Do you struggle to complete something?
Do you often find no time for anything important to you?
Do you think that procrastination is killing your life?
You are not alone if you answer yes to any of these questions. Most people suffer from procrastination. As a procrastinator, if given one month to finish a task, I would likely not start till the last day of the month. It is that bad.
Nobody is born productive. This is a skill we must learn. The good news is that the enemy of productivity is often ourselves: we stand in our way. I had to change, and so did you.
And so, the biggest question is,” How do you become more productive?” I'll be providing answers to this question in this article.
I was born and raised in a small village in India where nobody spoke or read English. I started learning the English alphabet in the 6th standard or at 11. Till 12th standard, I learned everything in Hindi except English as a subject.
I was terrible at writing and speaking English. And after 12th standard, I joined an Engineering Institute where all the courses were in English. I was lost! How could I cope?
For a couple of days, I did not know what to do.
I talked to my dean, who told me I needed to learn English to remain in the Institute. I was shocked. It was a do-or-die situation for me. It dawned on me that without English, I had no future in the Institute, and I might have to drop out!
So, I took the bull by the horn- and threw myself into learning to read and write in English! Within two weeks, my reading improved. Within a month, I could speak relatively comfortably. By the end of 6 months, I was studying complete course notes written in English.
The question is, how did I, despite my habit of procrastinating, achieve this great fit? The answer is quite simple. I did it because if I did not, I would never have actualized my dream of becoming an Engineer.
Often we opt for an engineering degree to get a good job with a good pay package. (at least, that was one of my reasons). However, to score interviews in really large Engineering corporations, you must be able to speak English properly. I could speak and write, but not to the standards of these large corporations.
So, I bought Word Power Made Easy, an English workbook to improve my English. This book is a go-to book for those interested in learning English. In an Indian Engineering Institute, you could find this book in every dorm. I purchased it in my first semester.
However, I never went through it nor attempted any of its exercises. I put it on my shelf and forgot about it. After all, I had three years ahead of me as a student before I would ever think of any interview!
These are two stories from my own life where I achieved something significant with less time, but with more time, I neglected the task. The same person, with the same abilities, but with different outputs.
Different Strokes For Different Folks!
I shared my story to make a candid point. We are all different. Understanding ourselves and managing our weaknesses is a major key to beating procrastination.
From my story, it is obvious that I can beat procrastination if there is an immediate dire consequence if I fail to complete a task. And over time, this has worked for me.
I might decide to read a thousand books on time management and still be unable to beat procrastination because the methods described do not fit my personality. I will discuss some of these methods in this article as, in themselves, they are okay. They are amazing! But different strokes for different folks.
Never Measure Your Productivity with Others
We all have different levels of talent. But, if we don't show up, we can't know what we have inside us. Anna Seawell wrote only one novel, "Black Beauty," throughout her life. She even had to dictate parts of the book to her mum because of her poor health.
She completed the novel from 1871-77. It is the best-selling novel of 1877 and is still adorned by people. Anna Seawell died at 58, seeing her only novel becoming a bestseller, bringing her praise, admiration, and recognition.
But, Danielle Steel starting at age 19, had written more than 190 books, averaging over seven books per year. She is 75 now and still as aggressive as ever in writing and completing projects. She has ten best sellers and is one of our time's most prolific living writers. Many films are based on her books.
The productivity level of Danielle Steel is enviable. Hers is a style of discipline and hard work, one only few can measure up to. However, she only got fame and recognition after her fourth novel: " The Promise." Before that, she was a struggling novelist with rejections and humiliations under her belt.
So, we see two authors, each one with their stories. Both are unique, and both are most definitely successful. However, what they are is subject to their uniqueness.
Hence, your level of productivity Will be determined by your uniqueness. You get to determine your own story. It is your life: stop comparing it with others!
Below are some tips I am certain will help you increase productivity,
1. Just Show Up for Work and Keep It On Your Desk
The first rule of being productive is to show up at work! If you don’t, then you have jeopardized all chances of you ever being productive for that day. Show up, do what you need to do, and be patient- soon, your accumulated effort will be seen.
It is normal to want to give up if there are no results. So, after one or two days of working, we slow down or quit. This is why we make resolutions for a new year or special occasion and quit within a few days when we don't see any results.
We feel bored because these activities are often painful and new and don't satisfy us. Often writers complain about writer's block. I, too daily, face it. But I have learned that showing up is the best way to overcome writer’s block! Yes, I sit in front of my laptop, and if all I do that day is stare, no problem. I resume the next day and do the same. Sooner or later, the block disappears.
QUICK TIP FOR WRITERS: If you are struggling with ideas for a Writing Project, join HARO (Help A Reporter), and you will get daily ideas about what others are planning to write. Exposing yourself to the ideas of others can help juice your mind!
2. Information And Inspiration Is Often Found In the Stories Of Others
I often meet people while traveling: from drivers to technicians, musicians, artists, and recently even a celebrity. Where meeting new people can be a bit demanding, especially if you are an introvert, but good things come from meeting people.
I have been inspired by the stories of many from simply listening to them talk! I have found solutions to long-term problems by being chatty on a plane.
Once, I was going to Delhi Airport when the driver launched into an unsolicited story about how he had to send money to a bank very active in the South of India and deposit money there so his wife could withdraw. He has an account there and had to deposit money so his wife could withdraw.
I researched the bank’s stock, which was very impressive. And within a couple of years, the money be 5x. If I had not met that person and heard his story, I could not 5x my money from a stock in a few years. Listening to others is a good way to learn and reflect. Lots of good ideas flow from one person to another and can change your life for good. Try this.
Never Give In To Excuses: Even If You Are Physically Challenged!
With an obvious physical challenge, it is easy for us to rubbish any attempts at putting in the effort. Our rationale is always, “ If I do the work, it wouldn’t be the best anyway, so why try?” But this mindset is wrong. Do the work first!
Beethoven had problems; he was almost deaf when he composed Symphony 9. It was hard for him to carry on his daily activities due to his hearing disability. But he did not stop. He produced outstanding works despite his disabilities.
No matter the circumstances, those who work and keep at it will always experience miracles. This is a fundamental truth,
In his book, Eliyahu Goldratt explains that most people who always seem lucky are hard workers who are consistently prepared to jump on opportunities. So, Beethoven, Stephen Hawkins, and Keller are not just lucky; they worked hard despite their disabilities.
Anyone can produce good work. But, not all will produce because of excuses that will eat up all the valuable time of all of us. So, whatever you want to be, give your time to it. Do deliberate planning, seek continuous feedback on your actions, analyze, reflect, and move on. Your productivity is in your hands.
What is your best productivity hack, don't forget to share?