a leap, but everything in between slowly builds up to constant productivity.
In his self-help book cum journal, Change Journal, Tim Jaudszims suggests we deem many of our tasks as matters of obligation.
“What’s the point? Is it worth the effort?”
Many tasks we undertake have no conscious reward for us. When this is the case, we’re just a slave to the pay check.
How do you get a conscious reward for carrying out tasks?
Reward yourself! It doesn’t have to be related to the task. It just has to make you realize that reaching the end of your task is worth it.
Don’t accept app overload
To fight our battles against lack of productivity, we often search for technology to solve our problems.
The result? A whole lot of apps and a whole lot of notifications. So many that we now need to find another app to remedy our app overload.
From startups with 10 people to enterprises with 10,000, a common occurrence is both Slack and Microsoft Teams in one company. As a consequence, we keep both apps open all day and are surrounded by dings and pop-ups.
The good news is that there are tools to help fight this battle.
For example, you can use Mio to send messages from Slack to Microsoft Teams. Instead of having both open to please your clients or colleagues, choose the one you prefer and send cross-platform messages.
Sure, that’s just one less app, but when you adopt this mentality, you cut distractions or temptations to go and find distractions.
I’ve often wondered how people with tens of tabs and apps open do any work. Turns out, they don’t. Research by RingCentral and CITE Research shows that users lose 32 days per year switching between apps. That’s more than most people get as annual leave!
Get yourself out of a productivity suck and become autonomous
When you’re inspired and aren’t ruled by technology, you have the opportunity to become autonomous.
Working when you like, getting things done, and not burning out. These are the basic principles that lead to continuous productivity.
You have to force the change yourself.
As humans, we are horribly resistant to change. We have developed habits that we seemingly cannot leave behind.
But as James Clear suggests many times in his book, Atomic Habits, starting with tiny changes leads to new habits and a better life.
You’ve got to want to change. There are two types of people in this world. The sayers and the doers.
In some cases, it’s fine to be a sayer. These people lead the largest organizations in the world and make the most important decisions. But, when it comes to making your day better and more productive, you must be a doer.
Next time, you find yourself staring at the screen, go for a walk. Or schedule a better time to work. If there’s something on your mind, go do it.
You can’t work properly unless you’re genuinely focused.
This might be rearranging your day. Maybe you work better at 7am? Start at 7am then.
What if you’ve got kids or no dedicated working space? Change the way you work to better yourself. Don’t start work until the kids are at school and go find somewhere to work. Your shed, a coffee shop, buy a desk. There’s tons of possibilities to make your first change to how you work.
But it starts with you.