Advertising
Advertising

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.

Advertising

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:

Advertising

  • 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.

Advertising

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.

Advertising

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

How to Create a To-Do List That Super Boosts Your Productivity The Crucial Letter Your SMART Goal Is Missing What Is FOMO (And How to Get Over It and Move on) Do You Do This Common Mistake When You Start Working on Your Tasks? 9 Valuable Lessons Learned After Writing My First Book

Trending in Productivity

1 How to Work Hard the Smart Way: 4 Daily Rituals to Follow 2 Your Night Routine Guide to Sleeping Better & Waking Up Productive 3 74 Healthy Habits That Will Drastically Improve Every Aspect of Your Life 4 How to Increase Willpower and Be Mentally Tough 5 9 Daily Habits That Will Change Your Life

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on April 22, 2021

How to Work Hard the Smart Way: 4 Daily Rituals to Follow

How to Work Hard the Smart Way: 4 Daily Rituals to Follow

Habits are what sets an average leader apart from a great leader. We can argue that talent is the biggest factor; we may debate how the amount of charisma sets the two apart. Yet, if you were to show me what you believed to be a great leader, I can show you the habits that made her/him great. Great leaders have great habits and know how to work hard the smart way.

Developing Great Habits Is Hard Work

In my early college days, I had spent a lot of time learning how to play the trumpet. Playing the trumpet took time and discipline. I had some natural talent, but not enough to hide my lack of ability. My trumpet teacher was a man of discipline, and there was no doubt he had talent. What stood to me was his work ethic. He had to be one of the hardest working mentors that I had the privilege of working with.

One afternoon, I was in his office getting ready for my weekly trumpet lesson. As I was preparing, my eyes scanned the room and saw that there were quotes all over his office. My eyes rested on one quote that forever changed my thinking about my playing. It was a quote from my high school basketball coach Tim Notke that would become popular through professional athletes Kevin Durant and Tim Tebow:

“Hard work beats talent when talent fails to work hard.”

Hard work trumps talent. The key to success is not found in your talent or ability. Talent and ability are necessary, but they are not the primary factors. They are supporting roles in the story you are writing.

Ultimately, hard work is the key to your success. A good work ethic creates the momentum that propels you forward towards your goals.

Motivation Is Not the Answer

How many times have you seen someone go to a conference, get inspired, and then come home and do nothing?

If motivation were the answer, the world would have transformed hundreds of times over. Yet, when we look out our doors or turn on the news, we do not see a utopian society.

We have thousands of people who become inspired but lack the work ethic to apply anything they have learned. Time and time again frustration creeps in. We are so motivated and inspired by what we see but fail to put in place the things that would change our lives.

Advertising

Frustration happens when the gap between what you expect to be true and what is true gets bigger. Motivation tends to create an expectation that is not rooted in reality. We want to take on the world but cannot get off Netflix long enough to do so.

Motivation is not the answer, but working hard is. Good habits and routines that produce success are the byproducts of a strong work ethic. The habits and routines we create and follow are the foundation on which we build a winning life.

How to Work Hard by Working Smarter

Here are 4 routines that will help you learn how to work hard and achieve your short term and long term goals.

1. Define What a Win Looks Like

In football, a player that crosses into the end zone gain points. In soccer, a player kicks the ball into the net to score. Hockey, lacrosse, and basketball are all the same. The player takes the object and moves it into the designated area to gain points. The team with the most points wins the game.

Why is it that we can define what a win looks like in sports, but we fail to do so in our leadership, our businesses, or our homes?

Learning how to work hard without setting a target is futile. It is insanity to work hard without having a clear direction to place your energy. I would argue that defining a win is one of the most important routines that a leader can have. Defining a win separates superficial activity from meaningful activity.

When I define a win, I know the goal line I have to cross[1]. Knowing where the goal line is informs me of the activity I have to engage in to cross it. Without a clear direction, I am spinning my wheels hoping that I will get to a destination I haven’t defined. It is like asking a GPS for directions but failing to input the destination.

4 Steps to Define a Win
  • Know the outcome you desire.
  • Declare the outcome in specific, meaningful terms.
  • Write the outcome down.
  • Set your activity list to only do that which will complete your goals.

Let me give you an example. 15 years ago, I started speaking professionally. As a young and naïve speaker, I thought winning meant that I had to get a reaction from the audience. If they cheered, smiled, or cried, I considered myself a winner. The problem was my lack of understanding of what a win looked like. As a seasoned speaker, my wins look different.

