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Tag Archives: Work 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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When my work habits get really bad and I reach a crisis point, I address my procrastination directly: I read a book, or re-read my notes or my blog or something.  And I take action against my procrastination directly: I institute some new plan or daily ritual to keep myself on track.

It works for a while.  But I eventually stop.  And then my work habits get worse.  Rinse and repeat.

Why do I stop with the tactics that keep me on track?  Because, when I’m being productive, I think: “I have so much work to do, I can’t spare the time to do my anti-procrastination thing today.  And anyway, ‘I’m cured,’ I don’t need to keep doing it”.  WRONG.  I have to remember that this thought is always wrong.

Recovering alcoholics call themselves “recovering alcoholics” forever after.  They never say “I used to be an alcoholic,” no matter how many years it’s been since they last got drunk.  They never say “I’m cured.”

I should think of procrastination the same way.

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

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