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While we focus a lot on workouts and fitness here on Be a Game Character, there is more to becoming a larger-than-life, super human individual than just physical fitness. We want to focus on total personal development, not just physical development. That’s why our character breakdowns feature skill tutorials and personality examinations as well! Now, wanting to improve yourself is great, but I find that one of the main obstacles people come up against in any pursuit is overcoming procrastination, and remaining productive. So, for today, I thought I’d share one of my favorite little hacks to remain productive and on task, even though I tend to be a terrible procrastinator and time manager.
A checklist, Dan? Seriously? That’s the big productivity secret? FEAR NOT, DEAR READER! I have not deceived you with anything so mundane as a simple “checklist!”
What you have here, is a Dopamine Chain.
The Dopamine Chain
Without going into too much detail, dopamine is a chemical that your brain produces that makes you happy. It’s not the only chemical that does this, but it is one you encounter quite frequently. When you get a notification on social media that someone’s liked your photo? Dopamine. Feeling good after an exercise session? Dopamine. Enjoying some music you’re listening to? Dopamine.
However, dopamine also triggers when you complete a task. And this is where the secret of the dopamine chain checklist comes in.
Now, a lot of people set up checklists to maintain their schedules/goals/what-have-you throughout the day. However, just having a checklist is not a guarantee for success. In fact, people very frequently only put super important things on their daily checklists, and then finish their day with NOTHING checked off (at least, that’s what I used to do.) Usually, the super important things to get done are also the most difficult or stressful, which makes you want to do them the least. I mean, if it was something easy that you wanted to do, you probably wouldn’t even need a checklist to get it done, right?
What we’re going to do with our dopamine chain checklist, is get rid of that silly “do the hardest thing first” notion. I’m going to talk about how I make my own daily check lists, and how I chain together success to finish strong. Now, your goals and tasks may be different from mine, but all proper dopamine chains have a few specific, key elements. Let’s get into them now!
Easy, Simple, Quick Tasks
On my list you see “Order from Century,” “Marinate Chicken,” and several other pretty simple, straight-forward tasks. Now, the tasks you may set up for yourself are probably different from mine, but some of them should be the same in that they are easy, simple, and quick. It’s important that the task is ALL THREE of these, not just one or two. Ideally, you want something that you can bang out with a sleepy brain and ten minutes of your time. This can be something like “make bed,” “shower and shave,” or “take trash can out to the curb.”
These are the kickers, your “starter tasks.” Completing these and then crossing/checking them off your list (VERY IMPORTANT!) are the beginning of your chain. Completing a task triggers a little bit of dopamine, and checking it off your list does the same. When I woke up this morning, I knew I wanted to get the Century order in before the business day started for them, so that was the first thing I did after I had my coffee. From there I went on to quickly bang out the Studio Space Ad and Yoga inquiry that you see as well, because I was already on my computer, and they were quick, painless tasks.
BOOM! Three things done, right off the bat, and I barely needed to think about it. That gave me the gumption to move into the next phase of the dopamine chain…
Medium-Hard Tasks with Little Setup
The next thing I tackled was, oddly enough, this blog post! This is a task that requires a good amount of brainpower, time, and effort. However, what it didn’t require was significant setup. I just logged into wordpress, got my workspace set up, put on the Halo soundtrack and started typing. Time from deciding to do the task to actually doing it was maaaaaaybe thirty seconds. Now, this post will probably take around an hour to write, edit, and disseminate throughout social media and email lists. After I’m done with that, I’ll check it off my list, and move on to the next crucial element, and the only element that doesn’t appear on the list…
Small, Quick Rewards
After finishing easy, simple, quick tasks, then you move onto a medium-hard task with little setup. However, after you finish a medium-hard task of any kind, then it’s time to give yourself a reward. It’s worth noting, this reward should be relatively quick and easy. For myself, I’m going to go have a quick snack, and maybe check on the bird feeders because it’s been a few days since I refilled them, and I’d like a breath of fresh air. Once I finish up with my break, I go back to my list and look at my options. I’ll probably do another easy, simple, quick task or two to get my motor going again, and then move on to something like…
Medium-Hard Tasks with Setup
For me, on my list today, this includes recording BaGC videos, prepping the Holiday Treasure Hunt sale, and the Reistance Glove Prototype. These are tasks where I need to leave my house, get together special equipment, or have an involved setup process of some kind. I find that trying to start my day with one of these can be a productivity killer, but once you’ve got that dopamine chain going in full swing, you’ll have enough momentum to get started. Once you bang one of these out, it’s good to go back to a small, quick reward before tasking yourself with something else (unless you feel really fired up from your success, which happens sometimes.)
Putting it All Together
The bottom line in this whole process is, start small, then get bigger as you go. I’m not a fan of the “do the bad stuff first” mindset, because I find that I, personally, work much better on momentum. Usually the second half of my day is way more productive than the first half, for this reason (at least until I hit mental burn-out point.) Start your day with simple, easy, quick things, and the feeling of being productive will become a self-sustaining cycle. Also, taking frequent short reward breaks can be a big help as well, especially if they physically remove yourself from your workspace.
I hope the Dopamine Chain can help you as much as it’s helped me. For those of us who aren’t masochistic enough to jump into the deep end first every day, this is a nice way to rev up your engines and have a superhumanly productive time! We’re not all Type A personalities, but we can all be Type A producers!
Live boldly, change the world, and continue to be awesome!