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Blog Like A Pro In Three Easy Steps: Assess, Decide, Do

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Blog Like A Pro In Three Easy Steps: Assess, Decide, Do

    Many readers of Stepcase Lifehack are bloggers themselves and some of them are even making a (nice) living off of it. But, as fancy as it may seem, blogging is not an easy task. At least blogging for money, constantly, for several years in a row. I know it first hand, since I’m doing this for a good 4 years now.

    So, a management system to keep things from falling a part will become compulsory, at some point. For those of you who reached this point, today’s post describes a system that proved its efficiency in the last year for me. Oh, and for those of you too much into GTD, this will sound almost too relaxing to be true. :)

    The Blogging Buckets

    The first thing you should do is to mentally break down the process into 3 realms, or, in much mundane terms, buckets. If you used to do this process in a single chunk, just stop. Instead, imagine 3 big buckets called Assess, Decide, Do. In each of these buckets you will put some of the daily tasks you used to perform in a single shot.

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    In order to make things even easier, you could also make 3 folders on your desktop. Or 3 mailboxes on your mail client. Whatever place you’re using the most, slice it up in 3 parts, where you would drop the processed information, as follows.

    The Assess Bucket

    In this folder (or mailbox, or bucket) you should put every single idea you have about a future blog post. Even more, you should also put ideas about upcoming products, partnerships, blog enhancements and so on. Whatever crosses your mind, and it’s related to blogging, just put it there, as raw as you can.

    The role of this bucket is to capture everything that could enhance your activity. Just put it there and tweak is as much as you can. If it’s a blog post idea, add more stuff to it, spin-off other ideas or just evaluate if it would be a good thing to write or not. In this bucket, you’re not “doing” anything. You’re just capturing stuff and assess it.

    The Decide Bucket

    Once you can’t add something to an idea you assessed, it’s time to make a decision about it. That’s what you do in the Decide bucket. This is where you place the stuff you can’t Assess anymore. But you’re not yet doing it. You’re going to make a decision about it. Like signing a contract to do it.

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    That’s a good place to use a calendar too. Because what you’re doing in the Decide bucket is to plan and schedule what you’re going to do. Still, you’re not “doing” anything, you’re just deciding. There’s a trick, and you’ll see further down the road, that this bucket is going both ways.

    The Do Bucket

    This is where you actually perform stuff. This is where you write, publish, promote. This is where you interact, where you implement everything that was sent from Decide. The most interesting part is that you’re not supposed to “do” anything else, because… well, it was all taken care of.

    Whatever you have to assess about a blog post, you assessed, now all you have to do is to write it. You already scheduled time and place in your calendar (in Decide, where you actually signed the contract to do that thing) so you know nothing will interfere. But if it does, just move that item back to Decide.

    The Process

    Suppose you wake up one morning and have a lot of blog post ideas. Just drop them all in Assess, in raw form. Then, look over the other material you have there. If there are really some ideas that can be done, that cannot be assessed anymore, move them to Decide.

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    Once in Decide, look up your schedule and plan ahead. Some of the stuff you get in Decide will be from Do, namely, stuff that you have to re-decide upon. That’s what I wanted to say with “working both ways”. Decide is a turning platform between your Do and your Assess. You can keep stuff there for as long as you want, provided that: a) you can’t assess it anymore, and b) you don’t have yet the resources for it (time, energy). But once you’ll have the resources, you will look over the Decide bucket and take out whatever you can do in the next period.

    Then, once in Do, all you have to “do” is to focus on writing. Or on tweaking that theme. Or on creating some killer partnerships.

    The neat thing about the whole process is that sometimes you feel more like being in Assess than in Decide or Do. That’s ok. Just perform whatever your bucket tells you to do. In a very subtle way, even procrastination, which is something very common in Assess, could be incorporated as valuable work, using this approach. Or sometimes you just feel like planning ahead and allocating resources. Ok, just use your Decide bucket. And sometimes, all you want to do is write. Just open your Do folder and pick up some of the blog post ideas you already sent there from Decide.

    How Is This working?

    And, most important, why is this working? Well, it’s part of a life management framework I developed a couple of years ago, called, you guessed, “Assess – Decide – Do”. If you’re interested to learn more, there’s a direct link in my bio.

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    As a long time GTD’er, I eventually hit a roadblock, where something just didn’t feel well. Felt “robotish” while doing my weekly review and also felt completely at lost when I didn’t have my “GTD setup” handy. So, after a few ramblings and dead ends, I suddenly realized that we’re not designed only to “Do”. And I think this is the fundamental mistake we make when we embrace a productivity technique.

    We’re also designed to dream, to imagine things, without the pressure of a finished product (that would be the Assess realm) and also we’re designed to plan ahead, to arrange tasks in a future schedule and to decide whether or not are we going to do them or not (that would be the Decide realm). The last realm, Do, is the place for productivity methodologies like GTD, the place where we can draconically optimize the “doing” stuff.

