Read more Slate pieces on lifehacking here.
When brilliantly successful people get stressed out by their to-do lists, they often resort to bizarre and elaborate techniques to save time and get things done. Buckminster Fuller, architect and inventor of the Dymaxion House, claimed he averaged just two hours of sleep a night over a two-year period and that he was more energetic and alert as a result. Thomas Edison had an elaborate note-taking system—his diary ran to 5 million pages. Honore de Balzac ate dried coffee grounds to stimulate his imagination. Plato kept his togas pre-pinned. (OK, we made that last one up.)
How do the celebrities of today stay organized? To find out, Slate asked a select group of accomplished people—writers, politicians, artists, businessmen—to answer the following question: What's your single most effective trick for getting things done? Their responses are listed below.
I am always driven by the terror of humiliation. I do not need to trick myself into getting anything done because the voice in my head is always there reminding me that if I don't get it done, my world will collapse. It is not true. It makes no sense, yet I believe it every time. It is not a healthy way to motivate oneself. I have gone to the therapist for almost 20 years to remove this type of thinking from my head, but I can't argue with its effectiveness.
Procrastinate. A fast-approaching "last minute" really gets me motivated.
Cleaning. I am paralyzed in a cluttered or dirty room; I can't write, I can't think. After coffee, I straighten up the house, I organize, I arrange, I put everything back in its place. Only then do I feel like I have cleared some kind of literal and figurative space that I can work in. Then, during the day, things slowly become undone again.
I suppose I'd rather create chaos as part of the process then attempt to carve out order from within it. By the time I'm finished working on something, the mess has returned. The cycle continues the next day. I'm not OCD, I swear.