How to Do Work: 8 Strategies to Stop Wasting Time and Get Things Done

I've wasted a truly incredible amount of time in that lazy space that exists between kinda working and kinda screwing around. On the days where I'm feeling good and getting important stuff done, though, I notice I'm following most of these strategies.
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I've worked from home or from coffee shops for over eight years.

In that time, I've written a few books, hundreds of articles, and God-knows-how-many Facebook posts, emails, and project updates.

I've also wasted a truly incredible amount of time in that lazy space that exists between kinda working and kinda screwing around.

On the days where I'm feeling good and getting important stuff done, though, I notice I'm following most of strategies below.

Maybe they'll help you, too.

1. Determine what kind of day it's going to be.

Some days you just want to be active on social media and throw some jabson Facebook or Twitter.

Other days you know you need to sit your ass down, lock the door, put on headphones, and crank out some work on a big project.

Or maybe you just want to chill and read a little bit and grab some lunch and see what happens.

All are good days. Nothing wrong with any of 'em.

But every morning, you need to determine what kind of day you want to have; that way you can properly set your expectations.

Because there's no shittier feeling than telling yourself you're gonna work on a new article... and then realizing you haven't done anything but check Twitter and read Buzzfeed all day.

2. Get dressed like a big boy (or girl).

When you don't have to go to an office or be anywhere in particular, it's easy to let sweatpants and t-shirts become your default.

It's cool for a while, especially since it's kinda like faking sick and staying home from school.

I'm gonna watch The Price Is Right! I'm gonna eat yogurt on the couch!

But then reality sets in and you remember you're not a fourth-grader.

You're an adult who has shit to do. And adults get dressed for the day.

3. Don't create and consume at the same time.

We all know about the barrage of competing demands for our attention, and how multitasking isn't really that effective, and blah, blah, blah.

What's all that really mean?

You should either be creating something or consuming something. Not both at the same time.

When you're creating, you're fully engaged on what you're doing. There should be no distractions, no "I'll just check something real quick and then come back to this..."

Focusing on one thing without interruption is how you get meaningful work done.

When you're consuming, you're open to anything and everything. You get taken wherever the wind takes you, and it's all groovy. What's this article? Who's that dude? This restaurant seems legit. You think they're open for dinner? Lemme check Yelp...

4. Use a timer.

When you're creating something, this just helps. I have no idea why, though I'm sure there's a perfectly reasonable scientific explanation for it.

I use Focus@Will because I get to listen to ambient music at the same time.

5. Do your work on one device.

The trouble with working from home (or from a coffee shop or whatever) is that you can work whenever you want. That means there's less separation between you working and you hanging out and just being a person.

Now with tablets and smartphones, you can work across multiple devices, too. That means you can work anywhere from anything.

That type of constant connection can be draining since there's alwayssomething to do.

I've found I get more accomplished when I work on my Mac desktop or laptop and save my iPad and phone for music, apps, texts, and non-work stuff.

(Quick aside: The "one device" thing may just be a weird quirk of mine, however. I don't even have social media or email on my phone. I'm too impulsive and would never get anything done if I did.

In fact, my girlfriend is the only one who knows the password to my phone. And I'm pretty sure she forgot it, so I may be fucked if I ever wanted to add email anyway.)

6. Have a reset button. Use it.

Whenever you find yourself distracted when you should be working it's helpful to have a reset button that you can push.

A reset button can be an actual button, like your power key on your laptop. (When you realize you're distracted, restart your computer, take a couple of breaths and start fresh again.)

Or it can be an activity or habit you do that breaks the pattern and gets you away from your computer for a few minutes. That way when you come back, you'll be ready to rock and roll.

My favorite reset button is a taking a shower. With a beer.

7. Know when you're going to stop working.

Six hours from now. As soon as I finish this article. Before my 11 a.m. meeting. Once I nail this outline. As soon as Cosmos comes on and Neil deGrasse Tyson starts talking to me.

It doesn't matter how you measure it, but you need to know when you're gonna stop working.

Otherwise you'd just keep going. And after a while, everything devolves into sub-par work.

8. Get out and go do something. Have a drink.

You've been cooped up in the house all day. Besides, you've earned it.

Nate Green is an author, marketing and ideas guy for Precision Nutrition, and a recovering fitness junkie. He spends most of his time writing, cooking, and inspiring people from around the world to lead better, healthier lives.


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