I’ve been doing my little productivity experiment for almost a week now and I’m actually getting some results out of it.
I’ve been pretty much 100% consistent with getting up at 7am and I’ll probably start getting up at 6 am soon as well.
Most of the time I’ve been able to limit the time I’m reading and responding to e-mail, keeping track of what’s going on on Facebook, Twitter etc. and instant messaging to one hour between 12 pm and 1 pm.
Something I haven’t yet figured out though is to be 100% consistent with this. It’s dead simple to avoid these things in the morning (I tend to be a lot more motivated and get more stuff done in the morning) but during evenings I find that I become pretty easily distracted and have a tendency to fire up Facebook or MSN Messenger and just waste time.
I can’t really figure out why it is this way, but it would be awesome to track down the reason. So during this week I’m going to challenge myself to find a way to stay productive and focused during evenings as well.
Do you have any tips and pointers on how to achieve this?
All right, so this is the first day of my little productivity experiment.
The first thing I said I was going to sort out was becoming an early riser. As I said in the other blog post, there are great benefits to be gained from doing this (and if you still need to be convinced take a look at Steve Pavlina’s articles ‘How to Become an Early Riser‘ and ‘How to Become an Early Riser – Part II‘).
Even though I went to bed 4am last night (the post about the productivity experiment took much longer to finish than I anticipated) I set my alarm at 7am and I got up, even though I only had 3 hours of sleep. As you can imagine I’m really, really tired. But this basically means that I’ll fall asleep pretty early tonight which results in that it’ll be easier to get up at 7am tomorrow.
The hardest part of trying to get this sorted out is actually to get out of bed. Something I’ve tried before (and that has been quite successful) is to jump out of bed as soon as you’ve gotten woken up by the alarm and do something that physically engages your body; being it sit ups, push ups or something equivalent. The sudden activity forces your body to set itself in an active state, prepared for a long day of activities.
Here’s a news flash for you: I suck.
During the past few months I’ve basically been extremely unproductive. There’s no appropriate measure for how much I’ve friggin’ procrastinated.
Heck, it has almost been a month since I’ve updated this blog or my company blog.
I do not really know why I’m procrastinating so much but I guess there are a lot of reasons:
- It might be because I’m semi-retarded and have to check my e-mail inbox and/or Facebook every 5 minutes to see if something irrelevant has happened.
- Or it might be the fact that I spend hours browsing useless web pages or that I frequently fire up YouTube to watch that spectacular video I’ve already watched a gazillion times before.
- Or it might be a case of the famous Twitteritis where I discover I’ve spent 2 hours just looking at the incoming stream of status updates.
I can probably think of a lot “plausible” reasons (or excuses as I’d like to call them) for rationalizing my unproductive behavior. Seriously, I’m running an IT-consultancy firm, I’m involved with a startup with 3 other people and I’m working on my Twitter app Tweet-o-matic and I do not get a lot of things done in any of these areas.
It’s quite pathetic for someone posting a fair bit about GTD on Twitter (well, it’s actually my app that does it – but still) and for someone who have payed like $50 bucks for the GTD-app Things to suck this hard at this whole GTD-thingie.
The thing is that I’ve had brief periods of immense productivity before and at times I actually managed to incorporate a few GTD-methods into my daily life. But what I really suck at is to be consistent with this stuff.
When I first heard about GTD I was obsessed with it. I was amazed by it. I thought it was the cure all for staying productive all the friggin’ time.
So here’s what happened:
- I read David Allen’s little manifesto.
- I got my hands on a slick little GTD-app for my lovely MacBook Pro.
- I started queuing up all my tasks, sorting them by projects, areas, when they were supposed to be completed etc.
- Had a bit of a mental orgasm because now all of the sudden I was apparently getting things done.
- Thought everyone else sucked because they weren’t GTDing their day away.
- Started to ignore the tasks that were supposed to be completed.
- Wham kazaam, 998ish unfinished tasks remaining.
- Oops… application deleted.
I’ve failed at this before, and I might fail again but in order to remain sane I have to give all this productivity stuff another go. So without further ado, I present to you my dear reader:
Getting my act together – one step at a time
Step #1 – Getting my lazy ass out of bed 7am Monday-Friday
For the past few months I’ve basically woken up at like 10, 11 or 12am. I’m self-employed so I carry out my work whenever I feel like it. Why wake up early when you can sleep in late every day?
A few years ago I stumbled upon an article by Steve Pavlina titled ‘How to Become an Early Riser‘ and I got pretty excited about trying it out. I’ve done it occasionally and when I managed to be consistent with it, my productivity got a nice little boost.
Sitting here writing this up I can’t really figure out why I stopped with it actually.
But anyway, that’s step #1 – consistently wake up at 7am every Monday-Friday (going to cut me some slack on the weekends if I hit the clubs and stuff).
Step #2 – Less is more – only check e-mail once a day at 12am, only one hour of IMing/Facebooking per day and actively avoid irrelevant information (news sites, YouTube etc.)
This is pretty much a combination of a few tips that Timothy Ferriss propose in his über-awesome book ‘The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich‘.
Just as modern man consumes both too many calories and calories of no nutritional value, information workers eat data both in excess and from the wrong sources.
Lifestyle design is based on massive action – output. Increased output neccessitates decreased input. Most information is time-consuming, negative, irrelevant to your goals, and outisde of your influence.
— Timothy Ferriss
This will probably be the toughest one. Checking my e-mail the first thing in the morning is more or less a habit I do without even thinking about it. But hey, I guess the Viagra and penis-enlargement spam e-mails can wait a few hours.
Step #2 – Cut down on unimportant and irrelevant information.
Step #3 – Get the GTD-mojo going again
When I actually started out with GTD + Things it was amazing. What I f*cked up last time around was to overuse Things – I basically entered the tiniest and most irrelevant things into my to do-list and soon enough it become more of a burden than a useful tool.
This time around I’m only going to enter and keep track of well defined tasks that require my immediate attention. I’m also going to experiment with keeping the to do-list as short as possible for every day with a maximum of 5 items on it.
Step #3 – Incorporate the GTD-system into my daily life, but do not overuse it.
Step #4 – Always start with the most difficult task
I now see that I was using the first few tasks in my day as a cushion in order to protect myself from the real work that I had to do. When this is the case, we spend much longer than necessary on the simpler, more enjoyable tasks because we know the thing we’re putting off is just around the corner.
Now, the first thing I do when I wake up is work on the task I know I don’t want to do or at least the task that is the most important. It is a real struggle but as soon as I get moving then things start to flow nicely.
— Glen Allsopp
Sounds like something that’s definitely worth trying out.
Step #4 – start every day with the most difficult task at hand.
Step #5 – We’re in this together
Another interesting point I picked up from ‘The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich‘ is the idea of sharing a challenge with someone and mutually keeping track of each other’s progress.
When I’ve done my little productivity experiments before I’ve done them solo. I had no one that would chip in and tell me to step up my game when I started to lose it. And I had no one to share my progress with. It was just me, I and … uhm, me.
This time around I’ll try my best to get in touch with people woh are on the same pathway, people who are very keen on boosting their productivity and improving their lives.
I’m not saying that you should experiment with the exact same things I’m experimenting with, just that you’re generally interested in being more productive and doing the right things in less time.
If you feel like joining in, please do e-mail me immediately at me [at] sebastianjohnsson.com and we’ll try to sort something out. It would be awesome to have something like weekly debriefings (e.g. over Skype) with a bunch of motivated people.
Step #5 – Succeed together, fail alone.
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