Once in a while you need to kick some serious butt: finish off a huge project, finally put to bed a task you can’t keep putting off, or just knock out a ton of work in one day (like the day I wrote the first draft of my book proposal.)
When you really need to perform, business as usual won’t cut it: you need to make a normal workday an exceptionally productive workday.
And while you can’t do the following every day, once in a while it’s the perfect way to get a massive amount of work done.
1. Tell everyone you’ll be off the grid.
Interruptions destroy focus and kill productivity. So do the guilt trips your family unintentionally lay on you.
Let coworkers and family know you’re planning a “project day.” Tell key customers too. Announce you will be tied up on, say, Thursday, and that you will respond to calls and emails on Friday. Let people know who to contact in an emergency. Some will get with you before Thursday, and the rest will make a mental note you’re not available.
In either case, you’re covered.
Plus you get the “peer pressure” benefit: When you tell people you plan to finish something you will be more likely to see the job through. Peer pressure can be positive motivation — harness it.
2. Set a genuine commitment.
Don’t plan your project day based on fuzzy parameters like, “I will stay at it as long as possible,” or, “I won’t leave until I no longer feel productive.” Those approaches give you an easy out.
Commit to working for as long as you estimate it will take. Pick a number. Then stick to the number.
There’s a great side benefit to this approach, too: the longer the time frame you set the quicker the early hours seem to go by.
When I worked in manufacturing we normally worked eight-hour shifts. The hours before lunch seemed endless; the last two hours of the day were even worse. During busy periods we worked twelve hour shifts and the mornings seemed to fly by — something about knowing you will be working for a long time allows you to stop checking the clock.
When you know you’re in for a long haul your mind will automatically adapt. Try it. It works.
3. Start really early or really late.
When you step outside of your normal routine your perspective of time shifts as well. Start at 5 a.m. or revisit your college days and start at 6 p.m. and work through the night.
Set the stage for an exceptionally productive day by dramatically changing your normal routine.
4. Delay gratification.
Let’s say you like to listen to music while you work. On this day don’t for at least the first few hours. That way, when your enthusiasm really starts to wane, turning on the music will perk you back up.
Hold off on whatever things you use to brighten up your workday, at least for a while. Delayed gratification is always better gratification, and in this case can provide just the spark you need to keep going.
5. Refuel and recharge your mental and physical batteries early.
Any endurance athlete who waits to drink until he or she is thirsty has waited too long.
The same premise applies at work. Have a snack a little earlier than normal. Start drinking water right immediately. If you normally sit, stand up before you start to feel stiff or cramped. If you normally stand, sit before your back stiffens or your legs ache. Be proactive so discomfort can’t dampen your motivation or weaken your resolve.
And make sure you plan meals wisely. Don’t take an hour for lunch. Plan food ahead of time that you can prepare and eat quickly.
The goal is to refuel, re-hydrate, and keep on rolling. Remember, this is an exceptional day — treat it that way.
6. Take productivity breaks.
Newton’s Law of Productivity (okay, it’s actually mine) states that a productive person in motion tends to stay in motion.
Maintaining momentum is everything. Don’t take a social media break. Take a break that reinforce your sense of activity and accomplishment. Take a quick walk and think about what you’re tackling next… and then jump back in. Even a few minutes spent in the Land of Inactivity can make it hard to regain momentum.
7. Don’t quit until you’re done.
Quitting just because you’re tired or bored is habit-forming. (Plus you’re always capable of doing more than you think.) If the only barrier to completion is effort or motivation, stay at it and smash through that barrier.
Think about your normal workday; at some point you typically think, “That’s it. That’s all I have in me today.” That limit was set long ago, but it’s an artificial limit based on habit.
Pushing through the “pain” is a habit anyone can develop, and when you do, you automatically set your effort limit a little higher — making you capable of even doing more on a regular basis.