Boost your productivity and take back control with these no-nonsense power moves.
- Using a Pomodoro timer
- Turning off email notifications
- Quick naps partway through your workday
- Getting up to stretch
- Starting your day with yoga
- Writing down your goals
How many of these productivity hacks have you tried? Probably some, maybe most, or — for some serial procrastinators — all of these and even more.
How have they worked for you? Given that you’re here reading an article about productivity power moves, I’m guessing you’re still looking for the magic solution to the productivity problem. You’re still searching for that one secret productivity technique that you just haven’t stumbled upon yet.
But what if these little productivity hacks that promise to help you stay on track, get stuff done, and quit procrastinating are just perpetuating the same cycle? What if, instead of helping solve the problem, you’re feeding it?
It’s time to stop pandering to your procrastinating tendencies and pull a productivity power move. It’s time to assert your power, demand respect, and quit procrastinating for good.
What is a Productivity Power Move?
Stephanie St.Claire put it beautifully when she said that a power move has you doing something that seems crazy, but helps you bypass “improving” and takes you straight to evolving.
A power move is not simply continuing doing what you’re already doing but trying to do it harder and faster. It’s not setting more Pomodoro timers or running through an extra yoga DVD. It’s not writing down your goals more often or taking more frequent stretch breaks.
A power move is something that seems unrealistic or even insane at first. It’s a big move, something that announces to the world that you’re ready to do things differently. You’re ready for a change, and you’re willing to make a change in the process.
Productivity Power Move #1 — Turn Off the Internet
For most people, the internet is their greatest source of procrastinating activities. If you work on or near a computer, it’s just too tempting to check your emails one more time or quickly Google that idea that just popped into your head. While some internet-based procrastination activities are obvious time wasters, like checking Facebook or playing an online game, other activities like checking and sorting through your work emails are clouded in faux-work. They make you feel like you’re busy and important, and if your boss suddenly appeared over your shoulder, they’d nod and move on. But in reality, if these tasks are done when you should be doing an income-producing activity, it’s still procrastination.
To quote Peter Bregman, author of Four Seconds, relying on willpower is an uphill, never-ending battle. As he put it, “Don’t sit there in front of a cookie holding yourself back, just throw away the cookies.” Or, for our purposes, don’t sit there with your emails and web browser open, holding yourself back from checking something “just quickly” or “just one more time.”
Instead, turn off the internet. If you work alone, walk over to your Wi-Fi router and turn it off. If you’re in a shared space, turn off the Wi-Fi on your own computer or laptop.
I can hear you protesting, “But I need the Internet for my work!” “You don’t understand!” Sure I do. But I also know that it’s possible to grab as much information as you can in one go, and then work with what you’ve got for a set period of time.
Say you’re writing a report or a business plan. Gather your information, then turn off the internet for two hours. Write as much as you can of the report during that time, free from distraction. When you inevitably come across a section that needs a little extra piece of information, rather than stopping your work, losing your train of thought, and rushing off to look it up straight away, simply mark the spot and move on. Use the comment feature in Word or the sticky note equivalent in the software you’re using, and come back to it later.
You may surprise yourself with how much you can get done in a set period of time without internet access. You may also surprise yourself with how often the urge to Google something or fire off an email comes along.
When the internet is turned off, there is no decision to make. You simply can’t run a Google search or check your emails, so you don’t need to decide whether to do it or not. Just carry on with your off-line work using the information that you’ve got and fill in the blanks later.
Productivity Power Move #2 — Hire A Babysitter but Don’t Go Anywhere
This won’t apply to everyone, but there are plenty of people who juggle running their own business or working from home with caring for children or other dependents. If you find that your children are your greatest cause of distraction, hire a babysitter but don’t go anywhere.
You probably have no problem hiring a babysitter when you need to go out without your children, but somehow it just feels off to pay someone to mind your dependents with you still in the house.
