4 Strategies I Use to Avoid Wasting Time Searching for “The Next Big Productivity Hack.”

Let’s talk productivity. Check out YouTube, Instagram, or any social media platform really, and you’ll find more than enough advice on how to be more productive. You’ll find content creators whose whole platforms revolve around how to get more done, how to work smarter, how to increase your output. As a writer, whose entire livelihood depends on both the quality and quantity of the material I am able to create, you can imagine that this productivity movement appeals to me.

So yes. I’ve been on a productivity kick lately—and if you’ve stopped by my blog over the last year or so, you may have noticed this trend. My self-improvement journey is something that I’ve enjoyed immensely. For me, it’s not just about productivity; it’s about mindset, motivation and general wellness, too. When it comes to productivity, to increasing how much time I’m able to work and the volume of writing and content I’m able to produce, I’ve found a lot of inspiration from YouTube. It’s been fun to see what other entrepreneurs, creatives and professionals do to manage their time, increase their output, and maintain their mental and emotional wellbeing. In so doing, I have found a groove of my own by implementing the advice and habits which work for me.

But in my quest to be more motivated and efficient, It’s become clear that there is a major pitfall in the quest for productivity… the quest itself can be a real time suck. It’s too easy to spend hours on the couch, flipping through vlog after vlog of pretty Happy Planner spreads, and going along on influencers’ 5 am super productive morning routine journeys with them. On the other side of this trap of endless searching for the next big tip or trick that’s going to “make it all work better,” it’s quite possible to forget to do the actual working part. 

I would be lying if I were to say that I never fell into this trap myself. In fact, in order to combat this tendency, I’ve got a strict one-coffee limit on my morning YouTube time. When that coffee has reached its last sip, I am up and getting on with my day. And here is the point of this blog post today. If you, like me, find yourself falling into the trap of spending too much time searching for “The Next Big Thing” that’s going to make you work harder, smarter, produce more, be more… then read on for my tips to keep yourself productive rather than wasting time searching for ways to be more productive.

1. I stay aware of the why

While on the one hand I am watching productivity influencers to glean tips and tricks I can implement in my own routine, there is a big part of me that simply watches because it’s motivating. If others appear productive on camera, this motivates me to be more productive. It’s like a version of a vision board: What I want for my life. Well, it’s playing out for me on stylized videos. But I keep that top-of-mind: that I’m watching to motivate myself. This works well with my one coffee rule because, by the time I’m done my coffee, and I’ve reminded myself that I’m watching largely for motivational purposes, I am sufficiently motivated to get up and start my day with the actual work part of being productive.

2. I avoid comparison

There are influencers and experts and gurus out there who have the most beautiful planner spreads. They get up at 6 am (or 5 or 4) and go to the gym straight away. They create for themselves beautiful aesthetic breakfasts and sit down to hours upon hours of productive work. While this is, of course, motivating, I actively avoid comparing myself to them, especially where I know something in particular won’t work for me. One planner influencer, for example, creates these gorgeous weekly spreads with stickers and markers and fancy lettering. I love the way it looks, but I know that I need more actual planning in my planner. So while my weekly spread is vaguely pretty, I am satisfied that it is functional, and has more detail in time breakdown and task management. Is it as jaw-droppingly beautiful? No. Does it work better for me? You betcha. 

I also know that early-early-early mornings simply don’t work for me and my lifestyle. When my son has a 10pm hockey game, I’m not missing that so I can go to bed at 9 just to wake up the next day at 5. Even if I do go to bed early to get up early, I find that I often crash in the afternoon, and lose whatever time I gained in the morning. Waking up super early works for some people, and if it does for you, then that’s great. It just doesn’t work for me, and I know this. So I don’t compare myself to those super productive people for whom this productivity tip works.

3. I keep my goals top of mind.

Productivity is great, but if you forget what you’re being productive for and what you’re trying to achieve, you lose sight of why you’re being productive. I regularly revisit my goals and plans. Where do I want to be in five years? What do I want to have achieved this week? How long do I expect to spend writing my current book? All of the productivity tips and tricks that I implement, or even try for a while to see if they’ll work for me–they have to work in the context of my goals. So I actively review my goals to ensure that I am truly being productive.

4. I audit my processes and productivity routines

It’s great to try a new tip, trick or habit when you come across one that you think will help you. But it’s important to pay attention to whether or not it ends up truly helping. For example, I tried time blocking once. I created a gorgeous Google Calendar layout of how I was going to divide my time doing one thing or another, following the example of one influencer I enjoy watching on YouTube. Then I tied that Google Calendar to my paper planner. It was gorgeous. It was inspirational. It was YouTube-worthy. Problem was: I spent more time doing that than actually working. So this was something which, in the end, didn’t help me. In fact, it did the opposite–it hindered me. By actively auditing what works and what doesn’t, I’ve been able to pare down my arsenal of tools to the ones that are helpful, and get rid of the ones that are simply popular. This encourages me to continue with the systems that do work for me, and spend less time looking for more.

I truly enjoy the productivity and planning community. Without it, I would not have developed a system—multiple systems, in fact—that have increased my own productivity and what I’m able to accomplish in any given time period. But through the process, I’ve come to recognize that one can spend too much time chasing the next big thing that’s going to make everything fall into place. The truth is that, in the end, all of these tips, tricks and notes of advice are really just ways to help you work. The work needs to be the priority. So when I find myself spending more time researching productivity hacks than actually working, I use my strategies to reset, push on with my helpful habits, and overcome the compulsion to keep searching for “The Next Big Thing.”

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