I’m a sucker for productivity improvement; one of my favorite things to do is find new ways to be more productive. Or ways to work smarter, not harder. Or simple steps for exceptional daily productivity, easy ways to streamline your workday, and even ways to make your employees more productive.
So when someone recently asked for my favorite productivity tip, one that anyone could use, I had to stop and think. There were so many I could choose from.
And then it hit me: Always end each day by leaving yourself a fun place to start tomorrow.
Why? Stopping in the middle of doing something awesome—or stopping right before you’ll start doing something awesome—ensures you’ll avoid the temptation of procrastination.
Stopping short ensures you’ll ignore all the enticing distractions that inevitably pop up when your motivation has flagged.
Stopping short allows you to instantly focus and concentrate when you pick back up whatever you were doing.
You won’t be able to help diving right in because you’ll be too excited, and that initial enthusiasm will positively affect the rest of your day.
Here’s an example:
Say you’re Kevin Jarre and you’re writing the screenplay for the movie Tombstone. It’s late in the day, and you just finished the scene in which Wyatt Earp tells the bedridden Doc Holliday (played by the movie-stealing Val Kilmer) that he needs to leave for a showdown with Johnny Ringo.
Wyatt knows he’s no match for Ringo. So does Doc, who desperately wants to help but is obviously too sick. As Wyatt leaves, they know they will likely never see each other again.
So if you’re Kevin, should you then jump right into writing the next scene? Heck, no. You save it for tomorrow—because that scene opens with Ringo noticing a shadowy figure walking out of the trees and, just as the sunlight hits the person’s face, saying to Ringo, “I’m your huckleberry.” To our (and definitely Ringo’s) surprise, that figure is not Wyatt but Doc, who then says, “Why, Johnny Ringo. You look like someone just walked over your grave.”
If you’re Kevin, how excited are you to write that scene? You probably couldn’t wait, because it’s a scene that makes the movie (and cements Doc’s character). The words just pour from you.
And when Doc looks down at a dying Johnny Ringo and says, “I’m afraid the strain was more than he could bear,” if you’re Kevin you know you’ve nailed an awesome scene, and that makes you want to keep writing.
Within minutes, your day is made—all because you started that day in a really fun place.
If you stop after you’ve just finished something significant or major—if you stop when you feel you’ve crossed a finish line and are nearly spent—it can be really hard to move on to whatever is next, even if moving on to what’s next occurs hours or even a day later.
That’s why you should always leave yourself a fun place to restart. Whenever possible, try to stop when you’re almost dying to keep going. Then you ensure that tomorrow you will keep going. The enthusiasm and excitement you bring to the start of your day and the satisfaction of finishing something rewarding, exciting, and fun will launch you into yet another incredibly productive day.
Want to make this year a year of breakout growth? Always leave yourself a fun place to start the day.
You—and your work—will be glad you did.
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