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The tools and knowledge for productivity. Les outils et connaissances pour la productivité.

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Why you should use separate task management apps to manage your personal and professional tasks

Marc

Photo by  Tinh Khuong  on  Unsplash .

Photo by Tinh Khuong on Unsplash.

Based on anecdotal evidence I’ve gathered from face-to-face discussions and on online forums, it seems that the majority of people prefer to stick to a single task management app (Toodledo, Marvin, Todoist, Trello, Any.do, etc.) to manage the tasks and habits related to both their personal and professional lives. Though there are certainly some benefits to keeping everything together in one app, I prefer to dedicate a different task management app to each: one task management app for my personal life and another different task management app for my professional life. I will make the case for this preference in this article.

Let’s start with the pros and cons of using separate apps to manage your personal and professional tasks.

Pros

  • It will help you achieve better work-life balance. Though technological advances continue to make many of our lives easier, such as telecommuting programs, the increasingly blurry distinction between our personal and professional lives has created an expectation of constant accessibility. You may have to be on-call for after your work shift ends but your employer provides you with compensation for this increased availability. You are, however, likely not compensated for the time and energy you spend thinking about work while you are not at the office. The problem also exists in the other direction: your employer expects you to be on your A-game while at work, so you shouldn’t be distracted by your personal to-do list while you’re on the clock. If you’re self-employed, then the need to compartmentalize the different areas of your life is even more important, as you are the only person who can put in place measures to achieve better work-life balance.

  • You will feel less overwhelmed and stressed. It is unhealthy to regularly think about work while at home and vice versa. Seeing a combined list of all of the tasks you need to accomplish, in both your personal and professional lives, can be quite overwhelming and can easily generate stress. Any additional solutions that help you separate the two main spheres of your life can help reduce these feelings. This approach will not entirely eliminate feelings of being overwhelmed and stress but it will help contain them to each sphere of your life, giving you some reprieve during different periods.  

  • I will help you achieve better focus and productivity in both spheres. Thoughts about projects, deadlines and tasks about one sphere can seep into the other and reduce your overall effectiveness. A common problem when facing an overwhelming to-do list is to stress about some of its items during times when we can do nothing about them. Another common response to giant to-do lists is to resist adding new tasks due to a desire to complete the already present tasks on the list before piling on more work. This can be extremely counterproductive to our long-term goals and health: your decision not to add a recurrent task to remind yourself to floss could be quite costly for your physical health in the long-term. On the work side, a combined personal-professional to-do list may also make you reluctant to take on a new project or assignment at work due to your perceived notion that you are already too busy due to all of the spring cleaning tasks you see coming up on your task management app.

  • It can help increase your productivity at work without intruding into your private life. Having a dedicated app to manage your professional work tasks allows you to give viewing or editing permissions to your boss or colleagues without having to worry about them seeing private information that could be found within your personal tasks. Similarly, it can be beneficial for couples or families to give each other viewing or editing permissions over each other’s apps but some employers frown on employees allowing their family members to see confidential work information, such as client names and undisclosed projects.

  • It helps promote different modes of thinking. This two-app approach helps to promote clearer thinking patterns for our personal and professional lives. Our task management apps tend to “shape” how we think about our lives in a very broad sense; using different apps helps train our mind to switch between “work” and “personal” modes. This ability can be beneficial to both spheres of our lives. A good example is a young parent who is in a junior position at their workplace: their personal matters requires them to make top-level executive decisions for their entire family unit, whereas their position at work calls for them to focus on executing tasks and to only think about executive decisions in terms of occasionally providing suggestions or feedback about major decisions to their bosses. A blurry distinction between how this person thinks about both worlds could lead, for example, to them overstepping boundaries at work and acting in an insubordinate fashion. In their personal lives, this blurriness could lead to them having difficulties cooperating with their partner to reach decisions or to fail in properly disciplining their child due to their hesitation in behaving authoritatively, given that they have been habituated to not act with authority at work.