But there are multiple benefits to this productivity power move. Knowing that you’re paying good money to someone else to look after your children for a set period of time will be enormous motivation for you to be productive and get a heap of work done. You’ll feel that you have to at least make back the money that you’ve spent all the babysitter.
And if you’re like the huge proportion of parents and carers who run on coffee and guilt feelings, you’ll also need to justify within yourself that the time spent away from your children was well spent.
Productivity Power Move #3 — Hire A Boss
Think back to a time when you had your boss standing over your shoulder. Did you procrastinate, goof off, and check Facebook one more time? Did you wander off to chat with a colleague or make another cup of coffee?
No way. With your superior watching, you would have hunkered down and got to work. You could probably achieve more in a few minutes with your boss looking over your shoulder than you could in an unsupervised hour.
These days, it’s becoming less common for workplaces to be structured under intense supervision. Employees want autonomy and freedom to create their own schedules, and people are increasingly finding ways to work at home or remotely. And while flexibility can be a key to a happy, inclusive workplace, it is also one of the factors that have led to the current procrastination crisis.
Consider hiring a boss to keep you on track. I’m not talking about having a “work buddy” — a friend to sit with and work together. I’m talking about someone you find a little bit intimidating. Someone whose very presence will be enough to spur you on.
Imagine this. You hire or make an arrangement with someone you look up to — someone further along in their career than you are. You book a meeting room, set up a spot in a public library, or even join them at their workplace. You agree in advance what you intend to achieve for that day, then you get to work. If you’ve chosen the right person (and paying a fee for this service will be added motivation) there is no way you’d even be tempted to goof off for the day.
It’s called social facilitation, and it brings out a person’s competitive side. You’ll be keen to prove to this person just how much quality work you can achieve in one day. Have that person review your work at the end of the session, giving you the added benefit of advice and suggestions for improvement. You may even impress them so much that they become a future mentor or employer.
Productivity Power Move #4 — Just Five Minutes
While this may resemble one of those little productivity hacks that everyone tries but no one really gets any benefit from, the “just five minutes” technique really is incredibly powerful.
If you’re like most people, you have at least one task that seems so enormous, so overwhelming, or just so difficult that you can’t seem to get started on it.
Often the hardest part of any project is making a start. To get past this roadblock, promise yourself that you will work on it for just five minutes at a time.
But here’s the rub: the five minutes happens just before you leave for lunch, and again just before you leave at the end of the day. And there’s no getting out of it. You need to schedule these five minutes otherwise you don’t get to leave. Hand over your keys or swipe card or whatever else you would normally need in order to leave to someone else under the strict instructions that you don’t get them back until you’ve done your five minutes.
Five minutes does not need to turn into an hour. Five minutes is enough to get some words on paper, to work out the first steps you need to take or to make some inquiries. In five minutes, you can scribble down a quick plan of how to proceed. In five minutes, you can fire off an email to request the information you’ll need or to ask for further clarification. In five minutes, you can make a list of tasks or people to talk to for ideas to consider.
At some stage, you’ll actually need to complete the project in full. But before that can happen, you have to make a start, and this is the quickest, most effective way of getting the ball rolling. One final tip is to bring a notepad and pen or have your phone ready to jot down notes that come to you. Since you’ve spent the last five minutes before your lunch break or the end of your working day thinking about this new project, your mind will continue to turn it over. Ideas may occur to you while you’re eating or commuting or relaxing, so be ready to make a quick note of anything that pops into your mind.
The next day when you continue working on the project, you’ll be glad to have these additional notes and ideas available, ready to continue.
A power move is about standing up for yourself. It’s about taking back control and demanding respect. We all know that nothing will be achieved while we’re checking Facebook or jumping at every new email notification, but the temptation is irresistible.
You know how frustrated and disappointed you feel when your working day is done and you’ve achieved very little. Take back your power and pull out a productivity power move. It may feel crazy hiring a boss or a babysitter, or archaic to turn off your internet in today’s hyper-connected world, or frustrating to work for just five minutes before you go to lunch or leave for the day.
But it may just work, and isn’t that the point?