I was a big fan of productivity, and, in some respects, I still am. I’ve been a very early adopter of GTD, and, for years, I did my weekly reviews with the discipline of a zen monk. But, eventually, I hit a roadblock. GTD is about getting things “done”, but in life we have much more to experience than “doing”. We feel. We dream. We enjoy stuff without the pressure of an empty inbox. And, most of the time, we simply are. We’re existing. And that’s ok.
So, I confess I fell out from the GTD wagon. Gradually, I developed my own framework, which evolved from a productivity-based approach, to a life management based approach. I’m using it for about a year now and, as much as I can tell, so far, so good. If I compare what I accomplish now with what I used to accomplish a year ago, I’m stunned. Not only because I “do” much more than before, but because I actually live more.
But enough with all this shameless self-promotion intro. I understand that my framework may work perfectly for me, but may be of little, if any, importance for you.
So, instead of doing a presentation of the Assess – Decide – Do framework, I chose to isolate only 7 simple tips for today’s post. They don’t need any framework to be integrated with and they can be implemented by anyone, with a little bit of awareness. Try them for a week, one for each day of the week.
As a matter of fact, they’re even organized as such. As you will see, there’s a reason why each tip is assigned to a specific day, but then again, if you feel this isn’t really your Monday cup of tea, for instance, feel free to rotate them as you see fit.
I firmly believe that the art of ignorance should be taught in schools. We live in such an information-rich society, our focus is so deeply challenged by dozens or hundreds of stimuli each and every second, that we have a really hard time focusing on what really matters.
Especially on Mondays, when all the previous week unprocessed stuff seems to crash on us, try to apply this. Focus only on what matters. If you have a presentation to finish in one hour, cut out everything – and I mean: EVERYTHING – that is not connected to it.
Slash out Twitter, Facebook, email. Turn off the music. Close the door after putting a big sign with “Abandon hope all ye who enter here” on the other side. In time, you’ll become better at this. The hidden frustration that “you’re missing something” will fade away.
Each tiny task that you finish is an achievement. We forget too often that our big successes are in fact big chains of small tasks performed on a daily basis. So, in order to keep this chaining process running, put a little reward at the end of each small task.
Tuesdays are great for this habit, because they’re the first link after the week hast started. Just do something nice at the end of each task. Listen to your favorite tune or read your favorite blog (and that would be, of course, Stepcase Lifehack) for the next five minutes.
As much as we won’t want to admit it, that Pavlov guy was right. And I’m not talking about the dogs here. I’m talking about you. Because you gotta be your own Pavlov and the dogs will be your productivity habits. Train them constantly. And, if need will be, feed them some sugar every now and then.
It’s the middle of the week, and, by now, there must be some garbage accumulated. Some stuff that you don’t really need to do, but, somehow, it’s still in your to do list. It’s a perfect time to negotiate that stuff. Does it really need to be on your to do list?
The pressure of constantly doing, delivering, accomplishing made us forget that we do have this option too in our arsenal. I’m talking about negotiation. “Talk” with the task. Or with the person at the other end of the task. Does it really need to be done right now?
I compare this negotiation process with taking out the water from a gulf. If you’re lucky, you will see an ancient shipwreck. That’s your task. It’s not a yacht anymore, it’s a shipwreck. You will start to realize that what you thought is important, may not even be there anymore. It’s just the ghost of the task.
This comes from a long history of programming. I’m still doing it, this programming thing, by the way, because I enjoy it so much. Just try to look at what you have to do and compare it with previous experiences. Like “Have I done this before?. How did I do it?”
Thursdays are perfect for that, because you now must have a consistent “week work history” to dig through. And, allegedly, you’re also pretty much at the top of your potential. From now on, it will start to go downhill, somehow.
So, try to identify similarities in your work before you will do the same thing twice, just because you don’t remember doing it before. Pay attention to the circumstances, because they’re never the same, but isolate what you can repeat.
If I would have a dollar for each time I didn’t ask for help when I should have, I would certainly be a millionaire. Seriously. Being “productive” has this aura of “I’m doing all the stuff by myself. I’m so cool.” Well, maybe you’re cool, but you don’t have to do anything by yourself.
You have a unique set of skills. Other people have their own unique set of skills. If you combine your set with their set, it’s absolutely obvious that you will get far better results than by using only yours. It’s just simple mathematics here.
And Fridays are perfect to test this habit, because, admit it, you’re a little bit tired. And it’s also a good pretext for some social interaction. Isolate some task that you know somebody else may be doing better than you and ask for their help.
Ok, we don’t have to work on Saturdays. As I told you, you can just put this tip on any other day of the week. But I chose Saturdays because they are perfect for traveling. Short trips around the town, seeing some new places, meeting some new people.
Try to do the same with your workplace. See if you can work for a day somewhere else. From home, or from a coffee shop. Or even in another office. Or, if you can’t live your office, on a different chair. Just change something in your surroundings.
All our habits are shaped by our surroundings. The more you’ll change the surroundings, the better and more consistent your habits will become. This constant stimulation will summon energy resources that you didn’t even know you have.
I kept this from my GTD routine, you know, the weekly review. I did this on Sundays, trying to project the next week. I still try to have a look at the week just before it starts. And now, a little bit of explanation about the word “liveline”.
I stopped use the word “deadline” long time ago, because it has “death” in it. The “task slasher” approach. I don’t do this anymore. Because crossing off tasks from your to do lists will eventually end up with crossing off your entire life from your to do lists. Rushing straight to your own death, one crossed task at a time. Change this perspective. A deadline is not the end. Make it a liveline. Make it a beginning.
And by that I mean something connected with something else. A new start. Think in terms of new beginnings not in term of endings. If you really need to reach the end of something, use the word “milestone”. And replace “deadline” with “liveline” every time you can.
It will be enlightening, believe me. :)
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