While many people chase the newest time management system, they often overlook some of the simplest and most effective ways of increasing productivity in a matter of seconds. Make these three processes part of your daily routine and watch your productivity skyrocket.
Shortcut 1: Use “Three Magic Words” To Break Through Procrastination and Stop Feeling Overwhelmed
There are three magic words that can single-handedly break through procrastination, doubt, fear, a lack of motivation, or feeling overwhelmed. These words form a question that is, by design, guaranteed to make you even more productive and successful.
A reader of my work, after hearing about these three magic words, sent me an email stating, “When even getting out of bed in the morning is too daunting — never mind doing anything else — the three magic words provide a solid shot at having what other people call a “normal day.” In this respect, [the three magic words] was more helpful than 15+ years of therapy.”
These three magic words, “Can I just…?” are followed by an action so easy, you’re guaranteed to be able to do it, even if you have little willpower.
Let’s say someone doesn’t feel like doing an hour-long workout. He would ask, “Can I just do the warmup?” If that’s too overwhelming, he’ll ask, “Can I just do the first 30 seconds?” Should he then do 30 seconds, he’ll continue to ask, “Can I just do a little more? One more rep? One more exercise?”
It’s okay to quit at any point and, of course, it’s okay to do a lot more. The key is to find one thing, no matter how small, that gets you into momentum on a task.
Why is this so powerful? Momentum generates motivation.
Instead of trying to find motivation, find momentum. The motivation will naturally follow with each step you take.
This method cannot fail as long as you choose something so simple it requires virtually zero willpower to say yes. If the response to the question isn’t “yes,” then change the action to make it even easier.
Remember: Whenever you feel resistance, simply ask, “Can I just…?” and take the smallest step forward.
Shortcut 2: Use A Power Move
There’s an old adage credited to Abraham Lincoln. It goes, “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.”
He was figuratively stating that with the right preparation, the execution becomes far faster and easier.
One of the biggest productivity killers is, counter-intuitively, jumping directly into doing work. Taking action without first getting yourself in the proper emotional and mental state of mind is like attempting to chop down a tree with a dull axe.
Getting into a creative, focused, and productive state is sharpening the axe of productivity. Everything you do in an optimal state will come with more speed, grace, and ease.
The good news: it doesn’t take four hours to prepare yourself to get into the optimal mental/emotional state. It can take as little as four seconds to do a “power move.” A power move, popularized by Tony Robbins, is a full body motion, such as jumping in the air and doing a fist pump, accompanied by a powerful statement like, “Yes! I got this!”
On the surface, it may seem cheesy. However, the results speak for themselves in terms of the instant shift in your emotional state.
For those less inclined to do something like this in an office environment, focus on the principle and not the practice. Your power move may simply be standing up, taking three deep breaths, smiling, and lifting your hands in the air in a victory pose.
Remember: Productivity starts with state.
Shortcut 3: Use A Timer
For years I had heard about the Pomodoro Technique for enhancing productivity. Set a timer for 25 minutes, and then take a short break when it goes off. Resume work after a few minutes of rest (this is when I’d recommend doing your power move).
On the surface, this seems to be about taking short breaks to divide up your work — which helps you come back more refreshed and focused. The simple act of setting a timer also tells your brain that what you’re about to work on is all that should occupy your attention.
Also, Parkinson’s Law states, “Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” Horstman’s corollary states the flip side. “Work contracts to fit the time we give it.” This means when you give yourself an objective to complete, you’ll typically take as much or as little time to complete the objective as available.
Generally, if someone has three days to outline a project, she’ll often take three days. However, if she gives herself three hours, she’ll often manage to get it done in three hours. Even if it’s not complete, it will be far more developed than it would have been, had she allowed more time.
When you give yourself limited time, you’ll train yourself to work more efficiently. Whether or not you complete the task in the designated time period isn’t as important as giving yourself the challenge to stimulate your mind to work more efficiently.
Remember: Limit your time to focus your mind.
Putting It All Together
Each one of these techniques can be used alone, but it becomes even more powerful when combined.
To experience this for yourself, think of something you’ve been putting off. Start by doing your power move. Then ask yourself, “Can I just do one minute of this activity?” Set a timer for a minute. Then, after the minute is up, ask yourself, “Can I just do another minute?” Or, “Can I just do five more minutes?” Repeat until you no longer wish to continue, without forcing yourself to go further. You may be surprised at how much you effortlessly achieve with just 10 seconds spent setting yourself up for success.
Originally published at medium.com