I have a terrible, dark secret—I am absolute shit at getting things done. I’m prone to procrastination and forever succumbing to a short-attention span. I find myself mindlessly flicking through Instagram while ignoring the third-rate reality TV on Netflix I was using as an excuse to not work. Sometimes I suddenly wake up, having recently gone down the rabbit-hole of Wikipedia, only to find I am “learning” about Oxidized Low-Density Lipoprotein Receptor 1—which I am still not certain is a real thing—even though my initial search was for red pandas (There is no better way to kill time. Trust me. Click here. Do it now.)
I work for a company which prides itself on productivity. Possibly a mismatch there. Despite being productively-impaired, I have learned a few ways to absolutely-no-joke-completely-entirely-get-more-done. And instead of doing my expense report, I have decided to share them with you.
Drink lots of caffeine. You should be just jittery enough that your signature looks like a pleasant seizure. You may want to try this coffee or just alternate shots of Red Bull and 5-Hour Energy. Essentially, you want to ingest enough to get to the point where you have 15-20 minutes of insanely focused, rapid-fire productivity, followed by a crash which destroys you. Repeat until bed-time. (Kidding, there is no bed-time with this method. You’ll eventually just pass-out for two straight days and wake up disoriented and slightly nauseous. More coffee will help.)
I have a terribly hard time getting out of bed. I’m not convinced there are actually hours before 9am. The best way to combat the sweet embrace of your bed? As soon as you wake up, begin worrying. It’s best if the thing you worry about is either too large for you to have any control over, or so trivial you blow it completely out of proportion. Global warming? Does anyone remember that entirely embarrassing thing you did eight years ago? What happens after you die? Did I forget to wish my friend’s friend happy birthday last week?
3. Say No
Not taking on too much is imperative to balance your workload and prevent burnout. I advocate for saying no to all requests that take more than 15 minutes to complete or cannot be offloaded to an intern. If people question your hesitation, remind them of all the other important things you have to get done. Whatever you do, do not remind them that all of those deadlines were meant to be complete last year. Set yourself up to be middle management, and you’ll never work a day in your life.
4. Get Enough Sleep
While sleep is generally for people without the internet, actually getting enough is vital to having the energy required to do all the work you have. I’ve found that my ideal time to sleep is from 3pm until 9am. Any more and it’s an “avoidance tactic” or “possible clinical depression.” (However, see #1 for ways to avoid sleep altogether.)
Bear with me on this one—there is actual logic to it. Say you have four things to do today. Don’t do them. At all. Wait. When tomorrow comes around, you’ll have 7-8 things to do. That should make you a little more anxious. Continue this procrastination phase until your to-do list is so long there isn’t a Xanax in the world strong enough to combat the soul-crushing despair of “Oh dear god, what have I done?” Now you are ready. Use all that stored anxiety as fuel to your productive fire. Do the dishes. Do the expense reports. Clean everything. Don’t let the anxiety set in. You can do this.
6. Create a Daily Ritual
Not like a cult or anything, but creating a process you do everyday can help you get into a positive mindset to get things done. I personally like to start my day with a Wide Eye from my favorite coffee shop. It’s similar to a Red Eye, but uses seven shots of espresso in place of the normal one. The waiver they make me sign when I order it is the daily touchstone that lets me know it’s time to start getting things done. The shaking also clears my head of the deeply traumatic worries I had to drudge up to get out of bed.
7. Call a meeting
When in doubt, call a meeting. It is scientifically proven that absolutely nothing will be accomplished, but you will be respected for utilizing time that could otherwise be used for real things. At the end of the meeting, make sure an extension to your deadline is agreed upon. This is the main function of the meeting. Look at all the time you have now to do that thing you were supposed to do last month! Accomplish this by randomly stringing together buzzwords and meeting jargon while nodding and smiling. Be sure to talk quickly, as it’s more about the rhythm of your words soothing everyone into agreement, rather than any real meaning. Example: As you well know, our 4th quarter projections from last year were abysmal, most likely because our lack of storification and brand diversity is negatively affecting our micro-moments. We should look at gamifying our entire system to increase holistic engagement, and then take that thing I was supposed to do and apply it to a growth-hacking effort. [Insert affirmative mumblings or standing ovation, depending on the team you are presenting to.]
These are the seven methods I routinely use to get things done. Sure, there are a few downsides, like ulcers, insomnia, general malaise, and a depth of unhappiness so pervasive even red pandas can’t fix it, but look at all I’ve gotten done! Unless I was procrastinating, in which case, look at all I will get done! I’ve been able to write an entire piece of satire without even thinking about real work. That’s my definition of productive.