  • It will allow you to use more specialized task management apps. Some apps are simply better for personal tasks whereas others are better suited for our professional lives. Nowadays, many task management apps have a “business” version of their software, which typically add team communication features, improved project management features and various administrative settings (a few examples: Todoist Business, Trello Business Class and Wunderlist for Business). Attempting to find an app which work for both worlds deprives us of the features found in specialized work or personal task management apps.  Adapting an app to make it work for both spheres can also lead us to make compromises with regards to certain features and thus further reduce our overall effectiveness in one or both spheres of our lives.

  • It will help prevent common issues that occur when using multiple profiles within an app. Many people prefer to use a single app and to have different profiles: one for work and one for home. Having two different apps helps prevents you from accidentally inputting tasks into the wrong account / profile. These types of accidents could lead to a large variety of issues due to not seeing the task while at work or while not at work, from missed opportunities to make progress on tasks during idle periods at work, all the way to failing to complete important personal tasks, such as filing your taxes on time.

Cons

  • Requires more time and dedication to your overall task management. This approach requires you to learn how to use and stay up to date on two sets of applications, which can be time consuming and also frustrating if you would rather minimize the amount of time you spend in task management apps.

  • It can be expensive.  In order to make the most of this approach, you may find yourself having to pay a subscription fee for one or even two apps. 


How to get the most out of this approach

Some people find it sufficient to simply create two profiles within their preferred task management app (one for home and another one for work) and there are also certain task management apps which control how tasks are displayed depending on context (such as the date, time of the day or based on geographic location). Despite these workarounds, at the moment, on balance, the benefits of using separate apps seem too great to me to consider keeping both spheres of my life integrated into a single task management application. I have found that by applying the following recommendations to my two-app approach, I can achieve even greater overall efficiency and obtain the same benefits found by using two profiles and/or using “context” settings. Here are my recommendations:

  • Ensure that you can access both apps from work and from home. This gives you the flexibility to occasionally work or consult both sets of tasks. I find that the best way to ensure availability to both apps while avoiding the dangers of cross-contamination into either spheres of my life is to increase the friction of looking into the “wrong” app (i.e., going in my professional app while at home and going in my personal app while  at work) and to reduce the friction of looking into the “correct” app (work app while at work, personal app when not at work). The auto-sign in features on your various devices can help reinforce the borders between your professional and personal lives while also ensuring that, if needed, at all times, you can tend to emergencies or important matters from each sphere. For example, I can access my professional task management app from my home PC but I have auto sign-in disabled on the web client for this app on that device, which adds friction and ensures that I only go into that app if I really need to do so; prior to adjusting this setting, I would frequently find myself instinctively logging into the app repeatedly during my evenings and weekends.  

  • Ensure that both apps be accessible online and on mobile. You will not always have access to all of your devices (sometimes intentionally, if you are trying to reduce distractions) and you might not always have access to the internet (most apps will then sync with your account once your device gains attention to the web again).

  • Try to get your employer to pay for the subscription costs of your professional task management app. Work-related software and applications are business expenses. The subscription costs of task management apps are almost always outweighed by the benefits they provide in increased productivity. For those interested in getting their employer to pay for their professional task management app subscription, I would suggest that they gather before/after data about the increased productivity they attained with the free or trial version of the app, in order to make the case that further improvements in productivity could be expected by having access to the app’s paid features. There are also subjective benefits provided by task management apps which could be brought up when you meet with management or the HR department, such as reduced stress.

  • Regularly backup your data in both apps. Almost all good task management apps allow you to import and export your data. It is essential that you do so periodically in order to save valuable historical data about your tasks and habits, as well as information on the status and progress of various projects. Furthermore, regularly backing up your data increases your ability to smoothly migrate to another productivity app without being at the mercy of software companies who can cease operations at any moment, remove import/export functions at their discretion or move certain features of the app behind a paywall.

Finally, for those wondering, at the moment, I manage my personal tasks with Toodledo, whereas my professional responsibilities all go through Marvin.

