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A Time for Paper?

A Time for Paper?

The folks over at DIYPlanner.com are really into paper, and because I wrote a piece for them, it caused me to really analyze what I do in my life with paper, and what I do electronically. I’ve come to realize that in my case, there’s a time for paper and a time for a more electronic means.

MindMapping

I am a fiend for the process of using mind maps for visual thinking. I draw out little mind maps on paper when making a decision, such as whether or not to purchase a new piece of computer gear. I use mind maps to help understand the process flow of things in my group, which helps because I can often see things through these drawings that I don’t catch when starting with a linear, list-based mode.

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And in this case, I use paper for the right-brained part of mind-mapping, but then I use MindManager6 by MindJet to get the map into something more useful and something I can pass on to others.

Lists

I have two flavors of lists: things I might need to remember for a short shelf-life, like a few days, and then things I might want as reference for a period of time, such as library books and movies that people recommend to me in the course of a week. For the short-term lists, I use paper, because it’s so much faster and easier to whip out my handy pad of paper and write a note than it is to struggle with the current state of PDA technology out there. Sure, I can use the Graffiti language, and yes, I’ve heard of Tablet PCs, but I can sit on my notepad, bend it, mangle it, and it still willingly accepts and instantly recognizes my writing.

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In the case of Getting Things Done, I use 37 Signals’ Backpack software. I use this because it gives me a stronger, more permanent record of the things I’ve got left to do, and the things I’ve completed. Having this available in electronic format lets me move around tasks and priorities without muddying up a paper list.

Project Management

I’m not sure who’s doing this with paper formats, but more power to you. I use strictly digital means to manage projects, because paper dies about as soon as you print it, and managing projects (with more than one person involved) is a very fluid endeavor. I need something electronic and updatable.

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Drawing

I love drawing and illustrating, and I’ve got a graphics tablet attached to my Mac, but I’ve recently come to accept that I get much better art out of my efforts if I start with paper, scan the illustration into a program, and then do the finishing work online. No matter how sensitive my graphics tablet is, there’s something much more controlled in my ability to put lines to paper. All my painting on the other hand, is 100% digital. I can’t stand cleaning brushes, getting charcoal out of my clothes, etc. I much prefer electronic formats for the messier media.

In Review

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So in the short examples above, you start to see a theme. When it involves something a little more right brain or creative, I tend to use the paper format of a process first, but then convert eventually to digital. If it’s something more left-brain or project/GTD oriented, I prefer to use digital tools. There’s a hybrid ground in there, as well, and in that way, I imagine it’s like lots of things in life. Sometimes it’s easier to do one, and other times, the other.

What are your preferences? How do you use paper in your day? Or do you?

–Chris Brogan writes about self-improvement and creativity at [chrisbrogan.com].

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Last Updated on July 10, 2020

The Power of Ritual: Conquer Procrastination, Time Wasters and Laziness

The Power of Ritual: Conquer Procrastination, Time Wasters and Laziness

Life is wasted in the in-between times. The time between when your alarm first rings and when you finally decide to get out of bed. The time between when you sit at your desk and when productive work begins. The time between making a decision and doing something about it.

Slowly, your day is whittled away from all the unused in-between moments. Eventually, time wasters, laziness, and procrastination get the better of you.

The solution to reclaim these lost middle moments is by creating rituals. Every culture on earth uses rituals to transfer information and encode behaviors that are deemed important. Personal rituals can help you build a better pattern for handling everything from how you wake up to how you work.

Unfortunately, when most people see rituals, they see pointless superstitions. Indeed, many rituals are based on a primitive understanding of the world. But by building personal rituals, you get to encode the behaviors you feel are important and cut out the wasted middle moments.

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Program Your Own Algorithms

Another way of viewing rituals is by seeing them as computer algorithms. An algorithm is a set of instructions that is repeated to get a result.

Some algorithms are highly efficient, sorting or searching millions of pieces of data in a few seconds. Other algorithms are bulky and awkward, taking hours to do the same task.

By forming rituals, you are building algorithms for your behavior. Take the delayed and painful pattern of waking up, debating whether to sleep in for another two minutes, hitting the snooze button, repeat until almost late for work. This could be reprogrammed to get out of bed immediately, without debating your decision.

How to Form a Ritual

I’ve set up personal rituals for myself for handling e-mail, waking up each morning, writing articles, and reading books. Far from making me inflexible, these rituals give me a useful default pattern that works best 99% of the time. Whenever my current ritual won’t work, I’m always free to stop using it.

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Forming a ritual isn’t too difficult, and the same principles for changing habits apply:

  1. Write out your sequence of behavior. I suggest starting with a simple ritual of only 3-4 steps maximum. Wait until you’ve established a ritual before you try to add new steps.
  2. Commit to following your ritual for thirty days. This step will take the idea and condition it into your nervous system as a habit.
  3. Define a clear trigger. When does your ritual start? A ritual to wake up is easy—the sound of your alarm clock will work. As for what triggers you to go to the gym, read a book or answer e-mail—you’ll have to decide.
  4. Tweak the Pattern. Your algorithm probably won’t be perfectly efficient the first time. Making a few tweaks after the first 30-day trial can make your ritual more useful.

Ways to Use a Ritual

Based on the above ideas, here are some ways you could implement your own rituals:

1. Waking Up

Set up a morning ritual for when you wake up and the next few things you do immediately afterward. To combat the grogginess after immediately waking up, my solution is to do a few pushups right after getting out of bed. After that, I sneak in ninety minutes of reading before getting ready for morning classes.

2. Web Usage

How often do you answer e-mail, look at Google Reader, or check Facebook each day? I found by taking all my daily internet needs and compressing them into one, highly-efficient ritual, I was able to cut off 75% of my web time without losing any communication.

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3. Reading

How much time do you get to read books? If your library isn’t as large as you’d like, you might want to consider the rituals you use for reading. Programming a few steps to trigger yourself to read instead of watching television or during a break in your day can chew through dozens of books each year.

4. Friendliness

Rituals can also help with communication. Set up a ritual of starting a conversation when you have opportunities to meet people.

5. Working

One of the hardest barriers when overcoming procrastination is building up a concentrated flow. Building those steps into a ritual can allow you to quickly start working or continue working after an interruption.

6. Going to the gym

If exercising is a struggle, encoding a ritual can remove a lot of the difficulty. Set up a quick ritual for going to exercise right after work or when you wake up.

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7. Exercise

Even within your workouts, you can have rituals. Spacing the time between runs or reps with a certain number of breaths can remove the guesswork. Forming a ritual of doing certain exercises in a particular order can save time.

8. Sleeping

Form a calming ritual in the last 30-60 minutes of your day before you go to bed. This will help slow yourself down and make falling asleep much easier. Especially if you plan to get up full of energy in the morning, it will help if you remove insomnia.

8. Weekly Reviews

The weekly review is a big part of the GTD system. By making a simple ritual checklist for my weekly review, I can get the most out of this exercise in less time. Originally, I did holistic reviews where I wrote my thoughts on the week and progress as a whole. Now, I narrow my focus toward specific plans, ideas, and measurements.

Final Thoughts

We all want to be productive. But time wasters, procrastination, and laziness sometimes get the better of us. If you’re facing such difficulties, don’t be afraid to make use of these rituals to help you conquer them.

More Tips to Conquer Time Wasters and Procrastination

 

Featured photo credit: RODOLFO BARRETO via unsplash.com

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