How to Stay Productive When You’d Rather Be Anywhere Else

The sun is shining, the birds are chirping, the smell of freshly cut grass wafts through the air—and you’re stuck inside, working on a project.  When you get that itch to abandon your work for pretty much anything else, it’s hard to stay productive.  You might fall for the siren song of procrastination, where “why do today what you can put off until tomorrow” becomes your mantra.  But luckily for you, there are some easy ways to keep your productivity high and tackle your to-do list in no time. 

1. First thing’s first—get organized.

You hear it all the time—those organization freaks that preach that a clean desk makes for a clean mind.  Now I’m not here to tell you to make your workspace spotless—a certain amount of chaos can lend itself to increased creativity.  I AM going to say that productivity starts with a solid game plan, and becoming a master of the to-do list will benefit you greatly.  What tasks do you need to do today?  What tasks do you want to do?  Putting those “need to do” items at the top of your list ensures that you accomplish your most important tasks first.

2. Hardest tasks come first.

To remain productive throughout the day, it helps to accomplish your hardest task first.  That report you’ve been dreading, that logo you just can’t seem to start—whatever the case may be, the rest of your day will seem easy-peasy in comparison to your most difficult “need to do” task.  And who doesn’t like to end the day on a great note?

3. Breaks are a boon.

Studies have shown that even a brief break helps us maintain focus for longer periods.  The reason?  When we’re constantly exposed to stimuli, our brain eventually tunes these stimuli out, filing them away as “unimportant” and moving on to something else.  A project that takes a significant amount of time to complete can fall into this “unimportant” category if your brain isn’t given any breaks.  Researchers found that those who took short breaks during a longer task actually stayed focused for the entire length of the study. 

A helpful way to make sure you’re giving yourself some diversions is to practice the Pomodoro Technique—start with 25 minutes of work, then a short break.  Every 4 cycles, take a longer break.  Easy!

What’s your favorite way to stay productive?  Tell us in the comments below.


Photo credit:  Viktor Hanacek