Print out your own wallet sized habit trackers with this free template

Marc

50-day habit tracker - wallet sized.jpg

The Habit tracking card template is available for free in our products section (click here).

This week we’re presenting a new tool for those who want to track their habits: a free PDF template to print out 10 mini habit tracker cards (business card / wallet sized). It is meant to be a pocket-sized version of the full-page template which was featured in our last blog post and which is also available for free in our products section.

These mini printable habit trackers are ideal for those who want to keep track of their habits while on the go (keep them in your wallet or in your pockets), who want to be more discreet about their habits or for those who want to quickly initiate friends, family or colleagues to habit tracking. 

How to use the template

Those new to habit tracking should first read the blog post which accompanied the release of our full-page 50 Day Habit Worksheet. That post features an introduction to the principles of habit tracking and included instructions for the full-page worksheet. The detailed instructions on how to use that worksheet apply, in essence, to these cards, with the obvious caveat that writing space is very limited on wallet sized cards.

The template can be filled out in a variety of ways:

  • By hand: Simply print out blank copies of the template, cut out the cards and fill them out by hand.

  • Electronically and by hand: Type in the form sections of each card electronically, print out the template, cut out the cards and then fill them out by hand.

  • Only electronically: Only use the template digitally. Some people prefer to keep their habit tracking system entirely on their electronic devices. If used in this manner, the first page of the template provides a one-page “dashboard” of up to 10 simultaneous habits to track on each card (or fewer habits tracked over multiple cards), while the 2nd page offers space to write out more information and notes about each of those habits. It should be noted that the template also allows users to electronically cross out each of the 50 numbered squares (simply click on them). This makes it possible to cross out all 50 days entirely on your device and/or to quickly print out a card with some days already crossed off (say, for example, if you wanted to track a habit for less than 50 days).

Like the full-page version of this habit tracker, we recommend that this template be opened and edited in a dedicated pdf software such as Foxit (which is free and available for download here). Most dedicated pdf software, such as Foxit, automatically shrinks or grows the font of typed text so that it entirely fits within form boxes. This feature allows for more detailed information to be typed into the limited space available on these cards.

There is a number on the top left corner on each side of the cards. Each card is numbered from 1 to 10, with numbers 1-5 in green and 6-10 in orange. These two-colour groups are meant to help remind you that the back side (page 2) of each template flips horizontally when printing double-sided sheets; i.e., the cards that are on the left column on page 1 have their back on the right column on page 2 (so the green numbered cards are on the left column on the front and on the right column on the back). These 10 numbers can also be used in many other ways. For example, they can be useful to identify cards used a chronological sequence to track a single habit over multiple 50-day periods.

 

Printing instructions

Each card is the size of a standard North-American business card (89mm x 51mm) (3.5" x 2").

The template is meant to be printed full-size on standard US letter size paper. The template also fits on A4 paper, though slight scale adjustments may be necessary to get the cards to print out exactly the size of business cards.

Adjust your printer settings as follows:

  • Print double sided (“print on both sides of paper”) and flip on long edge.

  • Portrait orientation.

  • There are some color elements on the cards but they are not essential; the cards will work just the same if printed in black and white.

  • Do not adjust the scale if you are printing on standard US letter paper. If you decrease the scale of the page (“fit to printer margins”) the cards will be slightly smaller than standard business cards.

  • If you are printing on A4 paper: you may need to adjust the scale by a few percentage points to get the cards to the right size.

Adopt a new habit in 50 days with this free worksheet

Marc

We all have habits we wish we could start and others we wish we could stop. But habits are difficult to control. Despite thousands of years of evolution, our prefrontal cortex still has immense trouble wrestling control from the older parts of our brain which regulate our emotions and urges. We are able to both simultaneously intensely crave a chocolate bar yet recognize that it is about as far as we can get from a nutritional meal. This same problem exists in nearly every sphere of human activity: nutrition, exercise, education, work and even our relationships. Our ability to curb negative habits, such as eating junk food, has not had time to catch up to our modern understanding of our own biology (cravings for caloric dense foods was a beneficial evolutionary survival mechanism) and of the world that surrounds us, including others who wish to take advantage of how human habits are formed (the Donald Drapers of this world are hard at work).

