For long projects, momentum can be the difference to success and failure. Once you become burned out, or too frustrated to continue, the chance of reaching your goal begins to rely on pure chance. A great way to get past this, then, is to gain momentum early on to carry you through those roadblocks.
To do this, break your goal into small steps, and make the steps extremely easy to complete. Each day one of the first things I do is make a To Do List for that day. Some of these tasks will take only a minute or two each, and I make sure to knock them out immediately. Take out the trash? No problem. Flip the mattress? Done.
These tasks won't ever be enough to turn my day into a productive one, but they get me going. Once I have 2 or 3 items moved to the 'Completed' side of my list, I start getting excited to move the next one, and then the next one, until the list is empty.
I've also found that there are a couple of side benefits to this method. First, it's great for building habits. Every day I have 'Take supplements' and 'Work Out' (which is more detailed, but you get the idea) on my list. Because they are in front of me throughout the day, there is little chance I can forget them. Smaller habits, such as flossing or taking vitamins/supplements, can easily be your early win each day.
The other benefit is that things I consider low priority are actually getting done. Rather than wait until tomorrow to do laundry, I now have an incentive to do it today because it's so easy. I spend less time playing games on my phone or checking TheChive, and more time overall being productive. So far, these low priority tasks are simply being replaced with more low priority tasks. I'd normally have to set aside half a day or more to clean out a closet, but now I'm doing one or two items per day, and the project is complete within a few days or weeks.
I'm not much of a blog reader, but there are 3 blogs that I follow heavily: Tynan, Seth Godin, and Steve Pavlina. If you're looking for some good reading, you found my blog - good work. If you're looking for more than just me, check these guys out.
For those of you who don't know, Tynan is co-founder of SETT, the blogging platform I'm using now. He's also the reason I'm interested in blogging, and one of my main sources of motivation when I'm feeling unproductive. I have a few projects right now that deserve more attention than I usually give them, and reading Tynan's posts usually have the effect of making me more productive. If I had to categorize his posts, I'd say he writes about how to live life in an optimal way. I believe there is a very narrow group of people that share his philosophies, and that's who he writes for. I happen to be one of those people, so if you find yourself enjoying my blog, I'd suggest you check his out (it's way better).
I've talked a lot before about priorities in a macro sense-- that it's a good idea to have one large overriding first priority. In my case, that priority is SETT. So when another really exciting project comes across my desk, I can easily turn it down and just focus on SETT. On a daily basis, though, SETT isn't actually my top momentary priority at all times. If it was, I wouldn't ever eat or sleep, because working on SETT would be more important.
One of the keys to high efficiency (which translates directly to high productivity) is knowing what you're doing next. The biggest indicator on whether or not I'll have a productive day is whether or not I know exactly what I should be working on. When there's one big fix that needs to be created or one big feature that needs to be built, I have no problem putting in a 12-14 hour day. On the other hand, when I have ten low priority things I could work on, I tend to get much less done.
These deliberations happen outside of SETT, too. If I have a good block of SETT work to do, should I skip my daily blog post? What if a friend invites me to tea?
Without a clear hierarchy of priorities, it's easy to succumb to decision paralysis. I might start a paragraph of a blog post, but then when it's not coming together well, go answer some emails. To combat this, I decided to take the time and write out my micropriorities. Here they are with notes: