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Summary:

No one tricks a trickster, right? Well, that may not always necessarily be true, even when the trickster in question is actually yourself. While you probably can’t actually convince your brain to believe something you know perfectly well to be untrue, experience has proven that people […]

No one tricks a trickster, right? Well, that may not always necessarily be true, even when the trickster in question is actually yourself. While you probably can’t actually convince your brain to believe something you know perfectly well to be untrue, experience has proven that people can, in fact, effectively lie to themselves in order to promote better, more efficient working habits and practices.

In the long run, it’s probably no substitute for hard work and building smart routines without resorting to lying to yourself. But in a pinch, when your motivation might be low for other reasons not related to the jobs that you’re working on, self-deception can be a very handy little pick-me-up.

This is Due Tomorrow (It Isn’t Due Tomorrow)

Changing the due dates for projects or project elements can be very beneficial to your work ethic. The key to getting away with this particular trip is to set your revised (earlier, in case that wasn’t clear) dates well ahead of time, preferably at project outset. Don’t share these personal due dates with the client, of course, of they’ll make them official and you won’t have gained anything.

So set your dates early quietly to yourself and then repeat them over and over again. Treat them for all intents and purposes as if they are the actual client-mandated due dates. At first, this will take an effort of will, but I think you’ll be fairly surprised with how quickly you’ll find yourself buying your own hype.

I’ll Take Tomorrow Off (I Won’t Take Any Time Off)

A great trick for getting myself to produce more than I normally would during any given day is promise to take the next day off, or at least have a reduced workday. So for example, I’ll say that I’m going to work a little bit extra tonight and then take the afternoon the next day to do something fun.

The trick is that I’ll often do exactly the same thing the next day, and the day after that, and pretty soon it’s the weekend and I’ve doubled my workload for the week. It works so well that I’m actually doing it right now, as I write this post. It’s become my new favorite trick, but the potential downside is a bad case of burnout, so use it sparingly.

My Alarm Clock Displays the Correct Time (It Doesn’t Display the Correct Time)

This is an oldie, but a goodie. People have been setting their watches, alarm clocks and clock radios back a few minutes since clocks were invented in order to ensure timeliness and provide the comforting illusion that they are always ahead of time. My own method is a twist on this venerable classic, and adds an element designed to both make the deception more effective and to help you steal even more time.

The twist on the classic trick is to set your clock back a bit every time you set your alarm, probably a minute or two at most. Eventually, you can probably manage to gain an extra hour without throwing your schedule completely off whack, and (best of all) it feels like “bonus” time in a way that it wouldn’t if you just set your alarm an hour earlier.

Stealing Time

When you work from home, the clock is your constant companion, and yet, it can be incredibly easy to lose track of time and find that you’ve done far less than you set out to do. I’ve found that over time, I gradually lose more and more of my day to distractions and less-than-important things, like Facebook and Twitter.

Part of my strategy for combating these time thieves includes reevaluating and restructuring my work practices every once in a while, but that doesn’t always get the job done in the short term. For a quick fix, tricking yourself is a great way to steal some of that time back.

What tricks do you play on yourself to gain a little added productivity?

  1. By moving the clock back you mean move it forward right. So for example right now the actual time is 8 pm, but my wall clock says its 8:07

  2. This is like convincing yourself you are going out with a starlet, when you are going out with a horrible ape.

  3. Creative Tip: Go Looking For Inspiration In All the Wrong Places Thursday, December 10, 2009

    [...] in my series of counter-intuitive tips, the first being the one in which I advised everyone to lie to themselves in order to get more work done. This time around, the tips I’m providing don’t involve any self-deception, but they [...]

  4. Wojciech Kruszewski Monday, December 14, 2009

    Such tricks are a gateway drug for me. I mean it works, but next time I need more.

    No… What does seem to work for me is developing a good grip on reality.

    I used to do that: setting my clock 5 minutes forward and then going for a meeting at last possible meeting (according to the clock). But… this made me too optimistic (I can leave at last possible minute and always get there on time).

    Now, I leave so that I’d be 5 minutes earlier. And work hard to get the project done a week before the deadline, because I know that I need extra time for unexpected situations.

    I don’t plan to make it before a deadline. I try to get the meaning of *dead* line – something I don’t want to get too close to.

  5. something tells me that tricks don’t really work. You know that procrastination monkey is always scratchin’. Sometimes we actually believe that its not there and we think that we can trick it. See it..that’s the only trick I know

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