Motivation and optimism aren’t enough to sustain the discipline which is required to change our habits and become better versions of ourselves. Many of us need external tools and systems to help keep us on track. This is where this worksheet comes in.

50 days habit worksheet - Optimatrvon V1.0.jpg

Go to our products section to download the worksheet.

This worksheet is based on the principle that it takes many days of intentionally completing a task before it turns into a habit. With repetition, we eventually assimilate the task into our regular life until it no longer requires intentionality. We can consider that an action has become a habit once it becomes nearly automatic for us to go through with it on a regular basis. Another strong indicator of habit adoption is if we feel “off” when we skip the habit or behave in a way that goes against the objective of the habit (for example, I feel sluggish if I skip my daily run or if I go over my daily caloric allowance).

Why 50 days?

This sheet is meant to help you stick to your new habit for 50 days in a row. This worksheet is set at 50 days for the following reasons:

  • It is an easy to remember objective that fits neatly within the decimal system. If you need to make some calculations to determine your rate of success, you can easily get a percentage (simply double your numbers: successfully following your diet 45 out of 50 days = 90% success rate).

  • A 2009 study which is commonly cited in productivity literature concluded that it takes on average 66 days for a new behavior to become automatic. However, a frequently overlooked aspect of the study is that the time it took for behaviors to become habits varied greatly depending on the complexity of the behavior and the circumstances of the individual at the time of their efforts to adopt the habit. Simple actions took as little as 18 days to become habits, whereas more complex behaviors were estimated to take up to 254 days. The instructions accompanying this worksheet indicate that that the habit must be simple and that it must be within an individual’s abilities to achieve. As such, 50 days should be more than enough to successfully adopt easy-moderate habits. Using this approach, it becomes possible to achieve life-altering results: as we build a solid base of adopted habits over a series of 50-day cycles and slowly increase the difficulty of our habits over each successive cycle, it becomes possible to successfully adopt and maintain life-changing habits.

  • The idea for this worksheet came to me after I found the online community over at reddit.com/r/theXeffect. It is a group of people who support each other in 50-day attempts at adopting new habits. As is outlined in their wiki, all members of the group assist and support each other in the use of a technique which involves drawing a 7x7 intersecting lines on an index card in order to have a grid of 49 days / 7 weeks during which to attempt to maintain a habit (+1 final day for a total of 50 days). My hope is that our worksheet will be of use to this community.

 

Instructions

1. Start by heading over to our products section to download the PDF worksheet on your device. It is available in English and in French.

2. Create multiple copies of the worksheet and rename each copy for each habit you want to adopt or change (e.g. “Habit - Flossing”, “Habit - Dishes after Supper”, etc.).

3. Type the title of the habit you want to adopt in the Habit text box. Include a cue in the title so that you know when or in which context it is supposed to take place. For example, instead of “Get up early,” you would write “Get up no later than 6 a.m. every day” and instead of writing “Keep counter clean,” you would type “Clean the counter after every dinner”. Err on the side of caution and adjust your habit so that it requires a bit less effort than what you know you can do. Your chances of success are much higher if you slowly build up your habit rather than going all-in right from the start. It’s also important to keep in mind that adding or changing certain habits - such as those related to nutrition, exercise and sleep - should be undertaken with caution in order to prevent injuries or illness. Our aim here is to increase willpower and to make the habit stick, rather than overextending ourselves by going straight for big results.

4. Think about the reason(s) why you want to adopt this habit. Briefly summarize it in the Reason(s) for habit text box. It will be good for you to regularly see it on the sheet so that it stays in the back of your mind on the days when you don’t feel like following through with your new routine.

