A Quick Productivity Mind Hack!

“Alright. It’s starting to get down to crunch time here. You’ve been avoiding this design for way too long now. You’ve got to buckle down and finish this thing.” A blank document stares at you with all its searing white heat, repelling all the creative ideas you seemed to have a week ago when you acquired the project. And then, almost as if on its own, your mouse cursor begins to wander. “Oh, no…don’t do this to me…not now…” In horror, you watch as it finds your browser shortcut on your desktop with an almost mechanical accuracy. Facebook loads. New tab–> New tab–> Immersed in trivial information, your phone rings. It’s certainly nothing important, but you can’t help yourself from answering. You are now miles further from getting your initial task done than you were a few minutes ago. Which wouldn’t be so devastating, if only this wasn’t the sixth time this exact string of events occurred in the last two hours.

Weary. Oh, so weary.

Does that block of text up there hit home for you? Do you find yourself becoming completely paralyzed while trying to complete projects? Are you reading this during one of your automated mouse/browser sessions? Well, fear not. I struggled with the same thing everyday, but thanks to a very helpful tip, I’m finally starting to get my productivity back to where it should be. And because I’m so very nice, I thought I’d share it with you.

What procrastination is all about.

The reason I used the above example of not getting work done is because it sums up a lot of procrastinators moment to moment. In the past, I’ve read that procrastinators aren’t normally doing nothing; they’re just doing something of much less importance than their intended tasks. With a whole world of information and social interaction at our finger tips, it can be very difficult to pull ourselves away and get things done sometimes. But why is that?

Clocks. The great jerks of the world.

Well, procrastination is all about avoiding things we know we have to do. Whether it be the sheer pressure of getting something done or just the fact that it’s a little too dry a task for our liking, we end up finding other things to occupy ourselves with – normally something pretty low stress. But that’s a little odd, considering you’re most likely working on something you like! I find that it’s the option to get sucked into these distractions that gets me. I can be very much looking forward to working on a design or something that I’m excited to complete, but still end up in the trap of menial tasks. Knowing this, I sought ways to avoid those distractions. Here’s what I’ve come up with.

Get rid of the distractions altogether…

If you’ve truly been troubled by your ability to get caught up in something completely unrelated to the task at hand, there’s a good chance you may have already looked up techniques to nip that habit in the bud. No doubt you’ve come across something telling you to disconnect your internet connection and phone to get work done. The problem for me was that I meant to remove my ethernet cable…but I got wrapped up on vimeo instead. That’s right. I’ve literally procrastinated to get out of taking steps to stop me from procrastinating. That’s just bad.

Damn you, facebook! Not now!

So I started to figure out that that technique was not going to work for me. The dread of losing all communication until a certain time that I would allow it stopped me from ever even trying it. I mean, that lack of being connected is one of the reasons I left my desk jobs behind. So instead, I use a more intense, “getting things done” series of frenzies throughout the day.

…in short bursts, that is.

I’m not sure if putting “excellent multi-tasking skills” on a resume is still the norm, but it probably shouldn’t be. Solo-tasking or single-tasking is where it’s at these days. A more concentrated burst of focus on a single job for a shorter amount of time has been shown to dramatically increase productivity, both scientifically and personally. So try this instead:

1. Disable all notifications (email, push forwarding, phone, updates, etc.)
2. Work on one task intently for 50 minutes without any disruptions whatsoever.
3. Use the remaining 10 minutes of an hour to walk away from your work completely.
4. Repeat.

This is a technique I picked up from the book, The Wealthy Freelancer. Alternatively, break the hours of your day into two segments – 30 minutes of focused work, and 30 minutes with no thoughts of work whatsoever. Play Xbox, go on facebook, watch TV, whatever you want! You’ll then return to work and find yourself way more focused on the job at hand!

Using this time-managing technique, I immediately saw an increase in the amount of work I was producing over the same amount of time as usual. In some cases, I was getting a lot more done in less time than ever!

A few other thoughts.

I also wanted to point out a few things that might not have come to mind when I mentioned distractions. A cluttered desk or stagnant desktop wallpaper can have drastic effects on someone’s productivity. Yes, I just used “changing your wallpaper” as a productivity increasing technique. But it’s true! Studies…somewhere…have shown it!

I’m very big on integrating music into my workflow, but sometimes I end up messing with iTunes to put a certain set of tracks on for certain tasks. By the end of a project, I’ve wasted hours on finding the right track to listen to while cutting out a product image! Consider making a playlist and not touching the play controls while you’re working. I sometimes even work in complete silence and find myself flying through design concepts! Blasphemy?!? To me, it is. But the proof is in the projects and they get done when I’m not fidgeting with my playlists. If you find yourself do this, consider music a distraction and remove it during your 30 minute bursts.

Your reward for reading my post. I present to you...Pirate Cat.

Take this information for what it’s worth. Try out a day of avoiding all distractions in short bursts and see how it works for you. If you have half the success that I’ve had with this method, you’ll most likely end up structuring your days around your newfound productivity! Good luck!


  1. Yamin Chowdhury Nov 17, 2010

    Nice dude, that just hit straight home! Good luck on your next project, and if you get some time, please email me Mike Miller’s email/phone if you have it still. You shall be rewarded with a Schrodinger’s Cat, but no guarrantees (#seewhatididthere)!

  2. Arty Nov 18, 2010

    Great article! Very nice… i’l try it immediately! 🙂

  3. Taylor Lisney Nov 19, 2010

    Thanks, guys! Glad it could help!

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