Efficiency Unleashed: Strategies for Enhanced Productivity

As I sit at my desk, faced with yet another looming article deadline, I can't help but reflect on the universal challenge of procrastination. It's a captivating force that tempts me away from my daily tasks, whisking me off to friends' houses, movie theaters, and wine bars. This flaw seems to be particularly pronounced for me as a business owner. With large design agencies shutting their doors due to economic struggles, more individuals are venturing into independent agencies or freelancing. While there are undeniable advantages to being your own boss, I've come to realize that having someone breathing down your neck can be a powerful motivator for meeting deadlines and staying focused. Sometimes, there's nothing worse than being solely responsible for setting your own deadlines. Therefore, in the interest of conquering procrastination, I'd like to share my personal do's and don'ts for overcoming this common challenge.

First and foremost, establishing a clear deadline is essential. While many of my clients dictate the timeline for their projects, there are instances when they casually say, "Just get it done whenever you can." Beware of this seemingly relaxed approach, as it often proves to be a trap. Sooner or later, these clients will inevitably check-in, demanding progress updates. That's when you'll regret all the time you spent doing everything but the assigned project. To avoid such pitfalls, when a client appears laid-back and nonchalant about the timeline, gently press the subject by asking, "When would you ideally like this project to be completed?" You'll find that most clients will provide a deadline, allowing you to adjust your schedule accordingly. Be prepared to work diligently and efficiently, as "whenever you can" usually translates to "right now."

Bribing yourself may sound unconventional, but it can be a remarkably effective tactic. Just as I reward my dog with a treat for accomplishing basic tasks, I keep small indulgences—such as chocolate truffles and bottles of red wine—in my desk drawer as personal incentives. For instance, whenever I complete a page of a website, I indulge in a truffle, and when I successfully finish an entire project, I treat myself to a bottle of wine. Granted, this approach has led me to struggle with weight gain and potential dependency on alcohol, but the satisfaction of delivering high-quality work and pleasing my clients outweighs these concerns.

If you find yourself procrastinating due to a lack of fresh ideas, don't expect inspiration to strike miraculously while sitting in front of your computer. In a previous article, I mentioned that Nike's iconic slogan, "Just do it," derived from the last words of a man facing execution. Now, I'm not suggesting you start attending executions for motivation, but I will say that any method that works for you is worth exploring. Engaging in physical activities like jogging or practicing yoga can help clear your mind and reignite your creativity. On a personal note, I once attempted to find inspiration at a bar, but, as you can imagine, it proved to be an ineffective strategy. While a single glass of wine might initially spark some inspiration, it's crucial to exercise moderation. Unfortunately, my tendency to indulge in three or four glasses of wine resulted in a state of unconsciousness, only to wake up and discover that I had missed the deadline entirely.

Lastly, it's important to strike a balance when exploring the company or product you are working with. While immersing yourself in the subject matter can be beneficial, going overboard can easily lead to procrastination. As designers, we often enjoy the privilege of receiving free product samples. For instance, my company recently undertook the task of naming and designing packaging for a new energy drink in the market. Our clients generously provided their product as well as samples from five competitors. Surprisingly, I discovered that there are approximately 500 trademarks for energy drinks. This revelation sparked a bout of procrastination, as I found myself unsure of how to name the new energy drink. In an attempt to find inspiration, I thought conducting a massive taste test would be a brilliant idea. My logic was that consuming a variety of energy drinks would trigger excitement and creativity, leading to a unique name. Unfortunately, this approach failed miserably, and I haven't consumed another energy drink since. I've also learned from other ill-advised endeavors, such as testing luggage during camping trips, organizing a makeover party for a new makeup line, or hosting a cookout to evaluate a new grill. As a general rule, if your idea involves the words "party" or "trip," chances are it won't contribute to productivity. While it's important to familiarize yourself with the product or company, exercise restraint to ensure you stay on track.

In my experience, procrastination often arises when creative ideas are elusive or when I hit a creative wall. At times like these, even the idea of training for a triathlon seems more appealing than sitting down at my computer to work. As creators, we thrive on great ideas, and once we have one, we can't wait to bring it to life. So, here are my straightforward recommendations: bribe yourself, immerse yourself in the subject matter, change your environment if needed, and establish clear deadlines. With enough creativity and determination, you might even find yourself completing a project—such as an article—without ever struggling to come up with a topic.

Davis James
Davis James
Guest Author

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