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Is This the One Productivity Tip Guaranteed to Work for Anyone?

Sometimes what matters most is when you decide to stop.

I love to find new ways to be more productive. Simple productivity tricks. Or ways to work smarter, not harder. Or more ways to work smarter, not harder. Or simple steps for exceptional daily productivity, easy ways to streamline your workday, and even ways to make your employees more productive.

Clearly I'm into productivity, whether personal or professional. (Wait, is there a difference?)

So when an audience member asked for my favorite productivity tip, one that anyone could use, I had to stop and think.

And then it hit me: Always leave yourself a fun place to restart.

Why? Stopping in the middle of doing something awesome--or stopping right before you'll start doing something awesome--ensures you'll avoid the temptation of procrastination. Stopping short ensures you'll ignore all the enticing distractions that inevitably pop up when your motivation has flagged. Stopping short allows you to instantly focus and concentrate when you pick back up whatever you were doing.

You won't be able to help but dive right in because you'll be too excited--and that initial enthusiasm will positively affect the rest of your day.

Here's an example. Say you're Kevin Jarre and you're writing the movie Tombstone. It's late in the day and you just finished the scene in which Wyatt Earp tells the bedridden Doc Holliday (eventually played by a movie-stealing Val Kilmer) that he needs to leave for a showdown with the gunslinger Johnny Ringo.

Wyatt knows he's no match for Ringo. So does Doc, who desperately wants to help but is too sick. As Wyatt leaves, they know they probably will never see each other again.

So if you're Kevin, should you then jump right into writing the next scene? Heck no. You save it for tomorrow--because that scene opens with Ringo noticing a shadowy figure walking out of the trees and, just as the sunlight hits his face, saying to Ringo, "I'm your huckleberry."

To Ringo's and to our surprise, that figure is not Wyatt but Doc, who says, "Why Johnny Ringo…you look like someone just walked over your grave."

If you're Kevin, how excited are you to write that scene? You probably couldn't wait because it's a scene that makes the movie (and cements Doc's character). So the words just pour from you.

And when Doc looks down at a dying Johnny Ringo and says, "I'm afraid the strain was more than he could bear," if you're Kevin you know you've nailed an awesome scene…and that makes you really excited to keep writing. Within minutes your day is made--all because you started that day in a really fun place.

If you stop after you've just finished something significant or major--if you stop when you feel you've crossed a finish line and are nearly spent--it can be really hard to move on to whatever is next. Even if moving on to what's next occurs hours or even a day later.

That's why you should always leave yourself a fun place to restart. Whenever possible try to stop when you're almost dying to keep going.

Then you ensure that tomorrow you will keep going. The enthusiasm and excitement you bring to the start of your day and the satisfaction of finishing something rewarding, exciting, and fun will launch you into yet another incredibly productive day.

That's my tip: Always leave yourself a fun place to restart.

You'll be glad you did.

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Last updated: Jul 17, 2014

JEFF HADEN | Columnist

Jeff Haden learned much of what he knows about business and technology as he worked his way up in the manufacturing industry. Everything else he picks up from ghostwriting books for some of the smartest leaders he knows in business.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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