We all wish we could get more work done in less time. If we were more productive, we’d have a better chance at getting that raise, we’d have more personal time to do what we wanted, and we’d get closer to our goals much faster. Unfortunately, you can’t bully yourself into working harder. There’s no switch you can flip to suddenly make yourself a task-executing, process-churning machine.
There are, however, a number of different psychological tricks and games you can use to create an environment that naturally encourages you to do your best. These are seven of the best:
1. Create Mini-Tasks. First, take large tasks and break them up into much smaller tasks. On the surface, this won’t make much of a difference; you’ll still be doing the same amount of work either way. But the mini-task structure will make it easier for you to work harder and more consistently to get that work done. Creating smaller tasks will compartmentalize your thinking, giving you perspective into the scope of the master problem and allowing you to strategize before jumping in. Then, executing those small tasks one by one will dramatically increase your motivation in continuing. The end result is that you’ll be able to work more efficiently, and you’ll be more motivated to keep working hard once you get going.
2. Start With Something Easy. Getting the ball rolling is one of the hardest parts of working productively, as any chronic Monday-hater will tell you. How you approach the morning will determine your flow for much of the rest of the day. For example, you could get sucked into a spiral of email responses and phone calls, never to touch a task, or you could get lost reading a hundred articles you saw on Twitter. Instead, knock out something easy as soon as you get to work. Because it’s easy, you won’t be intimidated to start it. Because you can do it quickly, you’ll feel good and you’ll be motivated to take on the next task in front of you. It’s a shortcut to building momentum.
3. Tackle Challenging Tasks Early. Once you’ve got that first easy task under your belt, consider moving on to something much more challenging. In fact, take a look at your task list for the day and select your most challenging problem. Work on that as soon as you’ve warmed up with an easy piece. If you can complete this challenging task, everything else you have to do throughout the day will seem easier by comparison, and you’ll be more likely to work through the lesser problems you’ll inevitably face. If you’re struggling with the big task, work back to my first piece of advice and break it up into smaller sections.