It’s taken me 25 minutes to start this article. I typed the heading, but then someone tagged me in a funny meme on Instagram, and then I realised I was thirsty, and then I remembered I want to make a burger for dinner (chicken? Beef? Both? Is that a thing? Do people eat chicken and beef burgers? Hang on, I’ll just look on Pinterest real quick).
My whole life is one big distraction. I’m a magpie and everything is shiny: my phone, those dishes in the sink, that crumb on the floor that should be picked up immediately. It has become so much of a problem that I’ve had to write up a few rules to help me (and you) be more productive during the 9-5 grind.
Of course, I’m also writing this list to avoid the multitude of other more important things I should be working on. But seeing as this is an investment in my career, it doesn’t count as procrastinating.
Lock your phone in your colleague’s draw
Set up some conditions: if you want your phone back before the agreed time, you must buy your colleague lunch for one week.
Alternate methods include sewing your phone into the lining of a cushion, freezing it in a block of ice and, for a more extreme measure, flushing it down the toilet.
Some people do just fine turning their phone on Aeroplane Mode to avoid distracting texts and calls. I am not this person. You can still scroll back through your entire camera roll to that fun holiday you had in 2013 when your phone’s on Aeroplane Mode, you know.
Coffee > brainstorm
We all know that coffee makes us think a little sharper and work a little faster, so it’s important to use this time wisely. If, like me, your job requires a constant stream of creative juices, schedule ‘brainstorming blocks’ in your week.
Position these carefully. Does your brain work better in the morning, lunch or afternoon? Fifteen minutes before the brainstorming block is scheduled to begin, drink one XL black coffee.
Enter: more ideas than you’ve ever had in your entire life (and probably a poop).
Upgrade your stationery
Maybe it’s just me, I dunno, but in my opinion, there is nothing in this world more satisfying than a trip to Officeworks. When I was a kid and my mum and dad gave me $2, I would split from my friends who were off to buy ice-cream and I’d buy a carbon copy receipt book from the newsagent instead. No word of a lie.
In my 10+ years’ experience of procrastinating, I’ve found one of the most successful methods to increase productivity is to treat yo’self to some new notebooks, pens, desk planners… whatever you can get your hands on, really. Receipt books also, if that’s also your vibe.
Make a ‘don’t-do’ list
It’s kind of ironic that I found this tip on Buzzfeed, considering they can single-handedly hinder me from doing an entire day’s work in order to find out what chocolate bar I am. But it is kind of genius.
Similar to making a to-do list, you should also make a don’t-do list: a progressive record of everything that distracts you. Think checking social media during writing time, working for more than 90 minutes without a quick break and stopping your flow to answer emails as they arrive.
Practise the art of task-clustering
Task-clustering is a tactic all of us freelance-working, discipline-lacking employees use to get shit done. It sounds very Ted Talks, but really all it means it shoving your jobs into categories and focusing on one category at a time.
Some handy suggestions include: clearing out your inbox every morning before the real work begins; working on one client’s project for a set amount of time; brainstorming on a Monday morning when you are *fresh* from the weekend; and doing any boring financial stuff on a Friday when nothing can bring your wine-time-in-just-five-short-hours mood down.
Trick yourself with incentives
Because I’m five years old, I sometimes trick myself into doing things I don’t want to do. Household chores? Glass of wine while I clean. Exercise? Side of chips with my salad. Coding all my corporate credit card charges in the system? Buy myself a new skirt on my lunch break. Simple.
Tackle the easy tasks first
The productivity experts of the world claim you should tackle the hardest tasks on your to-do list first, so then you only have all the little ones left.
If I could provide a counter argument, I’ve found completing all the easy ones first leads you into a lovely false sense of efficiency – you’ll be ticking off items down the list, each time giving yourself a getting-shit-done confidence boost.
By the time you get to the mammoth task you’ve been avoiding all month, you’ll be feeling so productive that you’ll get it done in five minutes, then ask your boss for more work.
Alternatively, you can just switch jobs to one you like. You can view a list of current openings here.
Illustration by Twylamae, who also makes kewl T-shirts.