I was told once that I have two gears: one that is insanely active, motivated and high-energy where I can achieve anything I want if I can put my mind to it. The other is terrified to fail to a point where I don’t even start, lazy, easily distracted and slow-moving. I’ve accepted that the latter will always exist, and not to squash her entirely. Being slow occasionally and letting yourself waste some time, well, you’re not human without those days. The key is to be able to fend off those days for when you’re not going to be depended on and where productivity isn’t key. You know, like a weekend.
Balancing mental illness with working in a very corporate environment can be tough for me sometimes, but I’ve gotten way better at it since I started in September. Have I have bad days? Certainly. But I’ve also gotten better at dealing with the bad days, and more importantly, getting the most out of my good days.
A lot of typical productivity tips people give don’t work for me — like listening to music, setting apps that block certain sites, etc. If I’m feeling easily distracted, I will find a way to distract myself regardless of what music is playing or what I’m blocking out. I can even get distracted by my own cuticles. But here are a few things I’ve done that have worked for me:
- Set timers for simple tasks. Two of my biggest time-wasters in the mornings are my showers and getting ready after my shower. But I’ve found that if I have a fast-moving morning, it sets the tone for the rest of my day. So I set a timer on my phone — six minutes for my actual shower, six minutes for post-shower. Admittedly, you may need a bit longer post-shower if you have longer hair. I can blow-dry mine in less than two minutes. But the point is, even if I go over my timer by a few seconds, the sense of urgency helps me to stop myself from wasting time. And you can actually get a lot done in six minutes. I fully shaved my legs in the shower yesterday, and then today gave the tub a quick cleaning after my shower. Maybe you need to set a timer for your coffee time, your shower, your picking out your outfit.
- Do things ahead of time. Get in the habit of always having something prepared for yourself so you can jump off more easily. Maybe it means picking out your outfit the night before, or maybe it means making a template for something at work, or maybe it means pre-portioning your food so you can make meals more quickly. I do all of those! And don’t feel like a failure for having to set reminders on your phone or tablet. I also do all of those!
- Don’t picture the end result — picture the next step. The whole “envision the finish line” thing doesn’t work for me. Why? Because the finish line is too far away. I’m a naturally scattered person, and if I don’t plan every step out meticulously between myself and that finish line, picturing the finish line will always be a dream, not a reasonable, achievable goal. So as you do every task, picture what the next step is that you have to move on to. Picture how you will get to that next step. That helps keep everything smaller scale and less overwhelming.
- Make yourself comfortable. It’s pretty obvious, but often overlooked. If you’re easily distracted, something like your clothes, your chair and your shoes will become distracting to you. You can’t eliminate those distractions 100 per cent, but make sure you’re in clothes that you can shift into various positions comfortably with, a chair that supports you and have good floor space to put your feet down. If you have a standing desk, make sure you keep a stool nearby or else your focus will turn to your uncomfortable feet by the end of the day.
- Don’t be hard on yourself or punish yourself for failing. I’m not into the idea of rewarding yourself for every single thing you do right. But that doesn’t mean I think you should feel self-loathing or defeated any time you stumble. Let’s face it, even the people giving you advice (read: me) can’t follow their own path all the time. Always keep that in mind. The sun will rise and set regardless of the status of your goal.
Check out the playlist I attached — this is my personal productivity playlist. The songs may not seem well-connected, but I go for things that have a steady and noticeable beat, but not one so hyperactive that I get distracted by it (the problem with being a choreographer: everything makes you want to make up dances).