How I accomplished a week’s worth of work in one day

Photo by Towfiqu Barbhuiya

I hate deadlines. They’re constantly looming in the corner for one week like your bad uncle. Then on that last blessed day, they’re all in your face like your ex. I had to confront 5 of them recently (not exes, 5 deadlines. I wish I was that good-looking).

After a week’s worth of procrastination, they all came crashing down on me faster than a broken elevator. I was pummeled by papers and emails and I only had one day to fight it. A book to read, an essay to turn in, an application to fill out, a trip to plan, an article to write, and XYZ.

Here’s how I avoided miserable failure:

  1. I prioritized

Okay, I do have one lie to confess. Out of that list of things, there was one thing I didn’t do.

I’m sorry Julia Cameron, okay? I just didn’t have time. Shouldn’t you be proud of me anyway? Don’t you promote taking time for yourself or something?

Anyway, I prioritized. Out of that list of things, I looked at what needed to be accomplished in the next two hours (certain things needed to be sent to people at a reasonable time. Midnight doesn’t count) versus what needed to be accomplished by the end of the day. From there I looked at the consequences of not finishing the task and chose which poison I was willing to drink. Again Julia, no offense. I just didn’t have the time.

It’s that simple. When the clock is down, you go based on urgency and importance. It’s the Eisenhower matrix. Since usually everything is urgent, either you break up into what’s urgent by the next hour or end of the day, and what’s important. But, you do have to make sacrifices. And I chose to sacrifice Julia Cameron.

2. Spare time doesn’t have to mean checking how many Instagram likes we’ve gotten in the past 5 minutes ago, though it’s not that bad of an option.

While we’re constantly feeling overwhelmed throughout the day, there’s also these little pockets of time where we’re not doing anything, other than maybe checking out the Kardashians’ Instagram.

These pockets are everywhere. If you take public transportation home, there’s around 30 minutes there. Maybe it’s while we’re walking to our next destination. Or when we’re tuning out the person speaking (If you’re going to tune them out, do something useful).

When the deadlines are flooding in, these pockets of spare time go from being wasted minutes of distraction to saving grace. If we use them, they become the difference between getting the work in on time instead of nothing at all.

So next time you’re ogling at Khloe or Kim or whoever it may be, try and get some work done. You might actually get some work done.

3. Do something out of the ordinary. Just not screaming in the middle of the street

On a day full of deadlines this is sort of required, but the old saying goes “Insanity is doing the same thing, over and over again, but expecting different results.”

This goes both to why the work piled up all one day, and what it’s going to take to do finish it. We’re not able to complete the work because our system wasn’t working, and we most likely didn’t make any changes, so more work kept piling up. That also means that we can’t stick to our same system when we have to accomplish all the work.

We have to do something different. In this case, we have to do something more. From a straightforward standpoint, we’re going to have to work more hours. But this might also be the time to try something new. Take a risk. In a way, you have nothing to lose. So don’t make any too stupid mistakes, but be bold and go for it.

4. Clear the noise, except the music

Other than music which is energizing especially for things like this, clear the noise.

You already have a lot of things on your plate, so it makes no sense to add any more. That includes accepting new projects, emails, and even texts.

Extreme vigilance was the only thing that got me through completing even 5/6 things that I had. It’s necessary, because adding more noise just isn’t going to cut it when you need extremely focused time to get the work done.

5. Batch based of your mental state, unless you’re feeling lazy

Batching tasks is a common thing throughout the productivity world, but we can be smarter about how we approach it.

Instead of grouping the tasks based off writing, emailing, reading, etc., batch them based off your mental state. What does that mean?

Take emails, articles, and essays for example. Let’s say they’re both due today. Typically, we’d start by writing the article, essay, and email and then proceed to edit all of those before we publish, submit, or hit send on them.

But the mental state for an email is vastly different than an article and essay. It’s almost like editing. Instead, since typically the mental state for an email and article are the same, write those at the same time. Then proceed to edit those and then write the email.

This version of doing things is better suited to the mental state that you’re in and allows you to get work done without interrupting your flow. Preserving your flow is absolutely necessary when working under urgent deadlines like these and going off mental states is the best way to do so. Unless of course, your mental state is binge-watching The Crown, in which case just ignore this and start working.

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Nathan M

Nathan M

Taking from my experience, I write about productivity, enjoying life a bit more, and being a slightly less annoying human.