‘How do you feel now you’ve failed to qualify?’
The panting contestant hung his head and said ‘I’ve brought shame to family.’
Mr Smaggle and I were sitting on the couch, completely horrified. We were watching Ninja Warrior, the Japanese subtitled version. It’s just about the most brutal thing I’ve ever seen. Ninja Warrior is a TV show where contestants try to complete a ridiculously difficult obstacle course. The catch is that you only get one chance to complete it per year. If you make one mistake and fall off the course, there are no second chances. You have to try again the next year. That’s what makes it so compelling to watch. The stakes are high and the success rate is unbelievably low. It’s all about effort.
This got me thinking about how ‘effort’ can be a bit of a dirty word. The default (particularly in Australia) is to tease people who put in too much effort. People who get too dressed up for an occasion, parents who make out-of-control bento boxes for their kid’s lunches everyday, grandmothers who iron their sheets. Effort is actually always a good thing, even if that effort is not understood by other people.
To me, there is nothing cooler than wanting to be a better human and actually putting in the work to make that happen. That’s why it’s so damn impressive when someone does something that’s really, really hard. Like studying medicine, losing weight, running a marathon, sewing their own clothes, juggling or riding a unicycle. It’s hard stuff that you can’t just do without any effort. The effort is what makes it awesome.
This brings me to the dreaded topic of productivity. Everyone wants to be more productive. The more productive you are, the more time you have. That’s just how it works. Productive people have the same amount of time as everyone else, they’re just way better at using their time effectively.
I spend a lot of time researching and testing productivity ideas, so I have a fair idea of what works and what doesn’t. Even though I’m naturally very organised, sometimes I’ll have a day where it hits 11am and I haven’t done a damn thing. Then I panic and start Googling ‘how to be productive’ to try to save my day.
I’ve put together a little list for days such as this – when a whole morning slips by and you’ve done nothing but send a cat meme to your mum. Book mark this for those days so you can revisit and stock up on some productivity improvement ideas so you don’t totally waste your afternoon as well. I’ve also labelled these as not-so-easy ideas because not everything should be easy. Roll up your sleeves and put in the effort to get your productivity under control…
1. Plan the night before
Productive people are planners. They know that if they have their bag packed, gym gear laid out and their lunch ready to go, they’re going to have a very easy morning. Same thing with the weekend – if you pop on a few loads of washing and cut up some bits and pieces for salad to pop in the fridge you’ll be getting your week off to a very productive start. It’s much easier to sit in front of the TV than potter around organising things for an hour before bed, but it’s worth it. Trust me. Pop on a podcast you love to make the time fly – here are some suggestions for podcasts if you need them.
2. Embrace the near enough is good enough philosophy
Productive people aren’t perfect and the reason why is because they know that done is better than perfect. You obviously want to do everything to the best of your ability but sometimes we use that an excuse to never finish anything. Don’t cling to the idea that if you don’t do it perfectly, you might as well not do it all. It’s still just an excuse. Get over it and get done whatever needs doing.
3. Get your morning and evening rituals down
Most productive people do the same thing every morning and every evening. If you wake up in the morning, have a shower, eat breakfast, get dressed, read the paper and have a coffee, this ritual will become a habit. The more routines you have the less stress and chaos you’ll have in your life. Even simple things like putting your keys in the same spot every day – if you’re not crashing around constantly trying to find your keys, you’re freeing up time to do other things.
4. Do an evening tidy up
Clutter and mess are the enemy of productivity. Productive people do a tidy up at night because they know this will help them the next day. Stumbling around the house trying to find your shoes is a really shit-house way to start the day. It takes just ten minutes to have a tidy up before you go to bed and it might just change your whole attitude for the coming day and increase your productivity because you’re not rummaging through piles of crap trying to find what you need in the morning.
5. Completely finish a task before you start another one
Productive people love to complete tasks. There are few things I love more in life more than ticking off my to-do list for the day. Try to fall in love with task completion. You know that amazing rush of endorphins you get when you finish a run on the treadmill, hand in an assignment or finally empty your inbox? Why wouldn’t you try to have that feeling as many times in a day that you can manage?
6. Turn your damn phone off
Honestly, smart phones are the biggest killers of productivity. The solution? Turn the damn thing off. Actually turn it off. That way every time you pick it up, you’ll be reminded that you’re not supposed to be touching it. You could also delete your trigger apps like Instagram and Facebook so you can get stuff done. Don’t allow yourself to download the apps again until you’ve completed your work.
7. Give yourself three things to do before midday
One of the biggest productivity killers is overwhelm. Enormous To Do list are terrifying and they can scare people into inaction. Each morning, choose just three things to put on your To Do list and you must get only those three things done today. That’s it. That’s all you need to do. If you get through the things on your list, you can add some more things. Here are some tips for To do list writing if you need some inspo.
8. Take a proper break
You absolutely must take proper breaks. This one can be difficult, especially as it feels like you’re wasting time but if you don’t take a break and properly rest, you’ll only be working at half your capacity. At lunch time, make sure you stop, eat a proper lunch and do something screen free. Take a book to work and read for 20 minutes. You’re entitled to a lunch break so take it. I was chatting to one of my crochet students the other day and she got beef from another worker for crocheting at her desk. She told her boss and her boss totally defended her and said it was an amazing idea and she wished more of her workers took decent breaks. Don’t assume people will have an issue with you having a break. The law permits it so tell everyone to bugger off while you read your book or do some crocheting.
9. Be bothered
Half the trouble with productivity is that it’s hard work and sometimes you just don’t have it in you to do a good job. Here’s the thing – being bothered gets shit done and it gets it done fast. A bad attitude slows you down and makes the work you do even more unpleasant. Be bothered… whenever you find the strength to be bothered.