5. Think of a reward that you think you will deserve after maintaining your habit for 50 days or cycles in a row. Type it in the Reward text box. Be generous. You want to select something that you would not buy or allow for yourself normally and, ideally, it should be something that makes you feel excited. Be careful that your reward doesn’t go against the objective of your habit (for example, if your habit is to count your calories every day in order to lose weight, don’t reward yourself with an entire large pizza).

6. If you have any notes or information you would like to add to your sheet, type it in the Notes text box. This can be anything relevant to the habit: scheduled events that you know are likely to interrupt your streak, the location where necessary items for the habit can be found, a reminder to let your close ones know when and where you will go out for your jogs, etc.

7. You can type in a few characters in the square boxes to the right of each of the 50 hexagons. These small boxes can be used to write days of the week and dates (for example: “Wed.21”) or small bits of information relevant to your habit (for example, if your habit is to exercise every day at the gym but you want to vary or alternate your activities, you could use this space to write RUN for cardio days and STRENGTH for weightlifting days).

8. At this point, save the changes you have made to the worksheet so that you don’t lose what you have typed in so far.  If you plan on using the worksheet electronically, remember to save your copies in an easy to find location. I recommend that you keep your copies of the worksheet on cloud storage so that you can access them and keep everything up to date from multiple devices. For those who plan on using the worksheet in paper format, go ahead and print one copy for each habit at this time.

9. Start your habit today and cross off the first hexagon by clicking on it or by filling it in by hand. Do not wait until a Sunday or a Monday to start. You should begin today, as early as possible (this is why the squares to the right of each hexagon are blank, so that you can you start your 50 days on any day of the week or the month).

10. Cross off the numbered hexagon for each subsequent day or cycle that you complete your habit.

11. If you miss a day, leave the hexagon for that day blank and just keep going the next day. Do not start back at zero. Take the time to reflect on what happened so you can remember and make better plans in order to avoid being in that situation again. Write down your reflections about what lead you to miss your day, either in the Notes section of the worksheet or on a separate text file or paper note.

It’s okay to miss one day here and there. Life happens. It’s necessary to have some margin of error so that we remain flexible and can adapt to illness, unexpected weather, etc. Missing a day here and there will happen even after you have gained the habit. It is therefore best that you learn to develop plans so that you can avoid missing days in the future and know how to “get back on the horse” the very next day. The important rule to remember while using this worksheet is that you shouldn’t miss more than one day in a row. As soon as you miss two days in a row, document what happened in writing again and keep your 50-day worksheet for reference. You will be starting back at Day 1 now but not before making a few adjustments. Before you start over a new 50-day sheet, open the PDF file you saved for this habit and make two changes. The first is that you will make the habit slightly easier; if you were trying to build up the habit of going to bed earlier, say at 10:00 p.m. every night, you will adjust it to 10:15 for the next 50 days. The second change is that you will also increase the value of your reward in whatever way you can afford and which is reasonable. For example, if you promised to buy yourself a 60$ video game, now increase your budget to 80$ or if you promised yourself that you would go for an overnight trip, make it a weekend trip. Remember, our aim is to build up willpower and to go for consistent, compounding results, not to go for sudden big gains. You need to make the habit stick (so make it a bit easier) and, for now, since your habit may not provide you with the ultimate results you’re looking for until quite some time, an external reason to stick to the habit can help provide you with some temporary motivation (so an increase the attractiveness of your reward can temporarily help keep you motivated despite some setbacks).

12. At the end of your 50-day sheet, you get your reward.  Congratulations, you now have a new habit!

13. You can now either continue working with more 50-day sheets for as long as you want or try to see if you can maintain the habit without the support of the worksheet. If you see yourself slipping up again with your newly adopted habit, simply start a new worksheet.

14. If it’s possible and relevant, you should try to slightly increase the difficulty of your habit at regular intervals (such as at the start of each new 50-day sheet). This doesn’t apply to all types of habits but for many (such as nearly all exercise habits), a slow but steady increase in difficulty will help you stick to the habit over long periods of time.

