I’m the king of procrastination. Seriously, I’m the worst. I somehow manage to spend 100x more energy not doing something than a fraction of the same energy simply doing said thing. It makes no sense, but I have an incredible knack for talking myself out of getting moving on a project. If this sounds like you, I assure you, we’re a lot alike. For me, it’s starting that’s the hard part and unfortunately, what I’ve found is that there’s no trick for getting going. The reality is, you have to just dive in. Prolific advice, right? (I’m pretty much the Shia Labeouf of doing important shit.) Just do it. Really though, I think what’s important here is reminding myself that often times the work I push off isn’t actually that hard. While there’s no magic pill for getting into a project, I have found a couple tricks that help get over the hurdle and allow me to settle in on work that I’m less than enthused about.
Find people who hold you accountable
Shoutout to my longtime partner and professional slave driver, Justin. He’s a bully when I’m behind on work, and rightfully so. We’ve been working together for years at this point and have developed a rhythm and a friendship that allows him to push me through some of my blocks — especially because my blocks can become blockers for him and that’s one of his all-time biggest pet peeves. Having someone with high expectations of you getting projects moving is a great way to keep you honest. Whether you lean on clients or collaborators, partners or peers, having folks in your corner to hold you to your schedule so they don’t get behind is a blessing in disguise. Trust me, I have to remind myself constantly when I have Justin breathing down my neck to finish a post or edit a document. Pressure is good!
Embrace good distractions
A shameless Coffitivity plug and basically Exhibit A of “getting high on your own supply” here, but whatever. We literally built Coffitivity to be able to work better and I’m an avid user of the platform on the daily. As you might have read, the science behind Coffitivity says being a tiny bit distracted gets your creative juices flowing. I’m a firm believer and an advocate of having that coffee shop chatter in the background of my work day. Even on the go, I plug in with our mobile app and it keeps me focused on the train, in a cab, or simply when I don’t have wifi in one of those bougie “we don’t want you to be productive” cafes in Williamsburg.
Minimize bad distractions
Recently, I’ve taken to putting my phone and laptop on Do Not Disturb while I’m in the middle of a project. This is pretty hard to do given how things happen on the fly in the world of freelancing and/or startups that we need to keep up with. That said, cutting down on how frequently you’re checking in on the outside world can help you maximize your efficiency at work. For writing, tools like Blankslate.io are great gems for a minimal, distraction-free writing experience. Techniques like Pomodoro can help establish a cadence for blocking out the world, while still scheduling regular intervals to check in on clients, kids, and the casserole in the over on occasion. Obviously, forcing distractions out of your work life is ideal, which is why we’re HUGE fans of the Freedom app, which blocks sites and apps while you’re working. You can schedule work windows where it will keep you focus and build in breaks to browse your favorite time wasting websites for a few minutes every session!
Good (affordable) gear helps
I love my headphones. Hard stop. Seriously, without headphones I wouldn’t be able to get a lick of work done. As it turns out the rest of our team is in the same boat. At time of writing, we have 4 pairs of Sony headphones, 1 set of Bose, some generic Apple headphones, and Matt has a $500 pair of Sennheiser Momentum Bluetooth Wireless Over-Ear Headset with NFC because he’s a showoff and likes nice things. Regardless of the price point of your gear, make sure you have good, functional gear so you can do quick, efficient work when it matters. Along those lines, I’ll also recommend considering going analog if you hit a block. One of the best ways for me to get a move on a project is to sketch or do prewriting in my Moleskine Cahier Journal. Whether you’re a digital or analog kinda guy/gal, good gear is worth investing in (as long as it doesn’t break the bank).
Find the right tunes
Ya boy loves some Explosions in the Sky or This Will Destroy You. My partner Matt, on the other hand, loves his jazz or showtunes (for whatever reason). To each, his own, of course. Just make sure to find the right jams (or lack thereof) for you so you can dig in when you don’t want to work, but have to. Currently I have a few shared Spotify playlists with friends that allows us to kill two birds with one stone — we stay connected, but we also stay head down in the middle of the workday. It’s great! On that front, keep an eye out for a few updates on the music side of things from the crew here at Coffitivity. We’ll be curating a few playlists like this one over the coming months with some new music we really dig for plugging into work or jammin’ out during your breaks.
Ace Callwood is the co-founder of Coffitivity, an ambient sound app that boost creativity and the CEO of Painless1099, a smart banking solution that automates finances for freelancers. As a former freelance consultant with a knack for helping groups think more creatively, Ace has been contracted by the US Army, startups, and larger corporations to help leverage the most powerful asset a company has – it’s people – through diversity, inclusion, and human engagement. Ace writes on Medium, tweets at @acecallwood, and enjoys direct messaging in person on the rare occasion he’s let out of his cage. Read more from Ace and the Coffitivity team on the Coffitivity Blog.