As you may know by now, I’m a self-employed person, and unfortunately one who is a terrible… or should I say really excellent procrastinator. Somehow, I have been juggling between multiple jobs: I teach tuition, co-manage a business, run this site, and just started my YouTube channel. That’s at least three to four hats to wear, so in the past few years I have learnt how to
Done is better than perfect
In recent years, I found that the most powerful lesson I have learnt is that “done is better than perfect”. For many people including myself, striving for perfection results in severe procrastination. Instead of doing the task, we spend hours upon hours thinking of how best to accomplish something, and end up sitting on it forever because perfection is just not attainable.
The best way is to just make something good enough, a solid 7 or even 6 out of 10, then rolling it out because 10 out of 10 is either impossible or simply requires too much time. Not putting out anything as a result of trying to get a perfect score is in reality a big fat 0 out of 10 and the sooner “perfectionists” – procrastinators, really – come to terms with this, the better for our productivity.
Take my YouTube channel for instance; I wanted to do YouTube for the longest time, and I spent lots of time wondering how best to do it. Planning is great but there comes a point where you should just do it, and do it I did: my first video had questionable lighting and basically no content, but it kicked off my channel and I now do videos regularly, trying to improve it each time.
This is in line with Pareto’s principle where 80% of your results come from 20% of your efforts. There is simply not much point in trying to spend additional 80% to derive a marginal improvement in the results.
Procrastination is a natural human behaviour (for me anyway) that probably can’t be cured, and I’ve learnt that working with it is a lot more effective than trying to completely oppose it . As such, I have been using three ways to manage my procrastination, and the first thing I usually do is to just give in. That’s right, I simply procrastinate when a task makes me feel like procrastinating… but I make sure I go and do something else that is meaningful and productive.
Too many times I have spent twiddling my thumbs and ruminating over the task I don’t want to do, and this is a lot of wasted hours. I have learnt to instead drop the task for now, and go do something else even if it’s as trivial as cleaning my toilet or paying my credit cards. Those are tasks that need to be done anyway, so instead of being very unproductive and stuck at starting a task, I would rather complete small, insignificant tasks which saves me from spending time on them later on. The completion of these tasks also get me into the mood of getting things done so that I can go back and deal with the real task I need to do.
Once I’m back at the task, I give myself two choices. The first: just do it. I worry only about how to do the first step of any task I want to complete, and I get down to it, even if I spend a minute or two on it. Usually, once a task gets started, it becomes a lot easier and natural to see it through and get it done. Even if that doesn’t happen, I have already started on the task which makes it that much easier to get started on it again at a later time.
The second choice would be… just don’t do it. It probably sounds insane, but if you find yourself constantly sitting on certain tasks, you have to question yourself whether you are in the right job or field.
It is probably very difficult and painful to accomplish things if you don’t enjoy your work. I procrastinate on doing things like my YouTube and site every now and then, but I eventually still power through and continually push out content on a regular schedule because they are still pursuits that I enjoy. Things that people constantly procrastinate on are things that they don’t enjoy, and that is something to reflect on.
If you really have no choice and can’t just don’t do it… well you can only go back to the one other option which is just do it, and do it you shall. Sometimes having no choice is simpler.
Having a Super Hour/Day
Humans are creatures of habit, and I try to leverage that for productivity. I used to work long Saturdays, and I go into the habit of continuing to clear work stuff for the week after I knock off in the evening, before going to the gym near my office and then catching the last bus home. Once I got used to it, it just became a very productive day of the week where I get things done.
Now, work is less hectic as it was during the startup phase, and I would continue to I designate every Sunday to be my Super Day: chores get done, errands get completed, and work stuff gets addressed. Once things get into a routine, it becomes far easier being productive as opposed to always having to find time in the week to see to matters.
Start small and assign “super hours” during your free times of a day, and work is non-negotiable. Don’t make plans with friends. In fact, don’t even think of making any other plans. Do your chores, side hustles… start a side hustle if you haven’t already done so. Once your mind has made the decision to be productive, it’s just easier to get into a productive mindset. Build this habit repeatedly until it becomes second nature.
Taking public transportation, and making use of the time
There are people who’d justify taking taxis or having a car as a means to save time, and time is money yada yada so the cost is justified.
Personally, I feel that the time spent on buses or trains can be quite well utilised. Between my phone and iPad, I can deal with emails, write entire blog posts, and essentially clear out smaller chores so that I can focus on other things when I’m at my destination.
I’ve heard from a friend that a rather high-ranking government official forgoes driving to take the bus each day so he can reply emails in his morning journey to work, so I’m in pretty good company.
Even watching TV episodes counts for something, since I get some downtime, check off something I would have spent time watching anyway, and have more bandwidth for tasks when I reach home.
Maybe some might vehemently disagree, but I find that there is greater friction in booking cabs: sometimes you can spend forever trying to book a ride, and the driver might take a long time to pick you or get lost. It just seems way more effort than public transportation which is very passive and predictable, and that leaves me with more headroom to deal with other stuff.
Listening to podcasts and audiobooks instead of music
Rather than listening to music, I default to listening to podcasts and audiobooks. This way, time spent at the gym or on public transportation doubles up as time learning new information and picking up knowledge.
Podcasts are great to keep current with topics I’m interested in such as technology and personal finance, while audiobooks offer a convenient way to devour entire books dedicated to delve deep in a particular topic. I listen to The Motley Fool podcast for investing news and info, and I’ve finished How To Train Your Mind and am now on The Membership Economy. Both are great “reads” which cost me very little time since I’ve been listening to them during my daily routines. Listen to these books and other great content with a free trial of Audible!
When you think of how much time you spend commuting, the hours of listening to such material can add up to a lot of knowledge. Whether it’s investing, managing your stress levels, or getting fresh ideas that help you with work or starting a new business, such content is measuredly more useful than music. Sorry JJ Lin!
What about you? Share with us your productivity tips and tricks!
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