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Tag Archives: Good Habits

A big habit of producers is to always be working on your #1 priority – to always tackle your #1 priority first.  I’m trying, as an “experiment,” to do this for one week: first thing in the morning, to work for an hour on my #1 priority before doing anything else, even (especially) email, Facebook or web comics.  Of course, I want to do it for the rest of my life, not just for one week.  But: one step at a time.

Progress so far:

Thursday – Had an off-site meeting all day.  Didn’t count.

Friday – Success!  Worked 9am-10am on my #1 priority, before doing anything else – yay!  But then I goofed off for a couple hours.  Over-all a productive day, but not perfect.

Today – Fail.  I spent an hour on web comics before getting down to work.  Actually, before exercising and reviewing my goals and whys, which was part of the problem.  The other part of the problem is that I’m short on sleep.  I read recently that, when under stress (I think lack of rest counts), we default to habitual behaviours.  Unfortunately, my habits are unproductive ones.

Also, I guess I was procrastinating because my #1 priority today was sales calls, and I hate doing sales.

Lessons:

  • It’s really important that i get enough sleep!
  • I have to be extra careful of my bad habits on days when I’m not fully rested.  No excuses!
  • Once I replace my bad habits with good ones, my productivity won’t be so dependent on sleep.
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Even on days when I start out strong, I sometimes end up clicking aimlessly from window to window, shuffling through inboxes and browser tabs.  It’s not even a conscious decision to goof off; I just end up wandering in this un-productive trance.

I think what I lack is the instinct to return to my prioritized to-do list after I finish something.  This is a habit that i need to develop.

Edit: Or, as a good friend pointed out: when I get to that lethargic don’t-feel-like-working state, I should take a break!  Trying to force myself to work when the biology is against me is counter-productive in so many ways.

I’ve been writing a post every day, just a quick note on my work habits and what thought patterns or external conditions are affecting them (you haven’t seen them because they’re marked “Private”).  It’s helping me to recognize what helps me focus (a good night’s sleep) and what throws me off the rails (having to make a tough decision).  I’m finding it helpful.

Here’s today’s nugget of wisdom.  A few minutes of down time really helps me to re-focus.

I often find myself staring at the screen, sleepily wondering what I should be working on.  I semi-consciously scroll through my inbox or gaze at my old to-do list, half the items crossed off, unable to make a decision.  Without a clear sense of priority, I too often just start goofing off instead of working.

Contrast that with today: on my way back from a morning meeting, I turned off the radio and just let my mind wander (that part of my mind which wasn’t engaged in driving!).  Pretty soon I was thinking about what else I wanted to accomplish today when i got back to the office.  I was remembering things that I want to get done, mentally prioritizing them, and even started to work on one of them in my head!  When I got home, I quickly scribbled out a prioritized to-do list and dove into work on it.

I should take some time every day to do nothing.  Not a web-comic break,  but really to do nothing.  A ten-minute walk, or a sit in the back yard to listen to the birds.  Followed by a bit of thought on what else I want to accomplish that day.

Why am I procrastinating like a bastard today?

  • got woken up in the middle of the night last night, didn’t get back to sleep.  So, a bit sleep deprived.  It has been shown in scientific studies that we have less willpower when we’re fatigued.  That goes for everything from goofing off to resisting junk food.
  • I’m at the start of two big, messy projects.  They’ve been hard to break down into digestible tasks.  So I’m dreading working on those.
  • Some non-work things came in on the email today, but I’m sure I could have resisted those til later if not for #1 and #2.
  • I have recently upped my daily productivity goal, and I’m finding it hard to achieve.  In fact I haven’t achieved it yet (today is day-3).  I have probably set the bar too high.  Baby steps.

Ok, its 2:00, I can still get a fair chunk of work done today.

Oh damn, the AC repair guy has just arrived…

-J

Still getting most of my project work done at the tail end of the day.  When I’m feeling the least alert and creative.  Definitely the wrong approach.

Why, mid-morning, do i feel it’s more important to respond to every email, than to get started on what I KNOW is my #1 priority task?  Is it just procrastination?  Or is it some fear of leaving a message unanswered?  I think it’s just procrastination.

What if I ignored email from, say, 10am til 3pm, and only did project work during that time?  Would I miss anything important?  Could I even do it?

I really want to shift my work habits so that i’m working on my most complex tasks when I’m at my mental best.  Things’ll get done more quickly, I’ll do better work, and it’ll be less painful.

-J

Lately I have set an absolute requirement for myself to get a minimum of 2 hours of project work done per day – and no cheating.  Sounds easy, right?  Trying to achieve this has been a real learning experience.

  • Every day since starting this challenge, I have completed my first 20 minutes of project work at 3:20pm.  Yes, I am doing all 2 hours of project work in the last 2 hours of the work day.  Despite trying to get started by mid-morning.
  • The only way I can focus for 20 minutes in a row is to close my email apps.  Even the one for my business email.

My work habits have definitely gotten worse in the past 6 months.  I need to put the training wheels back on and re-learn (again) how to make my days productive.

At least I’m getting in those 2 hours per day, and that’s a start.

-J