The primary reason I’ve written this article is to brag, the second is to share my productivity hacks. This being said, let’s rock! 😄
Let’s kick things off with a confession…
I’m an undeniable procrastinator! 🤗
But… Let me share a few stats; from mid-2018 till end-2020:
- I’ve started my blog and published 30+ articles on business & personal development. That’s an average of one article a month.
- I’ve published 11 music tracks on SoundCloud. That’s an average of one every 3 months. By the way, simply click the link to listen while reading (this works even on your phone and use your best earphones 🙂).
- I’ve posted 300 pictures on Unsplash and rank at the top 1% of most downloaded contributors. By end-2020 my photos views were above 100M and 1M downloads. You can check my Insta profile, insta/karim_manjra.
- And of course, I have a day job and a family…
For some of you, this may not seem like a lot, but for a procrastinator, I can tell you, this is huge! 😃
So how do you do it, you would ask…
Well, I have a few secret weapons.
1. Inspiration vs. hourly volume
It’s not about how long you stay in front of the computer. It’s about how fast and relevant you are. Be it for my day job as an organizational consultant, writing an article, or polishing a track… it’s all about being both effective and efficient.
That’s why when inspiration strikes, I let go of everything else and squeeze it to the last droplet. Then I move on.
Inspiration is a golden short-lived gift you have to get the most out of IMMEDIATELY.
This weekend, I had my niece that draws pretty nice and posts on Instagram, teach me how to draw. She had a didactic approach and was nice and patient but… At some point in time, she kicked-me off her iPad, took back her pencil, and started drawing. She said, inspiration just stroke, it can’t wait.
I have nothing that looks like a standard day, no real work routine… My inspiration is my guide.
I know what you gonna say, but not everybody can afford this lifestyle and I agree. That’s why when reality catches up with me, I surrender. I become a normal person that has priorities, responsibilities, and deadlines… But the beauty of my system is that I move so fast that reality rarely catches up with me 😄. Read through as I progressively unveil my recipes.
2. Know your diverse operating modes
I like to produce stuff, be it music, pictures, models… Doing so requires being hyper-productive. So I’ve progressively learned to understand my internal workings… And I finally came up with a simple flat two-dimensional table that summarizes my Operating Mode.
Depending on the mood of the day (or the hour), I would either explore new topics, music genres, be inspired to illustrate my articles with supposedly funny pictures, or be disciplined enough to polish an article that has been standing there for months waiting for a final touch before publication.
For example, as I’m putting the final touch to this article, I’ve finished two others in parallel, that I’ve also been iterating on for months. When I’m in the “polishing” mode I take advantage of it as much as I can.
I also know that I have a hard time starting things, but iterating on existing material is something I enjoy. So the whole challenge for me is to get started. I’ll share my weird strategy on how to get started later in this article.
That’s what I call, know your diverse operating modes to take the best advantage of them.
3. Then? Open a lot of browser tabs!
As an authentic and proud procrastinator, I have many simultaneously open projects. As I’m writing this article I have:
- More than a hundred draft articles;
- 3 tracks in progress;
- A few hundred pictures waiting for post-treatment, tagging…
Nothing to be proud of…
Here is how it works
Pavel Tsatsouline, never heard of him? Well, maybe you should. That guy is amongst the best strength trainers in the world. He’s been coaching top athletes all over the globe, both American AND Russian special forces… Not only is that guy strong and fit, but he has also written many bestsellers, runs a successful business…
Here is his routine:
- Wake-up at 6 (am of course 🙂);
- Grooming (he didn’t share more details 🤷♂️);
- Beach walk (yes he lives on the beach);
- Around 8 (am of course 🙂), he decides which of the 6 to 7 open projects he’ll lay into depending on… inspiration. 😉
That’s exactly what I do. That’s why it helps to have many different activities. You’ll most probably find your top inspiration in one of them. As opposed to having one single occupation, when you’re stuck… you’re stuck… ️️🤷♂️!
4. Start early
There are 3 possibilities, the last being the best:
- Start early, finish early: this allows respecting deadlines but yields “classic” outputs most of the time.
- Start late, finish late: that’s called cramming! The pressure is so high, there is no room for creativity. Usually, outputs are classic and quality is average.
- Start early, finish late: when you kick-off a task, your brain starts considering options. According to research done by INC (Institute of NeuroCognitivism), the first 5 options we think about (during brainstorming for example) are automatic responses based on our past experiences. Said differently, they are not creative! If you want true creativity you need to go past the 5th option… and that requires… time!
The earlier you start, the higher the chances you touch ground on originality. So the secret weapon is
Start early -> do something else -> finish late
As Aaron Sorkin puts it
You call it procrastination, I call it thinking!
I never know when I’m gonna publish what. I just iterate until reaching a satisfactory product. I even made it a habit to edit my articles, pictures, and music after publication! I make use of feedback and comments to constantly improve the “end product”.
In my world, iteration is king!
6. Pump-up the volume
While doing what I do, I would most probably plug my earphones and listen to music. I would also close the door when possible and turn off notifications. This allows me to withdraw from the outside world and enter my bubble.
Most athletes and top performers have specific routines, postures… that allow them to get into the flow. For example, Usain Bolts prepares for a sporting event using comedy antics like routines, whilst Michael Phelps displays a contemplative attitude while listening to music.
How do you do it?
If you have no clue, Read through on how to get into the flow.
7. Fill your to-do-list with things you’ll never do
That’s the weirdest advice of all. Remember what I said earlier, I have a hard time starting things, so… I trick myself with a loaded to-do-list to perform tasks I would have otherwise disregarded or delayed.
The underlying principle is the following
A standard procrastinator most often does the exact opposite. S/he hyper-productive on unimportant stuff. I use this embedded hyper-productivity to trick myself.
Here is how it works
- I identify the task/project I hate (but need).
- I put it on my to-do-list.
- Next to it, I put two other tasks I hate even more.
- The next day I open my to-do-list… surprise surprise, I have to choose among 3 tasks I despise. Guess which one I pick…
I know it’s weird but that’s how I trick myself. I hope it’ll work for you. 🙂
To sum up
- Know thyself
- Start early, finish late
- Pump-up the volume
I’m super interested in the reasons why you wouldn’t be able to apply my recipe. So please share your own experiences and limitations in the comment section. Also, tell me which advice surprised you the most or you’ll be applying as of tomorrow morning… and…