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Fight The Flab!

Fight The Flab!

How To Lose the Useless Items that Weigh Down Your Day (Part 1)

This isn’t another dieting post. This is about getting rid of the flab that fills your working days: unnecessary activities that weigh you down and make your day tougher to get through. Activities that leave you breathless and exhausted … with little or nothing to show for all that extra effort.

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We’ve all got them: bloated in-trays; calendars that contain more junk activities than there are calories in a Mega-Mighty-Gigantic Whoppaburger with triple fries; grotesquely obese work schedules, and an e-mail inbox that fills every 15 minutes.

If you could drop all this useless flab, wouldn’t you feel better? Imagine what a difference it would make to your day … your life … your enjoyment of the world. Time to do what you want to do. Time to get things done. The chance to end the day knowing you’ve accomplished more than you dreamed you could.

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Well, you can. It takes effort and self-discipline, but anyone — and that includes you — can do it. Here’s how to get started with controlling useless e-mails. How many of these matter? How many matter enough to interrupt whatever else you are doing?

Almost none. Zilch. Nada. It’s time to get tough with these time and energy thieves. What about blowing away those irritating e-mails and Instant Messages for good?

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  • If you have Instant Messaging on your computer, turn it off. Now! Better still, remove the hideous abomination altogether. Do not use IM. You don’t need it, unless you’re a pre-teen geek without a life.
  • Never keep your e-mail software open all the time. Open it to check for e-mails only when you choose.
  • Set fixed times to check for new e-mails and let everyone know when they are. At other times, ignore it.
  • Filter everything coming in, so you can sort out what matters from what doesn’t. For e-mails, use the filtering facility in your software.
  • Give each one a priority and deal with it when you choose. Only respond immediately to genuine emergencies. Make everyone else wait (and I mean everyone).
  • When you send someone an e-mail, make a practice of telling them when you need a response (be specific; say “by Monday at 3.00 p.m.” not “a.s.a.p.”). Ask them to do the same when they e-mail you.
  • When you receive e-mail copies that you don’t want, send a polite note to the sender asking them to take you off the circulation list. Don’t stay on the list from inertia, or “just in case” something important comes along. It won’t. Be ruthless. If they don’t take you off the list, use your filtering software to classify that e-mail as “junk” and ignore it.

The worst complaints will come from … yourself. People get addicted to e-mails because of fear. The fear of missing something, being “out of the loop,” or not knowing what’s going on.

Get used to it. Like most fear, it’s irrational. You can either have a sensible work schedule, or give in to your inner demon and waste your time “just in case” you might miss something. Are you too weak to cope with this stupid obsession? Of course not. Kick it out. Bad news travels very quickly and will be sure to reach you. Good news will be a nice surprise when you next check your e-mail. In the meantime, you’ll have a calmer, more productive day.

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Next week, I’ll be looking at the curse of cellphones.

P.S. If you want a good way to spend some of the time these tips will save you, please fill out the “Slow Leadership” survey on today’s problems connected with overwork and burnout. You can find it through this link. Thanks.

Adrian Savage is an Englishman and a retired business executive who lives in Tucson, Arizona. You can read his serious thoughts most days at Slow Leadership, the site for anyone who wants to bring back the taste, zest and satisfaction to leadership; and his crazier ones at The Coyote Within.

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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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