Top 5 productivity tips for the terminal procrastinator

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When it came time to sit down and hammer out some resolutions for the New Year (or revolutions, as my daughter insists on calling them, or remevonooshuns, as my son calls them), there was one promise that I made to myself above all others: Be more productive.

I’m a terrible procrastinator. I think we all are really, endlessly finding things to do to avoid doing the thing that we should be doing, knowing full well that if the roles were reversed, and we needed to do Thing Two instead, that we’d be procrastinating by doing Thing One instead. Some peculiar trick of evolution, some fight-or-flight malfunction in our brainstems, is messing us all up, getting us to clean windows when we should be writing, or endlessly check Twitter when we have a report due by the end of the day. It’s a nonsense, really, the way our stupid squishy brains work.

This year, I decided that I would work really hard on cutting that procrastination out of my life. The reason? Well, on the one hand I work from home, have done for almost two years now. It was only meant to last a few months, but here we are. As anyone else who sits alone at a laptop all day will tell you, it’s bloody hard work staying motivated, focused, and engaged. So I need to make sure that I can keep up the same level of productivity I would in an office. Hell, there’s no reason I can’t be better than that since I don't have to actually talk to people.

The second reason is that I have another job, too. You know, the one that leads to all those books that you can buy if you follow the links at the top of the page. Being an indie publisher takes a ridiculous amount of work, admin, promotion, and other busywork, and that’s before you take into account that I need to do writing every single day. Oh, and the aforementioned kids and the rest of real life.

Hence the need for organisation. Being this busy doesn’t really work if you’re spending a quarter of your day staring into space thinking about old Babylon 5 plots, or scrolling endlessly through Twitter trying to find something to be angry about. 

So, now that I’ve been on this kick for all of *checks calendar* ELEVEN DAYS, here’s my top five tools that can help you be a more productive you. And just so you know I'm on the level, none of the below is even affiliate-linked. Man, I really should have sorted some affiliate links.

  1. Pomadoro: I’ve been using this method of sprint working, where you use a timer to break down work into chunks separated by short breaks, on my writing for a while now. This year I’ve started applying it to my regular work, and found it’s really increased my productivity. I take one hour each day and split it into three 15 minute sprints, separated by five minute’s rest each time, and at the end of the hour I’ve usually managed to clear a huge chunk of what I need to do. Then I do another hour’s worth writing in the evening, which usually gives me around 1000 words. I use Be Focused for the Mac.
  2. Self-Control: Another Mac app, this blocks off your access to any website you shouldn’t be looking at while you’re working. You can add websites onto the blacklist, set the time for as long as you need, and hey presto, even if your mind wanders and that tiny deadened part of your soul reaches out for a Twitter hit, it can’t reach it. Not only that, but it’s impossible to turn it off for the duration. Sure does focus the mind.
  3. Todoist: There’s a hundred different to-do organisers out there, but this is my weapon of choice. You can set up different ‘project’s or subject matters (such as writing admin, work, errands, blog posts etc) and never lose track of what you’re supposed to be doing from day to day. You can assign due dates, then just track what you need to do on a day-by-day basis. I also use it to capture random thoughts or story bits that pop into my head, then assign them to a time when I’ll be at my desk so I can put them into my Scrivener file.
  4. Scrivener: Speaking of which… I’ve been using Scrivener for a good few years now to write in, and whenever I have to go back to Word or anything else it’s a bit like being Nic Cage in The Wicker Man remake, what with all the bees and whatnot. If you’re a writer, I cannot recommend it enough. It’s a steep learning curve, but get past that and you’ll find the best damn writing software on the plant. Especially with the new update, which is glorious.
  5. Feedly: This is a recent one. Well, not really, I used to have a Feedly account, years ago, when RSS was what all the cool kids were doing behind the bike sheds. I gave it up once the hardcore drugs of Twitter and Facebook showed up, because who can be bothered to read actual articles anymore when everything is GIFs and 140 characters? But I’ve become increasingly aware that my addiction to social media is both unhealthy, and unproductive. At the start of the year I deleted my blue apps from my phone, but that lasted about three days, when I realised that logging on through my phone’s web browser wasn’t exactly better than what I was doing before. Truth is, there are lots of times when I will have idle time and want to look at something on my phone. The problem is that I also spend too much time doing that when I should be doing other things. So, the thought occurred to me that I just needed something better, more productive, to look at. So, I set up a new Feedly account and followed a metric crap-tonne of writing blogs, science and technology sites, other things that might spark ideas and writing ideas. So now if I have time to kill, I can still be more productive, and I don’t have to be so addicted to the all-seeing social media eye.

So, there we go. Five tips for a more productive you. And I’m definitely the person to listen to, even if this blog post was supposed to be done three days ago, but wasn’t because I haven’t been as productive as I should have been. There’s always room for improvement.

So, what tips and tools are keeping you productive in 2018?

Blood on the Motorway: An apocalyptic trilogy of murder and stale sandwiches is out now in ebook and print from Amazon and all other good bookstores.