I keep a “Things to Remember About Myself” document on my computer. It’s about a page long and consists of statements like this:
When you get busy, you start spending part of your “doing” time thinking about how much you have to do and trying to decide what you should do first. After a few minutes of this, you have even less time, which causes you to worry more, and so on. It's a vicious cycle.
Do not allow this cycle to establish itself. Start anywhere, and move ruthlessly through your list, taking no prisoners and hearing no cries for mercy. Most of your tasks will take less than 10 minutes, and you will be amazed at how much time you really have when you act.
You require structure to be productive. If your schedule doesn’t provide it for you, you’ll need to add it yourself. Without it, don’t kid yourself.
I review this document weekly, and it is amazingly effective at helping me avoid familiar productivity traps.
Now, I am a full-grown man who has been thinking more or less constantly about productivity strategies for the better part of a decade. You’d think I’d know myself well enough at this point not to need weekly reminders of my own tendencies, but, well, I do. It’s not that I forget my past mistakes, exactly. Rather, without this weekly reminder, I fool myself into believing that age-old lie: today will be different.
Today won’t be different. If we want to have a productive day, we need to discipline ourselves to do what works and avoid what doesn’t.
A “Things to Remember About Myself” list can help us remember that.