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Tag Archives: productivity

I have been performing at a low level recently, and then I had a great session with my coach yesterday, and realized a few things.

 
I was procrastinating, but I wasn’t taking time to examine why I was procrastinating, because I was so busy trying to force myself to work!  I should have taken an hour to examine my thoughts towards the work that’s on my plate right now; which I did yesterday and today.
 
My coach let me know that she spends at least 30 minutes every morning examining her thoughts and getting psyched up, before she starts working.  And here’s the key point: it’s not the same thing every morning.  It’s not a routine or a static mantra.  It’s different every day.  She often starts with doing some writing, to get her thoughts down on paper, and aims to finish by creating an affirmation statement for the day: a battle cry, a declaration of what she intends to accomplish, and why it’s personally important to her.
 
Does 30 minutes seem like a long time to invest, every morning?  Her experience is that the investment more than pays for itself every day, in terms of increased productivity, and maintaining laser-like focus on what’s really important.  I’ve heard this from other productivity experts, too.  Time spent at the beginning of the day, on goals, on preparing one’s frame of mind, is more than repaid: you’ll work smarter and more efficiently.
 
I think this method makes a lot of sense.  Previously, I had developed some static statements that I was reviewing every morning, but they gradually lost their “power” to motivate me.  I think the key is that motivation is a fluid thing, and you have to re-discover your enthusiasm every day.  This approach also has the advantage that you can discover and root out whatever blocks may be driving you to procrastinate at the moment.  Do it in a notebook or blog or never-ending Word document.  Highlight your daily affirmations /battle cries, which will certainly make good reading in the future.
 
-Johnny 0.

I’ve been working with a life coach for the past 4 months, and together we have achieved amazing things.  We put procrastination squarely in the cross-hairs and pulled the trigger.  She has helped me to discover what was missing from all the tactics and systems that I’ve tried before.  She has helped me to develop new ways of seeing my work, my goals and my life.  I’ve been thriving.  I have accomplished things that I used to wish for hopelessly.  I now look to the future with confidence and enthusiasm.

Enthusiasm!  That’s one of the things that was missing.  Performing at a high level by forcing yourself to work is impossible.  I needed to step back and discover what I really wanted, and WHY I really wanted it, and HOW my daily work would enable me to achieve it.

Connect with your enthusiasm, every day.  I’m not enthusiastic about my (current) job, but I am enthusiastic about something else.  And right now, doing well at my current job is enabling me to achieve that something else.  I connect with the enthusiasm i have for that something else, every day, and it brightens everything else that I do.

But most of all, splurge on a few sessions with a good life coach.  Your investment will be repaid a thousandfold — in increased productivity, and in happiness.

Am I cured?  No, I still struggle with procrastination sometimes, but it doesn’t rule my life anymore.  The struggles are brief, and I know how to win.

-J

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.

Background

I am trying a new system to help me develop productive work habits.  It is a holistic approach that starts with getting myself into a positive, mindful state about work and my goals, at the beginning of every day.  I have a fairly comprehensive morning routine that involves exercise and meditating on certain subjects, followed by certain expectations for my daily output of work.

DR’s Feedback

Daily expectations for self > have a good day > feel good > [cycle repeats]

Daily expectations for self > have a bad day > critical of self > put more pressure on self to do better tomorrow > pressure = stress > avoidance behaviour (procrastination) > have bad day > [cycle repeats]

Bad days happen.  I don’t want a bad day to set off the spiral of stress and procrastination and more bad days, and maybe giving up on the new system altogether.  Need to make some allowance for: some days are better than others.  Even highly productive people have bad days.

Paradox: How can I set goals, targets, and make plans, and try to develop good work habits, while also being flexible enough that a bad day doesn’t derail me?

How should I feel when I have an unproductive day?

Should I moderate my expectations of myself, following a bad day?

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.

Today I’m in a temporary office in my bedroom.  If this works out, I will make it a permanent arrangement.

I’ve had a few really bad days lately: whole days at the computer, very little actual working.  I just keep getting sucked into non-work activities, and the day flies by.  And then I thought of an article I read recently, about temptation.  Nobody has perfect willpower, and “out of sight, out of mind” really works.  What do they tell dieters?  Not just “don’t eat chips and cookies,” but “get the chips and cookies out of your house,” because, when you have a craving, you’re GOING to walk to the cupboard and get those chips if they’re in there, but you might not go all the way to the shops.

The advice is: Control Your Environment.  Get temptations out of sight and out of reach.  Work in an environment that is free of non-work distractions.  Support your willpower.

My basement office is possibly the worse environment for this.  It’s more than my work-place, it’s where I play games, design games, read the news, and practice guitar.  My hobbies are all around me.  When I’m in my office, I’m reminded of a dozen things I’d rather be doing.  No wonder I goof off so much!

So I have set up a work space in my bedroom.  Table, chair, laptop, phone, timer, and nothing else.  I’ve deleted my bookmarks from my laptop.  If I want to take an email/Facebook break, I will go downstairs to the PC in my office.

The other benefit of this is the Habit Of Place.  If I only ever work in my bedroom office, then I’ll only think about work when i’m in my bedroom office.

Today is day 1. Wish me luck.

-J