A few years back, I was en route to a writing conference with a carload of women when a strawberry-blonde writer-gal gifted me with a nickname: “Hummingbird on Acid.” Just like a really good bra, the moniker fit perfectly and I have worn it ever since.
Are you a hummingbird-on-acid too?
If so, you experience the world as a flower field that extends in all directions forever. How can you focus on work-y things when you want to see each flower’s beauty, sniff each bloom’s fragrance, and slurp nectar off a whole bunch of honeysuckle stamens? There are so many stimuli, so little time!
Because every day my to-do list battles my curiosity, over the years I’ve collected a number of techniques to hornswaggle (my dad’s favorite word—isn’t it great?) myself into being more productive. For the sake of anticipation, I’m going to work toward my #1 suggestion.
#12 Sharpie Your Palm
Write on your palm your #1 priority for the day. This will serve as a constant reminder of what you most want to accomplish (I do this with urgent prayer requests also—write a person’s name on my palm.).
#11 Chant the Next Three Tasks
Have you ever gone to the basement and thought, now why did I come down here? That’s when this hack comes in handy. Every few seconds, repeat what you came to do. “Switch laundry to the dryer. Feed the bunny. Scoop kitty litter.”
With this strategy, you’re not allowed to eat or enjoy your favorite fluid (ie. DeathWish coffee, Chick-Fil-A lemonade, Flying Dog’s Bloodline IPA) until after say, five tasks are complete. I got this idea from Dale Partridge’s video titled: 5 Steps to an Insanely Productive Morning. I’ve utilized this technique before but frankly, I find it somewhat soul-crushing.
#9 Celebrate Small Wins
After completion, cross off items on your to-do list with a super fancy pen. I LOVE fountain pens with aqua ink! Or mark through them with a neon highlighter. Consider doing a happy dance or eating a miniature Reese Cup. Don’t think: I still have so much to do! Instead, say: Look what I’ve achieved already!
This method is similar to having a workout buddy. Team up with a fellow hummingbird-on-acid and each morning, text each other your top five to-do tasks. At the end of the day, report back with a status update. Congratulate one another on your progress. Or commiserate the lack of it by quoting Scarlett O’Hara: “Tomorrow is another day!”
#7 Leave the Building
If possible, leave your office (or your house) in order to decrease distractions. Go to a café or ask a friend if you can work at their place in a quiet room. Going where there are no loads of laundry or dirty dishes to deal with, no pets to play with, no magazines to peruse, can significantly increase your productivity. This is only effective for tasks that are portable or doable on a laptop.
#6 Try a Timer
I utilized a timer when the kids were small. To keep me sane. I would set the timer for 15 minutes and tell them, “For 15 minutes you get to play by yourself while I get Mommy-stuff done. Then, for the next 15 minutes we’ll play together.” And we did that all day long.
You can use the same method to tackle your tasks, using whatever time increments you want. Often I’ll do house stuff for 20 minutes then write for 40. Here, the writing is my reward. Or I’ll work in the yard for 45 minutes then read a book for 15. Here, pleasure reading is my reward. So is knowing I don’t have to work in the yard ALL DAY. I just have to make it to the DING!
#5 Gameify Productivity
For hummingbirds-on-acid who just want to have fun or hummingbirds-on-acid who are competitive, this is an effective productivity strategy. Say you and your spouse or your roommate both have to-do lists. Whoever finishes their 10 tasks first, wins. The other person has to buy frozen yogurt or clean the kitchen after supper.
If you’re working solo, write your tasks on strips of paper and draw them out of a cup one at a time to accomplish. The element of surprise will hopefully decrease the drudgery.
#4 Incentivize Productivity
For me, this method works best when I have a super-long to-do list or a task I despise (ie. cleaning the bathrooms). When I’m finished, I’ll literally pay myself by the hour or by the task. This makes me feel less like a slave.
#3 First Things First
Theory A: Do the hardest thing first. This utilizes the principle of “It’s all downhill from here.” Once you complete the toughest job on your to-do list, it’s much easier to deal with the rest.
Theory B: Work from the easiest to the toughest task. A lot of people think this is the way to go because you feel buoyed by all you’ve accomplished.
Because I tend to procrastinate, Theory A works best for me. If I went by Theory B, I’d procrastinate all day long, inventing more “easier tasks” to do in order to avoid the hardest thing. Try it both ways and let me know which works best for you.
#2 Listen While You Work
This has been a super effective way to persuade me to clean, tackle yardwork, and reorganize the chaos that is our basement. Knowing I get to learn something or hear a story motivates me to buckle down. This technique, however, doesn’t work for me when my analytic skills are required. For tasks such as writing or bookkeeping, I require silence.
#1 Utilize a Dump Pad
This has revolutionized my writing time. While working at your desk, keep a notepad nearby. Whenever a thought, idea, the impulse to text someone, or Google some random fact, pops into your brain, jot a note on the pad to remind you to deal with it later (This also works great during early morning quiet times.).
So there you have it—my favorite productivity hacks. Do you have any cool productivity tricks to share?