February 19, 2013

The Productivity Catalyst

Some of the most successful and productive people I’ve ever met all have something they use to help them overcome procrastination. Some may call it a routine, or ritual. I like to call it the Productivity Catalyst. It is the thing that pushes you to start working; to finally get that one thing done that leads to the next thing, and so on.

A productivity catalyst is simply something you do each and every time before you begin working. It puts you in the right mindset because it is what you always do immediately before you start workingErnest Hemingway sharpened pencils before he started writing; Charles Dickens arranged trinkets on his desk.

Without a catalyst, it is so easy to procrastinate because nothing acts as a “signal” that you’re going to start working. You’re stuck, trying to drive uphill when you haven’t even started the car.

My catalyst is preparing a cup of tea. Because there are several steps—heating the water, select the tea, scooping and packing the loose tea into a tea ball, pouring the water over the tea, and watching as it steeps—it becomes a short ritual that I carry out with my full attention. I can then sit down and, say, write this article. Maybe yours is waking up early, preparing morning coffee, taking a shower, doing 15 minutes of exercise or stretching, or even just commuting to work.

Don’t let yourself procrastinate: find your productivity catalyst. It is one of the most important tools you’ll ever acquire.

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Joshua Gross is web designer and developer, and principal of Planetary based in Brooklyn, NY.