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How to Use Productivity Cheat Days and Still Get Things Done

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How to Use Productivity Cheat Days and Still Get Things Done

Some years ago you made a radical change in your life: you were a heavy procrastinator until one day you wanted to change your ways. You decided to get rid of this bad habit for good and become a productive and organized person.

You figured that if you’d become a person like that, you’d feel energized and happy, since you were finally able to get stuff done.

But there you are now – a very productive person – and yet, you start to feel exhausted and overwhelmed. You are wondering why you are feeling like this, but you cannot find any rational reason behind your feelings.

At the same time, you know that this is not how you should feel and you start looking for a solution to your situation.

Well, I might have something that could solve your issue and it’s perhaps something you are not expecting.

You need breaks – and not just between the tasks

Here is the thing: you keep working hard all the time – day after day.

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Then at some point, your brain starts to send you messages saying: “You need to slow down a bit – you are working too hard.” However, this doesn’t stop you and you keep working the same way as before.

Instead of ignoring your internal messages, you should pay very close attention to them. Your brain is messaging you for a reason. It’s trying to tell you that you should slow down a bit so that you have more energy to continue with your work later.

Unfortunately, you don’t want to slow down. In fact, you feel obligated to work hard and take advantage of every minute you have – without any breaks or slowdowns.

Is the fear keeping you on the move?

Instead of feeling overwhelmed and burned out by productivity, it should be fun and meaningful.

However, there is this other – conflicting – voice in your head, that is competing with the “slow down” message and this is sabotaging your efforts to recharge your batteries from constant action.

When you hear this other conflicting message, you are afraid that you’ll:

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  • Label yourself as a procrastinator, if you slow down or take a break
  • Fall back into unproductive habits that you had earlier
  • Be unable to reach your goal fast enough

Now, those reasons are valid enough but then again – they do not justify why you are pushing yourself unnecessarily to your limits.

Regular productivity cheat days

The solution I’m going to offer to you may scare some. Yet again, this is exactly when the fear starts to kick-in, so hold on a second and don’t run away.

The fact is that no matter how productive you are, you need to take proper breaks in order to take care of yourself. And as an entrepreneur, blogger or whoever who is doing any bit of creative work, this habit is very important.

So what do I mean by taking proper breaks? Does it mean like taking small breaks between tasks?

Well, even though that is a start, I’m talking about a little bit different thing here and that involves cheating.

Cheating, you ask? Yes…cheating.

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You see, some years ago I changed my diet and lost weight. And in order to reach my goal (thinner me), I had to cheat a bit.

I allowed myself to eat more freely and soothe my mind by eating something unhealthy on occasion.

So even though I wasn’t eating the healthiest foods all the time, it gave me the motivation to continue with the weight loss process successfully.

Now, take this same concept of cheating and apply it to productivity. Like in a diet, have a cheat day in your schedule. Allow yourself to procrastinate a bit and just relax.

Your work will always wait for you and I bet you are anxious to get back to work, after cheating a bit.

In fact, you’re energized to finish your task list and get stuff done as soon as you get back to work.

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What do you think? Are you willing to give it a try?

Productivity cheat days –  the essentials

Follow these steps for becoming a successful “cheater”:

  1. Plan your cheat days. First of all, you should find an optimum cheat day in your schedule. In my case, my cheat day is mostly on Sundays, but you might have another day which suits you better. I chose Sundays as my cheat days is because it’s the end of the week. This is a nice way to end my week – by recharging my batteries – and preparing myself for the new week…
  2. Break the pattern. Stir up things a bit and shake up your regular patterns. Don’t touch your e-mail; don’t look at your task list or just wake up later than usual. Remember, this is the day when you are allowed to cheat at a bit.
  3. Take in some offline fun.  Spend more time with your family. Go out with your spouse, play with your kids, do some household work that you have been putting off. What if you just rested, rented a movie, or took a long walk outside in the nature?
  4. Enjoy your cheating – guilt free. The most important thing is that you should enjoy your cheat day without any guilt. Enjoy the situation and feel energized to return to your normal routine again the next day!

It’s easy to keep on working and being super-productive – day after day. However, you need to take a break at some point.

One way to do it is to have regular productivity cheat days when you break your current patterns for a moment. This way you are energized to crush the task list the next day or make big steps in your current project that you have been working on.

Just remember, that you should enjoy these cheat days – guilt free. You have worked hard and now it’s time to slow down a bit.

You have deserved it!

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Over to you: Do you take productivity cheat days?