Technical features of the worksheet

Blue tint: Many PDF readers will display a blue tint over sections that can be completed in a PDF form, which can be unsightly or annoying. Most PDF readers have a setting called “Highlight Fields” which you can toggle off to remove this tint. In Foxit Reader (which I recommend that you use – it’s free), you can find this setting in the Forms tab in the upper left corner of the screen.

Font size in text boxes: If opened in a dedicated PDF reader, the font size should automatically adjust so that text entries fit within all text boxes in the worksheet. 

Extra resources

If you want to learn more about habits and what makes them so effective in helping us make long-lasting changes, I recommend the following books:

There are also many android, apple and web-based applications which allow you to track and manage habits, which you can use instead of or as a compliment to this worksheet. My two favorite habit apps are the following:

Decide what to keep and what to discard with this Decluttering questionnaire

Marc

Decluttering can be overwhelming. Whether you’re taking on a big spring-cleaning effort to get rid of as much stuff as possible or making a decision about a single item, it can be hard to let physical objects go. It can also be hard to deal with the effects of deciding to keep an object that we previously considered tossing out: the space it occupies, the ongoing frustration of not using it despite our good intentions, maintenance costs, emotions and memories tied to the item, etc.

In an effort to help clarify your thoughts about the objects you own and arrive at clear decisions about whether or not to keep them, I created a free downloadable pdf guide called the “Decluttering Questionnaire”. The guide asks you to keep in mind a specific item you own and then consider if you agree or disagree with 23 statements. The questionnaire does not arrive at a decision for you; it is meant to help you guide your thinking based on how the item is perceived overall (if you disagree on nearly all statements, you should probably discard it) and how it might be perceived in a new light through certain key statements (your position on one or a few key statements may be enough to guide your decision).

The questionnaire is available for free as a downloadable pdf document on our Products page (click here). You can print it and fill it out by hand or fill it out directly as a pdf document on your device; it has space to type in the name of the item you’re considering and clickable checkboxes (Agree/Disagree) for each statement. It is available in both English and French.

Please contact us if you have any ideas to help us improve the questionnaire.

The lifebuoy tactic: save yourself from an unproductive day

Marc

Is your evening, weekend or vacation day off to a bad start? Have you been struggling to make real progress on that big task you set out to accomplish this morning? You had strong intentions when you went to bed last night but you’ve been in this situation before. You know that if you don’t intervene soon, there’s a strong chance that you’ll decide to just “take it easy” for the rest of the time you initially put aside to get some things done today. That decision might feel good, at least for a little while, but later this evening when you reflect back on how little you got done today, you won’t feel so proud of yourself. Even worse, you’ll likely feel even worse tomorrow when your to-do list has accumulated even more backlog. You might then decide to “take it easy” on that day as well. This is a dangerous spiral.

You need to throw yourself a lifebuoy and save the day. You need to rescue the willpower and energy you still have available to be productive for the next few hours and avoid getting stuck in a vortex of laziness.

Here’s how:

1. Positive self-talk
Start with some positive self-talk: I will be productive today. I will get things done. I will make a short plan for today and stick to it. I will get to relax after I make some progress on my tasks. I will feel accomplished by the time I sit down to relax later today.

2. Write a short plan for the day
Given how the day has gone so far for you, today is no longer about maximisation and efficiency; it’s about salvaging the remaining time and energy you have left for today. The goal here is for you to know you took one step in the right direction, instead of standing still or even taking a step back.

Using whatever tools you prefer (digital, paper) write out the task list which is outlined below. You should aim to have a task list which is realistic and feasible so that you will have at least 3 hours left at the end of the day in order to relax. There’s a good chance that you got where you are right now due to exhaustion or a need to be compassionate towards yourself, so you’ll work in a period of relaxation for later on today.

Start a timer for 10 minutes. No matter what, after that 10-minute timer goes off, you will still stop trying to add or change tasks in your plan for today; you’ll go with whatever you have written down in that amount of time or less.

