Therapist: "How did it go this week?"
Me: "I dunno, a mixed bag I guess. I did the daily check-in on my todo list like we talked about, but it seemed to be an exercise in moving tasks from yesterday's list to today's."
People seem happy to share their keys to success, but honestly, I assume most success is a result of dumb luck and privilege. Personally, my diligence and intelligence might play a small role, but after the dumb luck I mentally rewrite history to attribute my wins to some innate quality I wish I had, or ritual I wish I executed. I'm sure success is far too complicated to be boiled down in a concise article; soooo, here are my keys to success:
Make a friend then make them make you work.
I am most easily manipulated by social pressure. I might not like micromanagement, but it is a depressingly successful strategy in making me work. In school, I only had 2 strategies for getting homework done and my favorite was finding a study buddy. You too can leverage relationships to benefit your employer with these simple to follow instructions:
Find someone you can sit in the same room with for long periods of time and not consider killing them.
Compliment their shoes or their firm handshake.
Ask if you could bounce some ideas off of them.
Once they agree immediately proceed to dump all of your fears of failure about a specific project on them and then improvise the next steps you need to take to do the bare minimum on the job in order to get away from it as soon as possible.
Ask them for their opinion.
Find them the next day and repeat (alternate between the firm handshake and shoe compliments).
You can change your study buddy if yours burns out, but do your best make them last as long as possible. The best way to do this is to find a study buddy that will require the same sort of daily small group therapy from you.
In my best year at school my study buddy was Ryan Gardner; find a Ryan.
I was having a hard time finding a capable study buddy after I entered the adult person workforce until I remembered that my studio mate is highly productive and invested in my success. Now we have Alexa set a 20 min timer and kvetch about our yesterday, our today, and our someday.
It doesn't make me get my work done, but it makes me face it so I can't be blissfully ignorant.
Work in class.
My other homework strategy was to work in class. It consumes all of my limited focus energy to listen to a teacher, so I realized if I did my homework while they droned on I could avoid doing work at home. I was going to avoid it anyway, but this way I could play with my transformers without the twinge of guilt.
Work meetings are often just adult person lectures. I show up, tune my ear to listen for my name, and then go to work.
Being faced with the options of working or listening to a lecture I choose Zelda: Breath of the Wild, but since other people can see me, I end up working.
I'm sure I didn't come up with the word, but I can't remember where I first heard it. Often I lose productivity when I start procrastinating. I have, at times, been able to harness the energy I'm expelling in avoiding work to work on side projects.
With this energy I have started a couple podcasts that are now dormant, started a couple open source projects that are now dormant, and several times I've updated my website which is now outdated.
A word of caution: there is a good chance that eventually the side project becomes the work you want to avoid.
Find inspiration outside of your normal work.
Instagram is for 4 things:
Posting photos of food that are deceptively improved with filters.
Posting videos of your children that are deceptively improved by removing the sound.
Coveting friends' dogs and cats.
Avoiding inspirational quotes and after accidentally stumbling upon one yelling at the screen: "YOU'RE NOT THE BOSS OF ME!"
After doing number 4 I'm ready to look at my work again and realize that at least it's better than spending my time making and posting oversimplified and unverified quotes from people I've never met and pretending like I actually do the things I tell others to do.
Here's a free example to practice on:
You might have thought I would have said go for a nature walk, but don't do that. That's where bears and people eat, poop, and talk about the inscest in the latest episode of Game of Thrones; we should keep a healthy distance from that.
Overcommit, give up, repeat.
This is my favorite thing to do. If I make it the goal beforehand, it's called an achievement. Then I mask my pain in self-deprecation and misdirecting humor.
Webster's dictionary probably says something about success and productivity.
Go watch "Mike Birbiglia: Thank God for Jokes" on Netflix; it's what I was watching instead of getting this article finished on time.