How to be unproductive for the rest of the year

Author: Jérémy Bourhis

6th January 2016

Just 8% of people say they achieved their new year’s resolutions last year. In fact, you might be reading this already guilty starting to slip back into old ways.

But why do most new year’s resolutions fail? One of the main reasons is that you’re trying to go against the grain: it’s a conscious effort to do the opposite of the habits you’re used to, especially if the old ones are the easier option. It takes a couple of months to break a habit and form a new one, so here are a few simple ways to keep on track and avoid being unproductive for the rest of the year.

How to be unproductive: Keep your environment the same

The most important thing is to change your environment to make it easier and more likely that you’ll reach your goals. For example, if your aim is to drink two litres of water every day, carrying around a flask or having big bottles of water on your desk and bedside table will not only serve as a reminder but will make it less effort for you to create a good habit. This is easily applied to your work too: e.g. if your aim is to keep on top of industry news, set up your feed reader with plenty of good sources and make it your homepage.

How to be unproductive: Don’t top-up motivation

What motivates you? How can you use that to form a good habit? Ticking items off a to do list, rewarding yourself for milestones (such as achieving your goal each day, week or month), comparing data, or making future projections (for example how much money/time you will have saved by X date from doing Y habit). There are also plenty of great articles and websites for a welcome motivation boost, for example Zen Habits’ Ultimate Guide to Motivation. Don’t rely on the same source of motivation for the whole year; switch it up.

How to be unproductive: Do it from willpower alone

Take some time to work out the tools that will help you keep on track. There are likely to be some specific to your goals, but there are also plenty of general ones that can be applied to pretty much any resolution to help you stay productive. I’m a big fan of RescueTime, time-tracking software which comes in both free and premium flavors.
Screen Shot 2016-01-06 at 10.19.09

There are a million and one to do list apps and services out there, but my personal favorite is ToDoist. Just like RescueTime, there are free and paid versions available, but either of them will help you stay on track. You can add color-coded projects, subtasks, and motivation is built-in thanks to an ever-changing productivity score in the top right.

It doesn’t really matter which to do list software you use; even a pen and paper is fine. The most important thing is that you’re happy with the method you’re using and you can easily stick with it. If there’s a feature missing from the software you’re using or paper isn’t right for you because you need to access your list anywhere and everywhere, keep searching until you find a solution that does what you need. If you opt for the virtual option, share your list with a friend, partner or relative and get them to check up on you as an additional motivation boost.

How to be unproductive: Don’t plan ahead

We’re all about the calendars, so pick your organizer of choice and get it set up with reminders, tasks and motivational quotes to keep you going. It’s useful to set up all your habit-related notes in the same color across all the software you use; pick one of your favorite colors if possible for a psychological boost. Be selective about where you put what; a motivational quote is much better than an intensive task on a Monday, for example.

Try to plan a month or six weeks ahead, and set tasks and mini goals along the way, along with reminders to give yourself an extra chance to complete tasks before the deadline. Planning a fair amount of time in advance means you can balance expectations carefully and not take on too much (or too little). If you’re not sure how much is too much, or what you can reasonably expect to achieve in a particular amount of time, create a list of small goals first and populate your calendar and main to do list with a short selection, then top up your calendar as needed.

Consider how you can change your environment to make creating good habits easier. Set up reminders and have desktop and phone notifications where possible. Have your calendar integrate with other applications you use, for example by turning Evernote reminders into synced calendar events with our Evernote Calendar Connector.

Evernote Calendar Connector

You’ve got this

Whether it’s January or October, you can still make the decision to find new motivation, set goals, and achieve your aims. Break everything down into mini tasks and take it day by day, planning ahead to manage your time effectively and using the best tools for the job.

What are your tips for staying motivated? How are your New Year’s resolutions going so far? Talk to us on Twitter.

Avatar of Jérémy Bourhis

Jérémy Bourhis

Date: 6th January 2016 | Category: How To, Productivity