    But we need to express each and every part of our being in order to be balanced. We need to allow ourselves to just dream (or even procrastinate) as long as we root ourselves in the Assess realm. Also, we should free to make decisions about each and every thing, either moving it ahead to Do, or passing it back to Assess, for further processing, as long as we live in the Decide realm. While in Do, well, all we have to do is Do, without the pressure of Assessing whether what we do is good or bad, without the pressure of an agenda (because everything was taken care of in Decide, right?)

    What will happen, if you truly implement this cycle, is that everything you will perform in Do will become smooth and with a touch of flow. You may not be the fanciest guy in the office, but you will do a lot more stuff.

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    And, what’s even more important, chances are that you will even enjoy more the entire process.

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    Last Updated on October 7, 2021

    Are You Addicted to Productivity?

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    Are You Addicted to Productivity?

    “It’s great to be productive. It really is. But sometimes, we chase productivity so much that it makes us, well, unproductive. It’s easy to read a lot about how to be more productive, but don’t forget that you have to make that time up.”

    Matt Cutts wrote that back in 2013,[1]

    “Today, search for ‘productivity’ and Google will come back with about 663,000,000 results. If you decide to go down this rabbit hole, you’ll be bombarded by a seemingly endless amount of content. I’m talking about books, blogs, videos, apps, podcasts, scientific studies, and subreddits all dedicated to productivity.”

    Like so many other people, I’ve also fallen into this trap. For years I’ve been on the lookout for trends and hacks that will help me work faster and more efficiently — and also trends that help me help others to be faster. I’ve experimented with various strategies and tools . And, while some of these strategies and solutions have been extremely useful — without parsing out what you need quickly — it’s counterproductive.

    Sometimes you end up spending more time focusing on how to be productive instead of actually being productive.

    “The most productive people I know don’t read these books, they don’t watch these videos, they don’t try a new app every month,” James Bedell wrote in a Medium post.[2] “They are far too busy getting things done to read about Getting Things Done.”

    This is my mantra:

    I proudly say, “I am addicted to productivity — I want to be addicted to productivity — productivity is my life and my mission — and I also want to find the best way to lead others through productivity to their best selves.

    But most of the time productivity means putting your head down and working until the job’s done.” –John Rampton

    Addiction to Productivity is Real

    Dr. Sandra Chapman, director of the University of Texas at Dallas Center for BrainHealth points out that the brain can get addicted to productivity just as it can to more common sources of addiction, such as drugs, gambling, eating, and shopping.

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    “A person might crave the recognition their work gives them or the salary increases they get,” Chapman told the BBC.[3] “The problem is that just like all addictions, over time, a person needs more and more to be satisfied, and then it starts to work against you. Withdrawal symptoms include increased anxiety, depression, and fear.”

    Despite the harmful consequences, addiction is considered by some experts as a brain disease that affects the brain’s reward system and ends in compulsive behavior. Regardless, society tends to reward productivity — or at least to treat it positively. As a result, this makes the problem even worse.

    “It’s seen like a good thing: the more you work, the better,” adds Chapman. “Many people don’t realize the harm it causes until a divorce occurs and a family is broken apart, or the toll it takes on mental health.”

    Because of the occasional negative issues with productivity, it’s no surprise that it is considered a “mixed-blessing addiction.”

    “A workaholic might be earning a lot of money, just as an exercise addict is very fit,” explains Dr. Mark Griffiths, distinguished professor of behavioral addiction at Nottingham Trent University. “But the thing about any addiction is that in the long run, the detrimental effects outweigh any short-term benefits.”

    “There may be an initial period where the individual who is developing a work addiction is more productive than someone who isn’t addicted to work, but it will get to a point when they are no longer productive, and their health and relationships are affected,” Griffiths writes in Psychology Today.[4] “It could be after one year or more, but if the individual doesn’t do anything about it, they could end up having serious health consequences.”

    “For instance, I speculated that the consequences of work addiction may be reclassified as something else: If someone ends up dying of a work-related heart attack, it isn’t necessarily seen as having anything to do with an addiction per se – it might be attributed to something like burnout,” he adds.

    There Are Three “Distinct Extreme Productivity Types

    Cyril Peupion, a Sydney-based productivity expert, has observed extreme productivity among clients at both large and medium-sized companies. “Most people who come to me are high performers and very successful. But often, the word they use to describe their work style is ‘unsustainable,’ and they need help getting it back on track.”

    By changing their work habits, Peupion assists teams and individuals improve their performance and ensure that their efforts are aligned with the overarching strategy of the business, rather than focusing on work as a means to an end. He has distinguished three types of extreme productivity in his classification: efficiency obsessive, selfishly productive, and quantity-obsessed.

    Efficiency obsessive. “Their desks are super tidy and their pens are probably color-coded. They are the master of ‘inbox zero.’ But they have lost sight of the big picture, and don’t know the difference between efficiency and effectiveness.”

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    Selfishly productive. “They are so focused on their own world that if they are asked to do something outside of it, they aren’t interested. They do have the big picture in mind, but the picture is too much about them.”

    Quantity-obsessed. “They think; ‘The more emails I respond to, the more meetings I attend, the more tasks I do, the higher my performance.’ As a result, they face a real risk of burnout.”

