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How to Use Productivity Cheat Days and Still Get Things Done

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 July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

More on Building Habits

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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