A) Easy tasks (2)
Start by writing two important but easy to accomplish tasks. You’ll be starting with those, as it will give you some momentum to continue on with your day. A simple but effective suggestion is to make these 1-2 tasks something simple, like the act of turning on household appliances that will do some work for you throughout the day (load and start the dishwasher, start the washing machine, etc.)

B) Critical tasks (ideally 1 to 4)
These are tasks that you know you must have done by the end of the day or else there will be important consequences for you soon. A good example of these is to make sure you pick up medical prescriptions or, depending on the time of the month, to pay your credit card bills on time. If you don’t have any impending deadlines for any of your tasks, just write a few of the more important tasks you want to get done or habits you really want to maintain.

C) One hour spent on a difficult task
You know that lengthy or complex project you keep putting off? You’ll commit to spending an hour on it today, no matter what. If you don’t, you risk getting stuck in a spiral where you resort to this lifebuoy tactic on a regular basis. Remember: today’s objective has shifted and we’re now trying to prevent you from drowning. If you don’t try to make progress on your large-scale projects, you’ll be much more likely to need more “lifebuoys” in the near future, as these projects will suck the willpower and energy out of you on other days like today. Use a timer to make sure you work a full total of 60 minutes on the project.

D) Other tasks (1 to 4)
These are miscellaneous tasks that you could get done today but aren’t critical. Getting to these would be a bonus.

E) Reward
Write a reward for yourself for having accomplished the tasks on your plan for today. This reward should be substantial (watching a movie, taking a long bath, playing video games, etc.). I would recommend that you measure it in time and that it last at least a lofty 3 hours or even longer if you’re trying to salvage an entire day. Why such a generous reward? Because you really want to motivate yourself to have the self-discipline to stick to your plan throughout the next few hours to at least get a few things done today. The aim here is to give you enough hope and energy to hold on to the lifebuoy while you’re pulled out of a vortex of laziness. There are, however, some rules attached to the reward.

The rules for the reward are simple: you will promise yourself that you will only get the reward if you fully complete steps A, B and C of your plan for today:

  • A: Easy tasks (2)

  • B: Critical tasks (1 to 4)

  • C: 1 hour spent on a difficult task

The completion of your Other tasks (step D) are not necessary for you to get your reward, though there is a high likelihood that you’ll make some progress on these tasks once you have hit your stride. What you could do is to add some bonus time to your reward, if you’re able to check off all of the tasks on step D as well.

There is also some worth to writing out your tasks for today even if you don’t make any progress. Knowing that you potentially could have but didn’t do everything on your to-do list in order to deserve your reward will help keep you honest about your abilities and remaining energy level for now. This new knowledge will help you work in more rest time for yourself in the future, as well as improve your ability to estimate how much you can get done in a day. Essentially, this new information can help prevent you from burning out.

3.  Take a shower
Put down your paper list or device and, if you haven’t already, take a shower. It will help wake you up and feel energised. A warm shower is also a great way to work in some self-care and to mentally prepare for what’s ahead.

4. Get dressed
Don’t stay in your pyjamas all day. Get dressed. Put yourself together well enough that you would be comfortable going out for an errand. This will help improve your self-confidence for today and will also ensure that you’re able to go out and get things done that require you to be in public, if necessary.

5. Get to work
Grab the short plan you wrote in step 2 and start working your way down your list of tasks. Brew some coffee and have some snacks easily accessible to keep you going throughout your day.

6. Reward
You did it. The day was saved. You managed to stay productive despite how you felt earlier when you were stuck trying not to drown. Now you get to relax while also feeling proud about yourself and knowing that you have made progress on important areas in your life. Good job.

All in all, using this tactic, your day should look like this:

  • Write a short plan

  • Take a shower

  • Get dressed

  • Complete 2 easy tasks

  • Complete 1 to 4 critical tasks

  • Spend 1 hour on a difficult / complex task

  • Optional: make progress on other tasks

  • Reward (3+ hours)