Take a second an think of some your latest achievement. No matter if big or small. Whether it’s writing a blog post, finishing your tax return or cleaning up the house. When exactly did it happen? Was it on a lazy Sunday afternoon when you had nothing else to do? Or was it rather in a busy week, in the middle of other tasks?
I figure it’s safe to bet it wasn’t the former. At least if you’re anything like me, that is. It seems to me Ben Franklin’s sentence, which I borrowed for the title of this post, is still as valid for the 21st century as it was for the 18th.
Like many, I’ve been wondering a lot about the secrets of being productive. How many times did I schedule tasks to specially dedicated days, as in: “I don’t schedule anything for next Saturday so I’ll be able to write all day!”. In fact, that’s just what has happened to me this very last Saturday. Total word count: Zero. Today it’s Monday, and a good 9 hours of my day are reserved for my day job. Despite, or rather exactly because of that, I’ve already managed to get around 800 words written – before I even got my pants on.
What might seem illogical at first makes a hell lot of sense if you think about it a bit more.
Moving things tend to keep moving
If you’re already out and about, pacing through your day it’s easy to take the momentum and squeeze in just another little task. Whereas when you’re lying comfortably on the couch watching yet another episode of Hannibal even activities you otherwise don’t even think about, such as preparing dinner or doing the dishes can become an impossible mission. So, when already in motion try to keep going and move just a little bit further.
Other liabilities make your side project something to anticipate
Imagine you run a blog as a side project you and you haven’t written a new article in a while. You keep telling yourself, you just lack time to do so. At least, so did I. And I believed it. But when I’m honest, having more time has never helped me being more productive. Almost every time I clear half a day or even an entire day for something I really want to do, but don’t necessarily have to do, the same thing happens: the task I’m about to complete becomes a huge burden, even if it’s something I usually enjoy doing. It hovers in the back of my head like a dark cloud, and my brain starts to find all kind of stupid reasons not to do that thing. At the same time I feel guilty for not doing anything productive, being well aware of the invalidity of my lame excuses.
Now fast-forward from the cozy weekend to a busy weekday: between meetings, hard-to-solve problems, resilient clients and other office chores writing that longly scheduled post suddenly seems like a real fun thing to do.
When I started really paying close attention I was stunned how different one and the same task can feel like. It’s all a matter of context. If we are aware of the tricks our brain plays on us we can turn it around and use it to our advantage. As a matter of fact, I’m writing this right now because it seems to be more attractive than preparing dinner. Even though I’m really starving.
Done is better than perfect
If you’re really busy and on a tight deadline you don’t have time to shoot for perfection. Contrary to popular believe, perfection is rarely something to strive for. Looking for perfection is the nemesis of “Getting shit done”.
Our number one priority should always be to create something in the first place. It gets better all by itself if we stick to it. And if not, we can almost always improve and refine later.
Take a moment and try to think of all the great things that have never been written, painted or invented because somebody kept on trying to make it perfect – and sadly never finishing anything along the way.
And then go and get something done!