First things first
If you’re not working on your goal it doesn’t matter if you’re a Pomodoro expert, or if you know which rocks to put in the jar first or if you’ve downloaded 25 instant productivity apps. None of those productivity hacks will help you if you are not doing the things you need to be doing.
As an employee, I didn’t usually have the freedom to choose what to do. Now that I work for myself, I have more freedom to decide what is most important to do to accomplish my goals.
This turned out to be considerably harder than I anticipated.
Here is the first thing I realized about making progress in my life.
I needed a goal.
I chose earning $100,000 a year through writing.
I needed some steps I could take to achieve that goal.
No color-coding of infinitely outlined steps, just a list of things I could do to reach my goal. I wrote those down.
Now I needed to do those things I had written down.
This was really hard.
The reason this was so hard was that immediately 100’s of other things showed up to interject themselves into my life and derail my progress toward my goal.
There were so distractions that some days I couldn’t even remember my original goal. I literally spent all day dealing with distractions.
Fortunately, a week of this nonsense was enough for me to retreat and regroup.
So that’s what I did.
I needed a plan
Here’s how I got rid of my distractions so I could concentrate on what I needed to do.
I made an agreement with myself to spend a week keeping track of all the distracting things. I got a special notebook and every time a distraction appeared I wrote it down.
I not only wrote down what the distraction was, but also how it affected my progress and how long I spent on dealing with the distraction. I quickly found that the more attention I paid to distractions, the more distractions appeared to vex me.
But I persevered and by the end of the week I had filled the notebook and started another one.
I was dumbfounded with what I found out. I had no idea where my time had gone before I started keeping track. All I knew was that I was not getting any closer to my goal.
I made some executive decisions
I figured that since it was my life, I could eliminate the distractions that kept appearing in my work day.
- I turned off all notifications, everywhere, on every device I own. That means I don’t allow push notifications, I don’t read email on my phone, I don’t respond to breathless Twitter whines and I turned off all the sounds on my phone.
- I cleaned up my desk. It was covered with handwritten notes, pieces of paper, receipts and things I put there so I could deal with them later.
- I rearranged my work-space so that I was not looking out the window.
- I deleted, hid, unfriended, or unfollowed everyone who constantly used animated gifs because every time something moved on my screen my eyes were drawn to it.
There were a few more, but they are really personal and probably not of much use to anyone but me.
When I was finished, what I had left were my original steps toward my goal. Granted I had modified some of them, but what I had left was gold.
Then I started working on those steps.
Since they are my steps to my goal, I’m free to modify or delete them as I wish. But the deal is I don’t do that until I have given them a fair trial.
I found I no longer needed any productivity hacks to show me how to do things faster so I could do more things. I simply eliminated things I did not need to do.
I found out that the more I filled my day with important goal achieving work, the fewer distractions showed up to bug me.
We all know what we need to do to move toward our goal. Sometimes though, we don’t know what we don’t need to do. The way I figured out what I didn’t need to do was to write down two lists.
The first: my steps toward my goal.
The second: the things that showed up to distract me.
I figured out how to eliminate the distractions, and I was free to concentrate on the things I needed to do to get my goal.
That was the best productivity hack I’ve ever used. It worked for me; I see no reason why it couldn’t work for you too.