Productivity Tip: Fail-safe activities


This is no ordinary fail-safe.

Before we talk about what a “fail-safe activity” is, as practitioners of an imaginative craft, we may unwittingly procrastinate in front of smart devices. On returning to our senses, we lament at the time lost, but we find ourselves at a loss when it comes to time management.


In my spare time, I study how people remain productive, and I blogged about productivity here and here.¬†Recently, however, I’ve found myself in a productivity slump, and my lack of zest troubles me greatly. Besides, I don’t want to feel lazy.¬†However, I recall the adage

Failing to plan is planning to fail.


So I decided to plan what I should do when I am no longer motivated to do the tasks at hand. I categorise these activities as “fail-safe”.


For example, I need to do a huge work-related project, but I also have several writing projects at hand as well as MOOC coursework. Instead of resorting to social media when I cannot stand the boredom, or learn to forcibly “fall in love with boredom”, I create the following flowchart:




Right now…

@1 Do work-related project

YES: Keep doing
NO: Fail safe @2: Writing Project 1 for 5 minutes

5 minutes later…

YES: Return to @1
NO: Fail safe @2: MOOC Coursework for 5 minutes

… (finite time-limited choices)

YES: Return to @1
NO: Take a shower/bite/drink and then return to @1

Task completed?
YES: Replace @1 with @2, @2 with @3 and so on, and then re-run the entire algorithm
NO: Keep doing


This flowchart can help exercise self-control and keep anyone on any number of important tasks. Instead of having to focus on a single task monotonously, we can now switch to different important tasks – and not even entertain the notion of procrastination – without thinking twice. It is also more practical than simply banning oneself from accessing social media sites, as the urge to go there is not quenched. However, with such a plan, completing the task-at-hand becomes easier and less boring because you can do a variety of tasks, just as spaced repetition – the practice of memorising the same words at a certain frequency not too fast or slow – makes one learn new vocabulary more efficiently.


Planning for failure makes success within one’s grasp. The next time you’ve hit a brick wall, try this method of planning ahead. Work in the 21st century is supposed to be flexible – and fun.