by Niall Doherty

I wrote a few weeks back about how I’ve become more productive than ever, and listed out a dozen thoughts and ideas on forming strong habits. I realized soon after I posted that article that I’d forgotten some key things.

1. Flexibility

I think there’s a fine line between being flexible and multitasking. We all know that the latter isn’t really a good thing and actually leads to getting less done. But flexibility is different.

I used to get fixated on completing a particular task at a particular time, and then if I reached an impasse with that task (waiting for a client to get back to me with some key info, wifi not working in my apartment, etc.), I’d just throw my hands up in defeat and go do something completely unproductive.

What I do now instead is quickly switch to a different task if I reach an impasse with the first.

So if the wifi goes down in my apartment when I was planning on answering a bunch of emails or responding to comments, I’ll just go ahead and start writing my next blog post instead, or get my typing practice out of the way for the day, or do my daily stretching routine earlier than I had originally planned. This frees up time later to do my online work when the connection comes back.

It’s all about training yourself to switch from a powerless mentality to a proactive one:

  • Powerless: I can’t work, the wifi is down!
  • Proactive: Okay, no problem. What else can I get done in the meantime?

Just be wary not to slip into multitasking under the guise of flexibility. Try to complete one task fully before you move on to something else.

2. Explain yourself

One thing that helps when I hit a roadblock in a client project is to write out the problem as if I’m describing it to someone else. It’s amazing how often I come up with a solution when this happens. When you have to explain your sticking point to someone else, actually justify why you can’t proceed with a project any further, your excuses are exposed for what they really are.

Try explaining to someone else why you can’t do something, and have them tell you if your excuse is bullshit. Or just write it out yourself as if you were explaining it to someone else; becomes obvious pretty fast if you’re full of it.

To take this idea further, get those you work with to describe their sticking points via email, and watch in amazement as they begin to come up with solutions on their own.

3. Preparation

A little preparation goes a long way towards keeping me productive.

Because I’m in Kathmandu and the wifi is pretty unreliable here, I always try to have some tasks lined up that I can rip through offline. Sometimes I’ll paste an email I need to reply to into a text file so I can write my reply there later. Or I’ll send a bunch of blog articles to my Kindle so I can read them later when there’s no connection. These kinds of things ensure that I can never let myself off the hook too easily. I make it hard on myself to procrastinate.

Just this morning I was planning to respond to some emails at my favorite breakfast place in Thamel, but after sitting down and placing my order, I discovered that their wifi was out. No worries though. I’d downloaded a few PDF’s I was interested in the previous evening and so spent a half hour reading through them.

4. Decide and conquer

Practice making quick decisions. Indecision is often worse than wrong decision. Look at it once, make a decision, run with it. If it’s the wrong decision, no worries, you can always change direction later. For big decisions, sure, you might want to sleep on it and let your subconscious work its magic. But stop procrastinating on the small stuff.

I think this is a huge difference between people who get shit done and those who don’t. Doers make more decisions. They decide and then they move on.

So get into the habit of making decisions. Guys, as a bonus, women will love you if you do this, because it’s a strong sign of masculinity and leadership. Don’t ask her where she’d like to go for dinner. Pick a place and bring her there.

5. Your top productivity tip

I’d love to hear it in the comments. I’m more interested in tips to do with mindset than iPhone checklists and the like.