As of today, when I speak, I am not looking for any emotional reactions from the audience. I win if, and only if, I clearly communicated my point so that anyone hearing the talk can take it and apply it to their lives that day. That is how I define a win when I speak now.

Advertising

Create a habit of declaring a win. When you do, you will see your productivity soar and your encouragement increase. Pairing a hard work ethic with wise decisions creates victory. Stop being a mouse on a wheel that goes nowhere, and start being the captain of your fleet.

2. Evaluate Your Activity

Not all activity is equal. There are things you must do, things you need to do, and things we can either give away or delete. The greatest challenge of a leader is understanding the difference. Understanding what activity is busywork and what activity is mission work is pivotal.

Not only do we need to learn how to evaluate our activity, but we must make this a core routine in our arsenal of success. Stop working so hard on everything and start learning how to work hard on the right things.

Not every activity will move the needle forward for you. In fact, you were never meant to do everything yourself! Once we stop trying to be a martyr in our leadership, we can start looking at how to take things off our plates through delegation.

Based on the Eisenhower box, there are 4 things that we look at when deciding on which activities are important:

  • Do now
  • Plan to do it later
  • Delegate to someone else
  • Delete it

Powerful questions are the way you discover if the activity is right or not:

  • Does this activity move me towards or away from my goals?
  • Do I have to do this activity or can I give this activity away to someone else?
  • Does this activity have to be now right now or can it be scheduled for later dates?
  • Does this activity have to be done at all?

Evaluating the type of activity you engage in should be a routine that you do daily. Learning how to work hard should create progress. Having a system of evaluation and a routine to do it will help.

3. Prioritize Your Calendar

If you were to show me your calendar, I could show you why you are not further along. When you lack the routine of placing things on your calendar, two things happen.

First, what does not make it on your calendar does not get done.

Advertising

It is a simple truth that is often overlooked. Your calendar contains the power to change your life. Yet, we don’t use our calendars to their fullest potential.

“You will never change your life until you change something you do daily. The secret of your success is found in your daily routine.” -John C. Maxwell

Also, if you don’t mark you activities on your calendar, you are leaving it open to other’s priorities.

“The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.” -Stephen Covey

Having a routine in your life where you place things on your calendar is pivotal to your success. This is not a routine one should overlook.

It’s time to take your leadership and business to the next level. It’s time to start putting your daily routines on your calendar, along with your priorities.

4. Reflect on Your Day and Plan the Next

We are all about the morning routine. Whatever that looks like for you, there should be a routine in the morning that sets you up for success.

Hard work starts when your feet hit the ground in the morning. Creating the habit of winning starts with the first thing you accomplish that morning. If you win your morning, you will win your day.

Advertising

Best Morning Routine to Prepare to Work Hard

    But how often have you heard people talk about an evening routine? Tomorrow is won the day before it happens. When you fail to plan your day, you may put your effort toward in the wrong things. Route replaces routine. Indecision replaces decisiveness. Losses replace wins. The discouragement will deflate your momentum and increases the chances of procrastination. That is why we set our schedule the night before.

    “Every battle is won or lost before it is ever fought.” -Sun Tzu

    Working hard doesn’t have to be hard work. It shouldn’t take much out of you learn how to work hard as long as you work smart. Having a time where you reflect on the day and set your priorities is the difference-maker.

    Use these questions to reflect on your day:

    • What went well?
    • What didn’t go well?
    • What can I change?
    • What do I need to start doing?
    • What do I need to stop doing?

    The Bottom Line

    Navigating through life is hard work. Yet, the work doesn’t have to be hard when you work smarter. When you create routines that support your mission, you create wins. Working hard, the smart way will tip the balance in our favor.

    Boxing legend Joe Frazier said:

    “Champions aren’t made in the ring; they are merely recognized there.”

    Champions put in the hard work behind the scenes. The world recognized them as a champion when they saw the results of the hard work. Right now, you are doing the work of creating a champion in yourself.

    That work is setting your routines in order because you now know that success flows from your daily routines. If you are not experiencing the success you desire, then it is time to change things up.

    More on Creating Healthy Routines

    Featured photo credit: Zan via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] The Balance Careers: Interview Question: “How Do You Define Success?”

    Read Next