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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!

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 22, 2020

2 Transformational Ways to Spark Your Creative Energy

2 Transformational Ways to Spark Your Creative Energy

Good things come in twos: Peanut butter and jelly, Day and night, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. The same is true for what sparks our creative energy: our thoughts and actions.

Creativity is an inside job as much as it is about a conducive schedule, physical environment, and supportive behaviors. By establishing the right internal and external landscape, creativity can blossom from the abstract to the concrete and we can have fun along the way.

Sparking creativity is all about setting up the right conditions so a spark is ignited and sustained. The sparks don’t fizzle out. They are allowed to grow and ripen.

Think of a garden. Intention alone will not produce the delicious red tomato nor will the readiest seed. That seed needs attention at its nascent stage and as it grows a stalk and produces fruit. If we want to enjoy more than one fruit, we keep at it, cultivating the plant and reaping multiple harvests.

Creativity lives in each of us like seeds in the earth or encapsulated in a nut. Seeds of ideas, concepts, designs, stories, images, and even ways of communicating that surprise and delight await activation.

By sparking our creative energy, we activate these unique seeds. Like snowflakes, they are of a moment and always without a match. The smallest sparks encourage even the smallest, most dormant seeds to sprout.

The good news is that our creative energy wishes to be sparked—to be invited to play. It wants to be our regular playmate.

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1. Be Childlike in Your Thoughts, Attitudes, and Approach

Being childlike in our thoughts, attitudes, and approach is an easy way to internally have our thoughts be gracious prolific gardeners to our creative energy. If we want it to come out and play and hang around as our regular companion, then let’s return to our 5-year-old selves.

Our childhood selves are naturally curious. We still have that curiosity! All we have to do is remind ourselves to get curious. We can do that by simply observing and being with what is in front of us instead of making up a story about what won’t work or why something can’t be done. So, it’s about cultivating curiosity instead of jumping into judgment.

Move Your Inner Judge to the Sidelines

When we get curious, creativity percolates and, ultimately, takes its place in the world. To give a hand in choosing curiosity over judgment, we can move the judge that also lives inside us to the sidelines. The judge squashes our creative urges, even when they are as small as sharing a point of view. It’s that pesky voice that causes us to doubt ourselves or worry about what others will think.

The judge is also risk-averse. The judge likes things to stay the same. Change makes the judge nervous.

Creativity is all about risk and changing things up. It needs risk, even failure, to be its naturally innovative, dynamic, impactful self. The judge likes to convince us failure is something to be avoided at all costs.

To move the judge to the sidelines and let curiosity reign, we can pay attention to who we are in conversation with and who is calling the shots.

Is it the voice of fear, doubt, or anxiety (the inner-critic—the judge’s boss)? Or is it the voice of wisdom, courage, strength, and non-attachment, and of course curiosity (the inner-leader)?

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We can easily tell the difference by how each makes us feel. The inner-critic depletes and slows us down, putting roadblocks in the way. The inner-leader energizes and a natural rhythm develops.

It’s all about who we spend time with. If we wish to exercise, we will seek out our friends who go to the gym or hike. If we want to lose some weight, we will opt to eat dinner with someone who prefers a healthy spot over fast food.

After getting curious, we can honor what our curiosity prompts us to do. The spark can do its job and a fire starts to glow when commitment enters. Our childhood selves were fully committed to being creative. That level of commitment is still something we are very capable of exercising!!

Again, we need to let go of the judge. We can ask ourselves, what do we want to commit to—negativity that depletes our creative energy, depth, and output, or the understanding that our thoughts and attitudes matter and that right thoughts and attitudes are the sparks that really let our creativity come alive?

Learn to Recall Your Childhood Self

To get in touch with that unabashedly committed childhood self, recall your childhood self. If you have a picture, pull one out. Keep it around so you can remember to activate that innate creative nature that was prominent then and wants to be prominent now and always.

Soak in the essence of that being. Commit to their commitment to brave and dogged trial and error because it is yours as well. You are that person.

Remember how tenacious you were when you wanted to build that sandcastle. You kept at it as the waves came in. You built with fury or reconfigured the walls. Also, remember that there was a willingness to fail since you were as invested in the process as well as the outcome—but less with the outcome. You were willing to experiment and start again. There was vitality—the main lifeline of your creative energy—instead of a rigid attachment.

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When you notice you are in conversation with your inner-critic or being held back by it, simply acknowledge, name it, and then switch to your inner-leader by taking a few good deep belly breaths, rubbing two fingertips together, or listening to ambient sounds in the background.

Physical movements shift our negative thoughts over to the positive domain of the inner-leader. As our judge continues to sit on the sidelines, our ability to quiet the inner-critic becomes stronger. We taste freedom. A simple taste emboldens us to say no again to the judge and yes to what makes our hearts and spirits sing—our creativity.

We begin to spark creativity to the point it no longer needs to be invited to play. It becomes our regular playmate—the younger sibling or the kid next door ready to have some fun, maybe even make some mischief by shaking things up.

When we align with our inner-leader and think and act from its promptings, creativity flows up and out with ease, as it needs to!

Letting those initial sparks generate a creativity fire that keeps burning is something we can all do! That’s the inside job.

2. Listen to Your Inner Leaders of Creative Energy

If we listen, our inner-leaders will let us know just what we need to set-up and do in our physical world to maximize that gorgeous, hungry creativity we now have flowing freely in us.

The seed has been unlocked! So, now what?

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To enable our creative energy to take its form and place outside of us, there needs to be spaciousness! Spaciousness in our physical worlds impacts our internal one. It lets the voice of the inner-leader be heard. It lets creativity have room to be sparked and acted upon.

With a little discipline, we can easily create spaciousness in our daily lives—spaciousness that will spark our creativity and let it take shape.

So, no matter who you are and what conditions help your creativity thrive, check-out these easy-to-implement basic suggestions:

  • Reduce or eliminate multi-tasking.
  • Say yes to what matters and what aligns with your big values and goals.
  • Say no to all else.
  • Say no again.
  • Schedule time in your calendar as you do with other things in your life to just be, to ponder, to let ideas percolate, and to create.
  • Spend time doing the things that bring out your creative energy. It could be walking, singing, or simply looking out the window.
  • Meditate.
  • Breathe—long breaths in and long breaths out through the nose.
  • Invite your body and heart into your experiences so your mind is a part of you and not all of you.
  • Try a new thing to spark your creativity. If you spend time running, try a different route. If running feels stale, cruise around a museum, or go for a bike ride.
  • Play a game. Indoors out or outside. Think of what makes you happy that you haven’t done in a while. Is it a physical game like badminton or cards? Maybe it’s storytelling? Play is creative, and it sparks the creative energy, too.
  • Spend time in the places that bring out your creativity. What spot in your home could be your spot for entering into that mode? Do you need to get out? Maybe a park bench is the right spot, with a book of poetry, or even nothing at all.
  • Spend time in nature. Nature brings us to a place of calm and awe and through that our creativity is easily sparked.

Final Thoughts

These are all habits—habits of mind and habits of doing. Experiment with what works for you. Have fun. If you give even 50% to altering your thoughts and actions, then you will begin to spark your creativity. It takes a lot of curiosity and commitment, but it can definitely be done.

Our innate creative energy is a deep source of all that we seek—joy, connection, renewal. It deserves and looks forward to the changes you will make that will let sparks fly and ignite!

More Tips to Spark Your Creative Energy

Featured photo credit: Kelly Sikkema via unsplash.com

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