Improving Productivity in 3 Steps: From a Certified Lazy Person

I know. I’ve been there. The title does tell you that I’m a lazy person, after all. I know how it feels to procrastinate 24/7. The issue is, when you procrastinate, you get into an endless cycle of feeling guilty for ignoring your work. Then you decide to treat yourself to *just* 10 minutes of YouTube to make yourself feel better, and then you feel guilty for procrastinating again, and the pattern continues.

It’s a hard habit to break! Why spend the effort being productive when you can relax, watch Netflix, browse TikTok, or eat food? I’ll tell you why. It’s because procrastination reduces well-being, increases negative feelings, and increases symptoms of mental health problems. So here are 3 key steps to getting things done:

1. GET UP EARLY.

This is by far the most helpful thing that I’ve learned. Waking up even just 30 minutes before your normal wakeup time will result in a huge increase in productivity.

I get it!! On some days, all you want to do is sleep in until noon. But look at it this way: If you wake up at 12 pm, you’ve already wasted at least 3 solid hours of productivity. So force yourself to get out of bed first thing in the morning, no matter how comfortable your bed is!

“The hardest part of any important task is getting started on it in the first place. Once you actually begin work on a valuable task, you seem to be naturally motivated to continue.” — Brian Tracy, motivational public speaker & self-development author

Maybe you can even get up early enough to catch the sunrise! Now, wouldn’t that be nice?

If you begin working right after you get out of bed, your brain will be primed to be productive for the rest of the day. By lunchtime, you’ll be AMAZED at how much you got done.

Bonus: Your brain also handles stress most efficiently in the morning, so you’ll feel more relaxed and ready to tackle the rest of the day.

✔️Action item: Set an alarm that’s at least half an hour earlier than your normal wakeup time for tomorrow!!

*That being said, if you’re not getting enough sleep regularly, this tip might not be for you! You should always prioritize your physical and mental health first, and everything else second. If your body or your mind is not up for the task, you’re not going to end up being productive anyway.

2. Consistency is key.

I’m not going to tell you to make a schedule, because I know schedules don’t work for a lot of people, especially if you’re like me and you’re bad at holding yourself accountable. But then you at least need to be consistent with your productivity.

If your goal is to learn to be more productive, then you need to be consistent with your working process both during the day and on a day-to-day basis. If you really need a break, then take it! Take the break, but you need to return to your work in a timely manner to make sure you’re working continuously throughout the day.

Use a calendar to block your time better

This goes for productivity between different days, too. For example, if you’re trying to learn a new skill (playing an instrument, coding, etc.) or working toward a larger goal (upcoming test, big project) then you need to be putting work into it consistently.

Set aside the same period of time each day to work on the goal you have. It doesn’t have to be a long time; even half an hour is enough. But the only way to see improvement, in anything that you choose to do, is to continuously work at it. Plus, after a while, it’ll become routine!

I promise, if you stop for even 2 days and try to pick it up again, you’ll see that you’ve just taken a huge step back. For me, whenever I’m learning a new piano piece, it’s crucial that I make a little bit of progress every day. If I happened to skip a day, then the next time I sat down at that piano bench I had to face the fact that I had already gotten worse.

✔️Action item: Figure out a block of time that you have available each day to work toward your goal!

3. Make a new plan every day.

I know I just told you in Step 2 that I wouldn’t tell you to make a schedule, and I promise I’m still staying away from that! The difference here is that a plan doesn’t tell you what time to do everything on your list. It’s basically a to-do list, except I didn’t want to use the phrase “to-do” because most people run away when they think of to-do lists. But hear me out!

If you’re like me, schedules tend to backfire because as soon as I’ve gotten off-task or missed the window for when I was supposed to be doing something, I automatically give up and spend the rest of the day being a lazy bum. Plans are more flexible in that as long as you get done everything you set out to do in a day, it doesn’t necessarily matter when you do them.

Here’s an example of what my plan might look like for the day

Daily planning gives you just enough “buffer time” to take breaks when needed, but doesn’t micromanage or give you too much time in-between tasks to the point where you’re procrastinating all over again.

Personally, I like to make my plans as a checklist in the Notes app on my phone. I carry my phone with me basically everywhere, so it’s helpful that I can reference it whenever and wherever I want.

BE STRICT WITH YOURSELF TO FINISH EVERYTHING YOU SET OUT TO DO BY THE END OF THE DAY!!

That being said, plans should be realistic; don’t attempt to go from 0 to 100 in a single day. Your plans should only contain two categories of items:

  1. What you know you can accomplish
  2. What you need to accomplish.

If you have a big test or project due the next day, PUT IT ON THE LIST!! But if you also have another project due 2 weeks away and you know you’re going to be spending all your time today studying, don’t put the other project on the list. You’re not going to end up getting to it, and it’s just going to make you feel more stressed.

As you get better at being consistent in your productivity, you can slowly expand your plans to include more items. When you’re first starting, I recommend planning to finish only what is necessary. This might sound like you won’t be getting a lot done, but the victory and satisfaction at the end of the day will incentivize you to be more productive in the future.

Learning to be productive is a long-term investment!!

✔️Action item: Open your Notes app, get a sticky note, whichever suits you — and make a plan for tomorrow!

And that’s it! 3 steps for productivity!

An overview:

  • Waking up early will give you extra productivity time
  • Consistency will help you do a little bit of work each day and it’ll add up to help you accomplish your goal
  • Making a daily plan will tell you what you need to get done each day, and it will be a huge help as long as you stick to it

Easy-peasy, right? It’s always easier in theory than it is in practice. It’s okay to slip up, as long as you don’t give up completely and relapse into complete procrastination. Practice makes perfect! Wake up the next day, get up, and work harder. You got this!!

High school junior. TKS Innovator. Musician. Debater.