Five Ways to Help You Finally Get Some Work Done

Every Friday, I’m compiling a list of five things that meet one criterion. “What is that criterion,” you ask? Well, it’s going to change every week and you’re just going to have to try and keep up.

This week…

Five Ways to Help You Finally Get Some Work Done

Nobody likes to do work (if they did, they wouldn’t constantly refer to it as “work”) and as a result of our current culture, buckling down and doing that which we don’t like to do is more difficult than ever.

Don’t fret, however, as successful people at all levels (and across the wide spectrum of creativity) employ many simple and applicable methods for those struggling to take that first step into a larger world of, y’know, actually getting work done.

The five best examples of said methods are listed below.

5. Take notes.

One of the reasons I sometimes struggle to motivate myself to get work done is because I sit down and I feel like I’m completely alone and have only a limited amount of time and brainspace to accomplish the task at hand. Everybody can write a decent paper for school in three hours but it’s never as good as if you put a week’s worth of mental effort into it (which everyone does, anyway, whether they know it or not).

When you know you have a project due twelve days from now and you also know that you will not actually start working on it until late Sunday afternoon, you have to prepare yourself. Though you yourself are convinced a procrastination-laden start time is in your future, the project and all of your ideas for it will undoubtedly cross your mind every day before you put pencil to paper; taking notes is a way to compile all the thoughts you ever have on any given bit of work. Not only that, but when you finally do sit down, determined to focus on getting this one thing done… you have an arsenal of thoughts and assistance already in your pocket and you didn’t waste any of your time. Now you start writing or drawing or working and have a fixed source of reference chock full of original musings right there, with you. Carry a notebook and get a head-start on your work (plus people might think you’re a private detective or spy, as you constantly scribble notes and thoughts down in your Field Notes booklet).

4. Change of scenery.

Even though plenty of people can get work done in a room they’ve been working in for years, one of the main stumbling blocks to top-notch productivity is lack of inspiration due to a “standard” set of surroundings. The most obvious remedy for this situation is simple: escape the standard.

Now, most people would say, “I’ll just go to a different room or a coffee shop” or something comparable. Fine. Great. But a lot of people don’t have another room to run to nor do they have any interest in working in public. So you have to change the standard, rather than moving away from it. Put different pictures in those hanging frames, open the windows, move furniture around (if you want to research feng shui, all the better), rearrange the junk on your desk, buy a new candle… anything you can think of, anything you’re willing to do – do it. Alter your sanctuary so that you have no interest in anything except getting work done, when you sit down at the clean and newly positioned desk.

3. Make an inspiration board (or two or three).

Once you’ve established a new area in which to work, you need to christen it as your new work area. I’m someone who once had the same 44 posters in his bedroom for five years so I can confidently say: whilst hanging said sea of paper on the walls and ceiling is nice and cool and comfortable at the time, it stops sparking your imagination and improving your mood after about the eighth week. The same goes for framed pictures and photography – at some point, your brain gets too comfortable looking at the same images, day-in and day-out, and everything suffers, as a result.

So you need something that can be modified on a whim to correspond to your current work, interests, and (most importantly) new sources of inspiration. The inspiration board will just be a sheet of metal with magnets, a cork board, or a padded board with criss-crossing ribbons and on these surfaces, you plaster any kind of media that gets your brain going. Don’t turn your refrigerator into a makeshift inspiration board, though, because you’re never going to go stare at your fridge, hoping for ideas – you’re only going over there to get some food. Keep the inspiration board within range of your eyes and frequently glance up at it, to keep on track and remind yourself of what a past version of yourself thought was pertinent to the project. Without the need for tape or nails, you can change the images, words, and artifacts from your daily life every hour if you want and reap all the benefits of a constantly changing stimulus.

2. Listen to instrumental music.

While songs with lyrics can absolutely inspire and motivate, listening to instrumental music (particularly classical) before or during work will absolutely jumpstart your brain at the times when you most need it. Dozens of studies have proven, time and time again, that classical music will improve mood, increase productivity, and alleviate stress, regardless of the scenario in which it is utilized.

Throw together a playlist of all sorts of word-less music and you’ll instantly feel less-bombarded with specific emotional thoughts and feelings. Additionally, don’t think that classical music is the only real widespread form of instrumental music, either. Movie scores (be they orchestral or otherwise) can be perfect for sparking an idea or keep you going after the ninth hour of writing. There are plenty of great musical acts who generally play only instrumental music (examples: Kaki King and RJD2) and most every group or band out there, now, has at least a one “interlude” track that exists without lyrics and all of those sorts of options can stimulate one’s mind just as well as Vivaldi ever could.

1. Remove all remaining distractions.

Writing about this fifth tip does strike me as a bit hypocritical as I, occasionally, have banged out work while half-watching the TV in the background, talking to friends on Adium, listening to a podcast, intermittently texting back and forth with my dad, checking TweetDeck updates, and (most egregiously) working on other projects. However, I can’t deny that I get the most/best work done when I get rid of everything in my periphery (which can sometimes mean violating Tip #2 above).

At first, it may seem unfamiliar and far too simplistic to be running a laptop and only taking advantage of the word processor or sitting in your room, hearing only your hands work and the air conditioning vent’s occasional rattling but after your dependence wears off (which will occur much quickly than you think), you won’t even be able to fathom getting work done amidst the unbelievable sensory overload that previous occupied your workspace. Go cold turkey and create your own sensory deprivation womb – your future self will thank you.

Check out more of Justin’s writing on his blog, esteban was eaten!.