Productivity – 1
This is another piece under Challenge 44 – which is a project to improve my writing in 90 days. This is the first phase and the purpose of this phase is meeting a deadline rather than making remarkable content.
About a year ago I took a course called insane productivity. The reason I felt I needed to do something about my work was that I was working so hard and yet always felt that I was behind my schedule. I have always been into time management, planning my day, etc. Over the years I had picked up numerous tools and techniques to give the appearance of a very orderly and disciplined approach to my work. But in reality things were not working well and I was always behind accomplishing critical project that I had planned to do. I had read a book by Darren Hardy called the compound effect which is packed full of great ideas
It is only now that I realize that my attempt at improving my productivity was like a very overweight person trying to lose weight while overeating on chocolate, sweets, sodas, etc. and feeding my mind with crap. Something wasn’t working and that brought me to look into a course called insane productivity by Darren Hardy. In the next few sections I will share some of the ideas that I have implemented, the benefits I have received and what is left for me to add to truly leverage my investment.
I am sure everyone reading this has heard of superman and how all his powers would crumble away in the presence of something called Kryptonite. And in our lives it is our Kryptonite that keeps us away from living as superhumans that we can be. The most important Kryptonite is distraction. I hate it when my wife with whom we run a business from home would just walk into my office unannounced. But the reality is that it is me who bring upon me the worst of distractions that make my day so unproductive. For me the top of the list of distractions at this point is checking emails. Some of you just I used to do also get notified every time someone post the picture of a cat on their Facebook, or even just get a text. Studying some of the ideas covered in Insane productivity brought me to the following realization.
It is much easier to avoid something than fighting it. For example, I know that if I have any cookies at home, their days are numbered. They could be the most disgusting of cookies that I would not even look at if there were other choices but if they are the only thing left, that would not be for too long before I clean them up. So whenever I want to watch my weight and go easy on sweets I just make sure I do not have them at home. That is an example of avoidance.
So now I have applied those same principles to a number of areas in my work. My work computer can no longer go to Facebook and in fact over 200 other websites that I regularly used to check during my work. Yes 200. I couldn’t believe it until I actually counted them. Unfortunately, I do use Youtube for business related videos so I could not shut it off. But I found an extension that makes sure my Youtube loads blank. So I don’t get all these suggestions about what to watch next and other distractions. Similarly, I have turned off all notifications on my phone. I don’t get notified if someone update their LinkedIn or as mentioned even for text, unless I look at the screen of my phone I have no idea who is texting me. Now I will come back to this issue of distractions and a horrifying dirty secret that most of us don’t even think about and as the result we pay a huge price for it.
No this is not a typo. What I have found the hard way is that discipline doesn’t always work. In fact trying to stick to something by trying to reinforce our discipline actually will have the opposite effect. We all know people who go on diet to lose weight and may even succeed for a while but a year or so later most have regained the weight and tragically have gained even more weight. Just imagine, what would that do to you psyche—you have suffered through hard work and avoidance for months and at the end you are worse off. That is devastating to our morale and it makes it harder and harder for us to even wanting to try it again. So, if discipline doesn’t work, what are our options? The solution is to design systems through which we have to operate and we can not avoid them. For example, for a while I wanted to make sure that I wrap up my work at night by a certain time so that I can go to be by 10 PM. So I used an option on my computer that would shutdown and power off my computer by 9 PM. What I ran in to was that my entire system was not well defined and there were conflicting forces competing with each other so I had to step back and find out what else I needed to include in that system so by the time the computer goes down I would have no reason to have to restart it.
We talked earlier about distractions being the key Kryptonite that we need to eliminate in our lives. There are however distractions that are seemingly beyond our control and trying to fight them will just make our life even more frustrating. Can we totally avoid answering our phones, or attending meetings, or responding to unplanned events. Here are some of the ideas that have worked for me. Scheduling things like checking phone calls and emails is one of them. If we are really serious about making progress on projects that are really important for us, we can define JAM times very early in the morning before sources of distraction even show up in our lives. When I have tried this approach the outcome that I have achieved has been truly remarkable and I highly recommend that to everyone. But there is a category of distractions that are initiated through our addictions and as long as we do not address these addictions we are stuck in a very difficult position.
When we talk about addictions people immediately think of alcohol, cigarette, or hard drugs. The most addictive of these drugs that most of us do not even think about is social media. Now in principle I do not have any ideological issue with social media. But by now there has been a number of scientific studies conducted on the addictive nature of social media. If you are in doubt of the devastating affect of these forces, let me know how long you can resist the temptation of checking your text or email even when there has been to ding dong notifications. Even an isolated text notification from which we attempt to come back to our work has significant negative impact on our productivity. But sadly, a social media distraction does not end by noticing and then ignoring a notification. We are typically easily drawn into that Kryptonite and before we know it we are now on the web some engaged in journey that we had not initiated and in all likelihood has no positive contribution to the work we performing at the time.
Scientists have broken down the root of some of these social media addictions to the following.
- Wanting to be wanted
- Fear of missing out
- Being busy
Due to the limited time allocated to complete this piece unfortunately I will not be able to expand on those specific addictions here.
But more importantly there are powerful strategies we can us to overcome these addictions and even more significantly improve our productivity. I will be covering them in a following articles.
- Control Attention
- Avoid vs Fight
- Single Task
- Clear the Calculator
- Box & Shelf
- Salami Technique