More by this author

Timo Kiander

Productivity Author and Founder of Productive Superdad

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Last Updated on October 21, 2021

How to Create Your Own Ritual to Conquer Time Wasters and Laziness

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How to Create Your Own Ritual to Conquer Time Wasters and Laziness

Life is wasted in the in-between times. The time between when your alarm first rings and when you finally decide to get out of bed. The time between when you sit at your desk and when productive work begins. The time between making a decision and doing something about it.

Slowly, your day is whittled away from all the unused in-between moments. Eventually, time wasters, laziness, and procrastination get the better of you.

The solution to reclaim these lost middle moments is by creating rituals. Every culture on earth uses rituals to transfer information and encode behaviors that are deemed important. Personal rituals can help you build a better pattern for handling everything from how you wake up to how you work.

Unfortunately, when most people see rituals, they see pointless superstitions. Indeed, many rituals are based on a primitive understanding of the world. But by building personal rituals, you get to encode the behaviors you feel are important and cut out the wasted middle moments.

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Program Your Own Algorithms

Another way of viewing rituals is by seeing them as computer algorithms. An algorithm is a set of instructions that is repeated to get a result.

Some algorithms are highly efficient, sorting or searching millions of pieces of data in a few seconds. Other algorithms are bulky and awkward, taking hours to do the same task.

By forming rituals, you are building algorithms for your behavior. Take the delayed and painful pattern of waking up, debating whether to sleep in for another two minutes, hitting the snooze button, repeat until almost late for work. This could be reprogrammed to get out of bed immediately, without debating your decision.

How to Form a Ritual

I’ve set up personal rituals for myself for handling e-mail, waking up each morning, writing articles, and reading books. Far from making me inflexible, these rituals give me a useful default pattern that works best 99% of the time. Whenever my current ritual won’t work, I’m always free to stop using it.

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Forming a ritual isn’t too difficult, and the same principles for changing habits apply:

  1. Write out your sequence of behavior. I suggest starting with a simple ritual of only 3-4 steps maximum. Wait until you’ve established a ritual before you try to add new steps.
  2. Commit to following your ritual for thirty days. This step will take the idea and condition it into your nervous system as a habit.
  3. Define a clear trigger. When does your ritual start? A ritual to wake up is easy—the sound of your alarm clock will work. As for what triggers you to go to the gym, read a book or answer e-mail—you’ll have to decide.
  4. Tweak the Pattern. Your algorithm probably won’t be perfectly efficient the first time. Making a few tweaks after the first 30-day trial can make your ritual more useful.

Ways to Use a Ritual

Based on the above ideas, here are some ways you could implement your own rituals:

1. Waking Up

Set up a morning ritual for when you wake up and the next few things you do immediately afterward. To combat the grogginess after immediately waking up, my solution is to do a few pushups right after getting out of bed. After that, I sneak in ninety minutes of reading before getting ready for morning classes.

2. Web Usage

How often do you answer e-mail, look at Google Reader, or check Facebook each day? I found by taking all my daily internet needs and compressing them into one, highly-efficient ritual, I was able to cut off 75% of my web time without losing any communication.

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3. Reading

How much time do you get to read books? If your library isn’t as large as you’d like, you might want to consider the rituals you use for reading. Programming a few steps to trigger yourself to read instead of watching television or during a break in your day can chew through dozens of books each year.

4. Friendliness

Rituals can also help with communication. Set up a ritual of starting a conversation when you have opportunities to meet people.

5. Working

One of the hardest barriers when overcoming procrastination is building up a concentrated flow. Building those steps into a ritual can allow you to quickly start working or continue working after an interruption.

6. Going to the gym

If exercising is a struggle, encoding a ritual can remove a lot of the difficulty. Set up a quick ritual for going to exercise right after work or when you wake up.

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7. Exercise

Even within your workouts, you can have rituals. Spacing the time between runs or reps with a certain number of breaths can remove the guesswork. Forming a ritual of doing certain exercises in a particular order can save time.

8. Sleeping

Form a calming ritual in the last 30-60 minutes of your day before you go to bed. This will help slow yourself down and make falling asleep much easier. Especially if you plan to get up full of energy in the morning, it will help if you remove insomnia.

8. Weekly Reviews

The weekly review is a big part of the GTD system. By making a simple ritual checklist for my weekly review, I can get the most out of this exercise in less time. Originally, I did holistic reviews where I wrote my thoughts on the week and progress as a whole. Now, I narrow my focus toward specific plans, ideas, and measurements.

Final Thoughts

We all want to be productive. But time wasters, procrastination, and laziness sometimes get the better of us. If you’re facing such difficulties, don’t be afraid to make use of these rituals to help you conquer them.

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More Tips to Conquer Time Wasters and Procrastination

 

Featured photo credit: RODOLFO BARRETO via unsplash.com

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