You’ve heard it all, and probably tried it, too: the tips, tricks, approaches, and products aimed at boosting your productivity. You know that being productive means getting organized. Being prepared. Avoiding your phone. Drinking ginseng tea. It means using radial thinking and mind mapping, downloading the right apps, taking the first step, and understanding the why instead of just the what.
While these are all useful tips for some, maybe they’re not useful for you. And so, for all you productivity rebels out there, I’d like to throw a wrench into our common assumptions about what it means to get things done. Here are 6 alternative productivity tips to try when traditional tricks just aren’t cutting it.
1. Become a night owl. Or a morning person. Whichever one you are not.
This isn’t an easy thing to do, but it’s possible to jump-start your brain by throwing it a curve ball. For many of us, productivity either happens at random or by sheer force of will; but recent studies show a clear connection between our daily habits and how productive we really are. Overcome your dullest state of mind by training yourself to work during your least fruitful time of day — you could find that your overall productivity eventually becomes less dependent on a specific and finite period, and all that extra time could lead to greater output.
2. Categorize to-dos by personal preference instead of overall importance.
Which of your many tasks actually appeal to you? Which one involves talking to the office birdbrain (and makes you want to tear your hair out)? Rate your tasks based on preference, and alternate between one ‘good’ task and one not-so-good — if you buck up and send that email confessing how you lost someone’s account information, you get to move on to choosing images for your blog. Think of it as a productivity sandwich.
3. Do stuff backwards (when you can).
There’s an old writer’s trick that works pretty well when you just don’t know how to get started: write the ending first. Obviously, this won’t work for everything, but it can get you moving. For example, if you’re working on a typical marketing campaign, you might start by hosting a meeting to lay out the specifics of team roles and responsibilities. And while that’s perfectly logical, chances are you’re waiting to get started until everyone’s available to chat. Instead, shake it up by outlining the details of the campaign’s final outcome as best you can, and asking people to come to the meeting prepared with plans on how they’ll get there. At minimum, you’ll have clarified the end-goal well enough to help people streamline their processes (and that means greater productivity moving forward).
4. Interrupt yourself on purpose.
The idea here is to turn procrastination on its head. A lot of the time, we push things off until the last minute because it’s that looming deadline that’s causing us to freeze up. Try working in short bursts (20 minutes or so) knowing that at the end of that period of time, you have to take a five-minute break to get coffee/ watch a cat video/ check Facebook. Hopefully, you’ll get on a roll because you have so little time, and you’ll blow right past that forced interruption. And if not? You give yourself permission to procrastinate a little, lessening the predictable guilt-trip.
5. Do something boring.
Whatever it is that’s keeping you from getting down to business, we’re guessing it’s something you find preferable to the task at hand. It’s up to you to change that attitude, and doing something that truly bores you can make that happen. For a lot of people, boredom is the equivalent of doing nothing at all, so make a deal with yourself — if you won’t do the task, you have to just sit there. That’s it. No reading, no phone, no Buzzfeed. Just sit there. Eventually, that task is going to start looking a lot more interesting, which could give you all the motivation you need.
6. Ask for help.
This isn’t exactly ‘alternative’, but it’s something we could all stand to do a lot more. If you’re having a problem getting past a plateau, reach out to your colleagues and ask what they would do next. Collaboration is a proven way to move forward faster, and your coworkers might have tricks up their sleeves that will work for you. Worst-case scenario? You end up chatting for a bit and give your brain a minute to get back on track — just don’t let a quick Q&A turn into an hour-long trip to Starbucks.
Have a great productivity tip? Tell us about it in the comments.