I have a long history of struggling with procrastination. When pressure is low, it is all too easy to spend your time browsing the internet instead of doing something productive.
Writing an article, a dissertation, doing homework, gardening, whatever the chore, we often fail at starting what we really should have been doing because options like watching TV or playing video games feel so much easier.
During my Ph.D, (I hope Richard my supervisor is not reading this), I was trying so hard to get things done. That is, I would come into the office at 8AM and leave at 10PM. But I was not productive, I spent most of my time playing video games or watching football results. At one low point, I remember spending close to twelve hours in the office and accomplishing absolutely nothing: I failed to write even the first word of the paper that was due in a week. I read many articles (and even books) on productivity, but this had little impact.
On the opposite side of this, you have “flow”. Have you ever been in the state of flow? This is a state well known to programmers or writers where your brain is so focused that you are unstoppable. You are writing like there is no stopping you. This ideal state however, is not easy to come by, but when you have it, WOW! You feel good, you feel productive, you achieve so much, you are so PRODUCTIVE!
So here is what I discovered. The hardest part to doing anything, is to start. Sometimes, you are so worried about the difficulty of the task ahead that you fear even opening your word editor, you fail to write the first word. But if you do get passed that, words usually follow and before you know it you will enter this wonderful state of flow.
As I write this article, I am in a state of flow. Words are just coming, thoughts are clear, and all that I had to do was to start writing.
So if the secret to productivity is to start, what can I do to get better at it?
It is very simple: Don’t focus on the big task ahead, just focus on the very tiny first step, that 5 seconds task such as opening your word editor, and do it? If you achieve this, the rest will follow.
Do not worry about the big task, just worry about the tiny little one right in front of you, and will achieve massive productivity.