Friday, August 28, 2020

Trick Yourself into Being More Productive

Even if you've been streaming for a while, you might still have trouble reaching a level of true consistency. Maybe you can't get yourself to do the various prep tasks or post-show tweaks- those ones that are less exciting but oh so necessary for your channel's growth. Or you can't sit down to stream in the first place, constantly finding an excuse to do something else, or deciding at the last minute that you're too tired to go live. If you're really struggling to keep your creative priorities in line, you may be searching for a more effective productivity method than any of the ones I've covered in this resource so far. Don't worry, you're not alone. I've been in this situation as well, and I understand how frustrating it can be. Spurred on by this need, I found a way to force myself to work even when I don't feel like it. In this entry, I'll teach you how to trick yourself into being more productive. 

Please be aware, this method is not for everyone. I devised this strategy because I had no other choice- nothing else worked for me when the days got really tough. I suggest approaching something like this only if you've already tried every other productivity method I've laid out in the past 86 entries without success, and even then only in moderation. Don't push yourself to unsafe extremes. Only you know your limits, so keep them in mind while implementing the concepts I'm about to lay out here. 


When you get down to it, what's the quintessential way to get anyone to do anything? You take a carrot, attach it to the end of a stick, and dangle that stick in front of the person in question. This is the classic description of any method of coercion- if the carrot on a stick is dangled well enough, they will try to chase after it. (I suppose whoever invented this concept didn't take into account people who don't like carrots, but that's beside the point.) In essence, all we have to do is find our own 'carrots' and dangle them behind whatever task we least want to accomplish that day. This might sound simple, but as you'll soon find out, this process can actually be quite harrowing. Are you committed enough to deny yourself the things you love most until your work is done? 

Photograph of me on a normal workday

For me, there isn't one specific thing I have trouble staying consistent about- it changes every day. As human beings, we're all predisposed to experience different moods. Some days I want to eat pizza, and on others I crave steak. Today I want to watch an action movie, but tomorrow I won't settle for anything other than a comedy. And on Tuesday I may be excited to go live but have a hard time creating stream graphics, while the exact opposite is true on Wednesday. It's a natural impulse- our brains try to fight against consistency in an attempt to create variety and excitement. Unfortunately, this aversion to structure has the side effect of crushing our creative aspirations. At the end of the day, if we want to be content creators, it doesn't matter what we're in the mood for. If it's a day when we're supposed to stream, we stream. And that's why the carrot is so important. 

Myself, I've always loved to eat. Because I've worked from home for roughly a decade, I'm faced with the curious problem that food is always available to me during the workday. Eventually I noticed that I was using eating as a form of procrastination. I'd not only snack on things throughout the day, but when it was time for a meal I would draw that meal out for as long as I could, watching TV shows and cleaning my plate at a snail's pace. This of course was dangerous not just to my efficiency, but also a hazard to my health, and I knew I had to do something about it. So now, I use that love of food to my advantage- I force myself not to break for lunch until I've done whatever I least feel like doing that day. Because I work at all hours, this applies to dinner as well. So on a given day, I won't eat until I've done my stream, written the podcast, recorded a video, or anything else I can feel myself wanting to slack about. On the health side, this teaches me not to simply stuff my face whenever I'm up against a problem, which is a huge win in itself. And on the productivity side, the food I love eating is now a reward that I earn, not just something I do to escape responsibility. 


You may recognize that this method is based on a concept I described in earlier entries, called The Eisenhower Decision Matrix. You can learn more about this principle in the entry Making Twitch a Part of Your Life, but the main idea posed by this method is that there are two types of problems you'll face on a daily basis: those that are urgent (work deadlines, chores, anything that doesn't further our ultimate goals), and those that are important (your creative aspirations like Twitch streaming). In order to use this method correctly, you must always address the important problems first

Sometimes you have to get tricksy.
It may seem like the same amount of problems can be solved in any order, but this doesn't apply in practice. Whichever tasks you complete first will always be unburdened by the stress and fatigue accumulated throughout the day. If you do your stream, or create graphics, or whatever task you least want to do first, then you'll still find a way to solve all the urgent tasks afterward. If those tasks are truly that urgent then there'll be no other choice- you'll simply have to find a way to solve them. But if you shop for groceries, go to work, come home, go to the bank, answer emails, and do all your other urgent tasks before streaming, you may just find at the end of the day that you're too tired to go live at all. Since streaming doesn't feel 'urgent,' we usually don't fight as hard to make it happen when it's not convenient for us. Most people spend their whole lives treading water, completing their most urgent tasks and never figuring out why their life goals seem to be slipping away. It's a vicious cycle. 


So you know the strategy and you know the logic behind it. Now you just have to find the right motivation to make this method most effective in your own life. You need to find your 'carrot.' For me, holding off on meals is the perfect motivator. For you, it could be something completely different. Maybe you often find yourself binging on Netflix. What if you were only able to watch Netflix after you've finished streaming for the day? Maybe you love running, shopping, or going on long relaxing drives. What if one of these was the motivator that could make you spring into action? Turn your favorite idle activity into a reward for fulfilling your dreams each day, and see how much more work you get done! Sometimes you just need to trick yourself into being more productive.  

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