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Two Habits of Incredibly Productive and Successful Natalies

February 12, 2015

On Me Natalie Mueller Comments Off on Two Habits of Incredibly Productive and Successful Natalies

“How do you do it?” the imaginary talk show host of the imaginary talk show I am a featured guest on inquires, “How do you manage to do all the glorious things you do, and with such grace, talent and general greatness!?” Imaginary host is baffled, as are many, by my unique ability to lead a stunning quadruple life as a writer, mother (of fur children), performer and occasional couch potato. Oh yes, I can potato just like the rest of them. Conquering TV series I should have watched 5-10 years ago and craving foods that I am just too lazy (or sore, I work out bruh) to get up and get. It’s remarkable, just how productive I can be when I structure my day and life in a way that gives me no other choice. So, how do I do it? Well, internet and imaginary talk show host, I’m going to tell you.

1. Make lists

Make that to-list and recreate it on a myriad of platforms: Google tasks, Google Keep, your whiteboard, your novelty ‘Crap to do’ notepad, a scrap of paper that happens to be within arms reach, your planner (yes, I still have a planner. It keeps me humble–reminds me of my peaking in high school days. I’m nostalgic), and so on. Make that to do-list and make it tiered or color-coded, however you like.

If you really want to be a wizard of productivity, your day should look something like this:

  • Wake up at a reasonable hour because you aren’t a crazy billionaire CEO or George Bush
  • Drink coffee
  • Google “Habits of Successful People”
  • Choose an article and leave the tab up for the whole work day
  • Accept that you’re just too damn productive to read that article
  • Have a glass of wine
  • Complain about the weather/commute/neighbor’s dog
  • Make tomorrow’s to-do list
  • Try to go to sleep early
  • Fail

Pro tip: NEVER make a to-do list that doesn’t contain at least 3 items that you’ve already done and can scratch out/check off immediately.
Pro tip the second: That third to last bullet is entirely sincere. It will save you from all of last minute ‘what ifs’ and ‘I hope I don’t forgets’ that happen just before you can fall asleep.

2. Incentivize aforementioned lists

Every last item on that list needs to be incentivized or else shit ain’t gonna get done. Don’t worry that this is going to lead to overspending or over caffeinating, you can treat yourself without having to purchase everything on your Amazon wishlist or rewarding yourself with a walk to the local coffee shop. If you’re wondering how that’s possible, you’re thinking too big. Think smaller. Every human has three basic psychological needs: food, water, sex. There are three perfectly perfect incentives.

Story time: Once upon a time, in the magical kingdom of Bloomington-Normal, in a simple freshman dorm, there was me. One evening, I was desperately trying to get through a chapter of god knows what assigned reading. Suddenly, I needed a tissue, but I was sitting at my desk and my Kleenex box was on a high shelf where I could more easily reach it from my lofted bed…So, I told myself if I finished the paragraph I was reading, I could stand up and get the tissue. INCENTIVE! SUCCESS! Finally, I stood up on my chair, book in hand and grabbed the a tissue.

At this point, I had probably re-read that same paragraph about 10x. So, I decided I couldn’t come down from the chair until I’d finished the page. INCENTIVE! SUCCESS! My roommate walked in while I was still on my chair and when she asked what in all of the hell I was doing, I told her that I couldn’t come down until I finished the chapter. She vaguely acknowledged how strange this was, but in college you try not to overtly call your roommate strange for fear that they are the kind of strange that will watch you while you sleep, dye your hair to match theirs and parade around in your clothes.

While on the chair, I started to really, really need to use the restroom. So, I added to my incentive — in order to get down from my chair and go to the bathroom, I had to finish the chapter. INCENTIVE! SUCCESS!

TL;DR – I have once withheld bathroom privileges in a desperate bid to finish a tedious assigned reading.

I’m not sure if I’m a masochist or just someone who knows how to work around her procrastination habits, but I’ve come to incentivize everything. Sure, some days it leads to me accidentally skipping a meal (If you finish this copy deck you can eat lunch) or never getting around to my personal errands (When you wrap up today’s client work you can finally go get your glasses fixed), but it works. I meet deadlines. The main flaw in the incentive program is that I mostly incentivize my work day. As if getting things out to my clients wasn’t already rewarding enough (go ahead, swoon), I tack on the reward of a coffee run, lunch date or quick walk for my dog. And so, I’ve grown accustomed to a double incentive; the first being my clients’ gratitude or positive feedback, the second being whatever simple incentive I’ve imposed on myself. It makes the to-do list items with only one incentive that much less appealing…and so I may never get my glasses fixed.

So there you have it, imaginary talk show host and internetters. I’m incredibly successful and productive because I funnel all of my procrastination into repetitive list making and crafting up creepy incentives [punishments?] forcing me to do my work (I suppose if I didn’t finish that chapter in college I would have been forced to pee myself). I hope that this blog has been as helpful to your day-to-day as the other 900 like it that you’ve surely considered reading on Business Insider, and Forbes.

Go forth and prosper.

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