In the next in a series of guest blogs, Benjamin Brandall tells us how to create the right mindset to avoid procrastination.
In all of my experience blogging and marketing over the past five years, one of the worst obstacles has been my daily workflow.
I get my work done, but I’m a master procrastinator. I can’t count the number of techniques I’ve tried to get some consistency in my output and regularity to my workflow. Thankfully, there are a few which have served me well and stood the test of time.
The four techniques I’ll explore in this article aren’t all for keeping your mind on the task at hand. A truly brilliant daily workflow is instead all about maintaining a state of mind, rather than giving yourself a temporary boost. In other words, consistency and good habits are the key to success.
These four techniques are:
- Fill dead air with podcasts
- Productively procrastinate (bear with me on this one)
- Use a minimum distraction writing app
- Document your workflow
Let’s get to it.
Fill Dead Air with Podcasts
“What do podcasts have to do with my daily workflow?”
Simply put, your mind can’t do anything without fuel. Sure, food, water, sunlight, etc, are all important, but to create truly great content you need to be engaged with the topics you’re talking about.
You need to be consuming other people’s work to give yourself the motivation to do the same.
This is because as you work your ideas get used up, and with no new ideas your mind has nothing to draw on. Writers block will strike, sentences become harder to string together, and you’ll slowly lose enthusiasm in the posts you produce (don’t think your readers won’t notice – they will).
If, however, you keep yourself topped up with content, ideas will come steadily and you’ll inherently build up a library of extra information to draw from when you’re talking about a relevant topic. Anything you learn will essentially translate into more valuable content sooner or later.
Despite knowing this, I couldn’t bring myself to start at first. I felt that I had no time to fit anything else in. Then my colleague delved into creating a system to read more and take in as much information as possible.
Everyone has time in the day where nothing’s going on, and this is the perfect time to fill with an episode of a podcast or two. Don’t believe me? Here are a few of the times you could be refuelling your brain instead of sitting in silence:
- During your commute
- When travelling (bus, train, plane, etc)
- In a lunch break
- During a toilet break
- While you make breakfast/cook dinner
Take one or more of these opportunities to refuel your brain and maintain a steadier output.
Yes, I know that I said you need to have a consistent output, and the journey to stop procrastinating is one of the best ways to do that. However, there’s one harsh fact that we all need to face.
We all procrastinate. Everyone always has, everyone always will.
Whether it’s in your work or personal life, there’s not a single person who hasn’t procrastinated on something, and as soon as I accepted that a thought occurred to me. If I’m going to procrastinate and not do this task, why not embrace that and do something mildly productive instead of sitting here doing nothing?
Unless a deadline is looming (in which case I have no choice but to buckle down and do my set task), when I feel my attention wander in a way that I know I’m not going to recover from, I stop whatever task I’m doing and switch to something that I actually want to do.
The trick is to make sure that the “something” is worth spending time on, rather than giving into temptation and surfing YouTube for hours on end.
The best ways to productively procrastinate I’ve found are:
- Browsing your RSS feed
- Listening to podcasts
- Switching to a different kind of project (eg, from blog posts to a video)
- Reading a chapter of a book (especially if it’s related to your niche)
- Looking for new blogs to subscribe to
I’m not saying to give up on work whenever you feel like it to go off and read a blog post – you’d never get anything done if that was the case. However, if you have the flexibility to do so then you’re instantly getting an extra hour or so of productivity out of your daily workflow.
Use a Minimum Distraction Writing App
Distractions are the bane of productivity – even a badly timed phone notification is enough to shock me out of a productive writing workflow just for the temptation to check what it is.
So, once you’ve resisted the draws of the various sites and articles you had to go through to research your next post, what’s the point in wasting it all by working in a writing app that leaves you open to distraction?
That’s exactly why I (and the rest of my team) use Quip to do the majority of our writing. Doing so gives us a minimum distraction environment to write in, which in turn lets us get on and maintain a steady workflow.
Admittedly, Google Docs has its advantages. The integration with Google Drive (and the rest of Google’s apps) can be a lifesaver if you just want to have a single centralized location for all of your work, but the UI just doesn’t lend itself to highly focused writing.
Quip, on the other hand, is boring, which actually works to its advantage. By being boring (and allowing both fullscreen and hidden menus) Quip forces you to focus on one thing and one thing alone – your writing.
Document Your Workflow
If you haven’t done so already, by far and away the best technique to improve your daily output is to document your workflow. This lets you have set instructions while removing human error from your processes.
In other words, not only do you not have to worry about forgetting a vital step in your regular tasks (eg, keyword research), but it’s only too easy to see exactly how you’ve accomplished something, and why it turned out as good or bad as it did.
The important thing with documenting your workflow is to put the initial time and effort into clearly detailing every step you need to take (eg, your method for A/B testing). That way if something goes wrong (or is currently not performing as well as it should), you’ll be able to easily see weaknesses in the way that you carry out your tasks.
It’s no easy task to consistently improve and maintain your daily workflow, but with these techniques mine came a long way towards shaping the marketer I am today.
I’d love to know what tips you have to improve daily workflows in the comments below!