Thursday, January 31, 2008

Lazy Productivity -- Make that DEPRESSED Productivity: 10 Simple Ways to Do Only Three Things Today

Editor's note: This post was written by Leo Babauta of Zen Habits. For anyone who has ever struggled with the inertia of depression, this is invaluable.

I have to admit, I'm as lazy as the next guy. I have my moments of productivity, where I'm cranking out the tasks and checking things off my to-do list like my life depended on it.

But for the most part, I just want to do a few things each day, and then take a nap.

And as it turns out, that's all that's needed. Doing just a few things each day has worked wonders for my productivity -- I do less, but those few things I do have a higher impact. With this method, I've created a couple of successful blogs, and achieved a few other things along the way. Not trying to brag, but only showing that laziness can actually work if you put it to work for you.

How can laziness work? Well, if you only want to do three things, just do three things. But here's the key: make those three things count.

Here are my suggestions for making laziness work for you:

1. Choose only three things to do today. If you set a limit, you will be forced to choose just the important things. If you don't set a limit, you'll try to do everything ... which means you'll be busy, but you'll be doing a lot of unimportant things as well. Just choose three, but choose carefully.

2. Choose for impact, not urgency. There are always things that seem urgent today, and those things tend to push the important stuff back. But here's the thing: the urgent stuff is only urgent in our minds. In a week, they won't matter. But if you choose something that has long-term impact on your work and your life, it will matter in a week. It's those high-impact tasks that really make a difference. If you choose high-impact tasks -- things that will really make a difference over time, that will get you recognition and success and create new opportunities -- you can let the urgent stuff melt away.

3. Choose them the night before. Plan your three tasks the night before, so you're prepped for the day when you wake up. Then there's no "urgent" stuff on the list, because you chose them when you were calm. It helps give you a jump-start on your day.

4. Start on them immediately. First thing you do when you start working: start on the first of your three important tasks. Don't do little things. Just start.

5. Don't check email until the first one's done. There's always the urge to dive into email (or whatever your normal productive distraction is at work), but resist. Let it be your reward for completing the first task on your list. Let your urge to be lazy motivate you to finish that task!

6. Choose a fourth, more important task to procrastinate on. Here's where procrastination can really help you. Trick yourself by putting a big task you've been dreading at the top of your list. So you actually have four tasks. You will try to procrastinate on that big task by working on the three tasks below it. In that way, you'll still get three very important tasks done while procrastinating on the fourth. How will you get that fourth one done? When something bigger comes along that you dread even more, put that at the top of your list.

7. Take breaks in between. When you finish one of your three tasks, give yourself a short break. 10 minutes works well for me, but you may need 15 or 20. That's OK. We're not in a sweatshop here. You're only doing three things today. Take a walk. Get a glass of water. Shoot the breeze with someone. Check whatever you like to check online. Then get back to work on the next task.

8. When you're done, celebrate with a nap. After you do your three important tasks, take a nap. You've earned it. You've done three important things today, which is more than most people, to be honest. They might do 7 smaller things, but you've been more productive by doing less.

9. Batch process smaller tasks. It's inevitable that you'll have smaller things you'll need to take care of. Put those off until the afternoon or end of your day, and do them all at once in batches. So do all your phone calls, then all your emails, then all your little paperwork or whatever. Just don't allow these smaller, routine tasks to push back your big ones.

10. What if you need to do more? You probably won't actually complete them all anyway. Just choose three and put the rest off until tomorrow. I promise, the world won't end and life will go on. And you'll be much less stressed.

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