My favorite productivity technique (this week)

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Of all the productivity techniques I use and talk about, one stands out as my favorite. I use it when I’m feeling overwhelmed by a project and don’t know what to do. I use it when I’m procrastinating, can’t focus, or I want to give up and go play.

It’s nothing new. Nothing I haven’t talked about before. It’s just something I use a lot when I feel stuck.

I used it recently with my Evernote account. (I just passed 10,000 notes, thank you, and revamped everything. I’ll talk about that later.)

Anyway, I’m calling this technique “going micro” and it has two elements.

The first element is to continually break things up into progressively smaller and smaller parts or steps until I find one that’s so small, I can’t NOT do it.

This is key. If you’re balking at updating your website, for example, pick a first task that’s so small it doesn’t feel like work.

That small first step might be gathering up all your notes on the subject and putting them in one place. I did that recently with a new project. It’s big and daunting and my eyes glaze over when I think about everything I have to do.

Break things up into tiny Kindergarten-simple action steps.

My first step was to put 107 notes about the project in a (temporary) new notebook. Small step, big victory. The project has begun.

My next step, also something so small I can’t not do it, is to sort through my notes, tag the important ones, and move the rest back into “gen pop,” i.e., move them back into my Reference notebook.

Easy. Simple. Done.

Next, I’ll go through the newly tagged important notes and make a “Master Project Note,” describing the project and listing all of the “Next Actions.”

You can bet that those next actions will also be small.

Small steps for the win.

The second element of “going micro” is to work in small increments of time. Five minutes to sort through my notes, for example.

Five minutes is something I can do. And because it’s “only” five minutes, it’s not something I will resist.

When five minutes is up, I might choose to continue working (for another 5 minutes), or do something else. I might choose another task in that project or I might do something fun or frivolous, to reward myself for being a good boy.

By giving yourself permission to stop working after 5 minutes, continuing to work becomes a choice, not a commitment. This lessons resistance and allows us to feel good about what we’re doing.

Anyway, it works for me and it’s my favorite productivity technique this week. Next week? Who knows.

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