What to Do When Productivity Tips Don’t Work for You

I have a confession to make.

The past few weeks, our whole team has been rallying around the idea of productivity.

In our iCadenza Community, we’ve shared tips on overcoming procrastination, staying inspired when you feel burnt out, and how to get your most important tasks done.

But here’s the truth:

Systems for productivity never work for me.

I’m resistant to productivity hacks, I’m no time management expert, and I often let things slip through the cracks. I have a graveyard of new lists, new calendars, new systems that I stuck to for a day or two only to quickly leave behind.

Can you relate?

I spent a lot of my life wishing I could be like the productivity experts I admire—the ones who are always on top of their to-do lists.

But I don’t do that anymore.

That’s because I got tired of judging myself for not being able to conform to checklists, time trackers, and other prescribed “productivity tools.”

So if traditional productivity tools don’t work for you, it doesn’t mean you’re broken!

It just means you have to find a different way.

So how do I find balance between getting things done that need to get done—without forcing myself to be something I’m not?

It’s actually pretty simple.

Here are two of my easy yet effective productivity tips (for people who hate productivity tips):

Tip #1: Create a 1-step morning routine

You’ve probably heard lots of people talk about the benefits of having a morning routine. That’s because doing so creates a sense of mindfulness you can carry with you throughout the day.

And that’s great!

But I’ve seen morning routines jam-packed with journaling, taking a sunrise walk, doing yoga, making a smoothie… all before 6am.

Um, no thanks.

Instead, here’s an example of a 1-step morning routine:

When you get out of bed, before you do anything else, drink a cup of water.

You might be thinking, “That’s it?!”

Yep, that’s it.

Here’s why it will make you more productive:

First, it doesn’t feel overwhelming. So you get up, you drink your cup of water, and you already feel like you’ve started your day out right. High five!

Second, if you get out of bed and go right to your computer or phone to check emails and scroll through social media, it sets you up for panic. And nobody’s productive in panic mode.

If you pause and drink a cup of water, that “pause” will stay with you all day. You’ll pause before you make a big decision. You’ll pause before you react to a frustrating email. You’ll pause before diving into an important project.

In other words, you’ll be more mindful, which will make you more productive. And hey, you’ll be hydrated too!

Tip #2: Use your commute to get things done

If you’re like many musicians and you spend lots of time in your car, traveling to gigs, meeting with collaborators, or going to rehearsal.

Most of the commuting musicians I speak with see their commute as lost time. But it doesn’t have to be.

I recommend taking an hour each week to look ahead at your upcoming commute time.

Then, identify the items on your to do list that you can do during that time. You can listen to a piece you’re preparing or an audiobook on your reading list. You can call a friend and catch up. You can listen to a podcast.

One of my clients records herself slowly and correctly speaking the words of a foreign language pieces she’s learning. She listens to the recordings in the car and speaks along to sharpen her diction.

I’ve found that when I use my commute time to be productive, I feel more relaxed and less rushed when I arrive at my destination. That’s because I’m not mentally going through a checklist of everything else that still needs to get done.

There’s nothing to fix

You don’t need to “fix” yourself or try to fit into the box that other productivity experts fit into.

Perhaps you just need a handful of habits that feel good to you, and that you can incorporate easily into your daily life.

Maybe it can be that easy.

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