    Peupion believes that “quantity obsessed” individuals are the most common type “because there is a pervasive belief that ‘more’ means ‘better’ at work.”

    The Warning Signs of Productivity Addiction

    Here are a few questions you should ask yourself if you think you may be succumbing to productivity addiction. After all, most of us aren’t aware of this until it’s too late.

    • Can you tell when you’re “wasting” time? If so, have you ever felt guilty about it?
    • Does technology play a big part in optimizing your time management?
    • Do you talk about how busy you are most of the time? In your opinion, is hustling better than doing less?
    • What is your relationship with your email inbox? Are you constantly checking it or experience phantom notifications?
    • When you only check one item off your list, do you feel guilty?
    • Does stress from work interfere with your sleep?
    • Have you been putting things off, like a vacation or side project, because you’re “too swamped?

    The first step toward turning around your productivity obsession is to recognize it. If you answered “yes” to any of the above questions, then it’s time to make a plan to overcome your addiction to productivity.

    Overcoming Your Productivity Addiction

    Thankfully, there are ways to curb your productivity addiction. And, here are 9 such ways to achieve that goal.

    1. Set Limits

    Just because you’re hooked on productivity doesn’t mean you have to completely abstain from it. Instead, you need to establish boundaries.

    For example, there are a lot of amazing productivity podcasts out there. But, that doesn’t mean you have to listen to them all in the course of a day. Instead, you could listen to one or two podcasts, like The Productivity Podcast or Before Breakfast, during your commute. And, that would be your only time of the day to get your productivity fix.

    2. Create a Not-to-Do List

    Essentially, the idea of a not-to-do list is to eliminate the need to practice self-discipline. Getting rid of low-value tasks and bad habits will allow you to focus on what you really want to do as opposed to weighing the pros and cons or declining time requests. More importantly, this prevents you from feeling guilty about not crossing everything off an unrealistic to-do list.

    3. Be Vulnerable

    By this, I mean admitting where you could improve. For example, if you’re new to remote work and are struggling with thi s, you would only focus on topics in this area. Suggestions would be how to create a workspace at home, not getting distracted when the kids aren’t in school, or improving remote communication and collaboration with others.

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    4. Understand Why You Procrastinate

    Often, we procrastinate to minimize negative emotions like boredom or stress. Other times it could be because it’s a learned trait, underestimating how long it takes you to complete something or having a bias towards a task.

    Regardless of the exact reason, we end up doing busy work, scrolling social media, or just watching one more episode of our favorite TV series. And, even though we know that it’s not for the best, we do things that make us feel better than the work we should do to restore our mood.[5]

    There are a lot of ways to overcome procrastination. But, the first step is to be aware of it so that you can take action. For example, if you’re dreading a difficult task, don’t just watch Netflix. Instead, procrastinate more efficiently,y like returning a phone call or working on a client pitch.

    5. Don’t Be a Copycat

    Let’s keep this short and sweet. When you find a productivity app or technique that works for you, stick with it.

    That’s not to say that you can’t make adjustments along the way or try new tools or hacks. However, the main takeaway should be that just because someone swears by the Pomodoro Technique doesn’t mean it’s a good fit for you.

    6. Say Yes to Less

    Across the board, your philosophy should be less is more.

    That means only download the apps you actually use and want to keep (after you try them out) and uninstall the ones you don’t use. For example, are you currently reading a book on productivity? Don’t buy your next book until you’ve finished the one you’re currently reading (or permit yourself to toss a book that isn’t doing you any good). — and if you really want to finish a book more quickly, listen to the book on your way to work and back.

    Already have plans this weekend? Don’t commit to a birthday party. And, if you’re day is booked, decline that last-minute meeting request.

    7. Stop Focusing on What’s Next

    “In the age when purchasing a thing from overseas is just one click and talking to another person is one swipe right, acquiring new objects or experiences can be addictive like anything else,” writes Patrick Banks for Lifehack .

    “That doesn’t need to be you,” he adds. “You can stop your addition to ‘the next thing’ starting today.” After all, “there will always be this next thing if you don’t make a conscious decision to get your life back together and be the one in charge.”

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    • Think about your current lifestyle and the person you’re at this stage to help you identify what you aren’t satisfied with.
    • By setting clear goals for yourself in the future, you will be able to overcome your addiction.
    • Establish realistic goals.
    • To combat addiction, you must be aware of what is going on around you, as well as inside your head, at any given time.
    • Don’t spend time with people who have unhealthy behaviors.
    • Hold yourself accountable.
    • Keep a journal and write out what you want to overcome.
    • Appreciate no longer being addicted to what’s next.

    8. Simplify

    Each day, pick one priority task. That’s it. As long as you concentrate on one task at a time, you will be less likely to get distracted or overwhelmed by an endless list of tasks. A simple mantra to live by is: work smarter, not harder.

    The same is also accurate with productivity hacks and tools. Bullet journaling is a great example. Unfortunately, for many, a bullet journal is way more time-consuming and overwhelming than a traditional planner.

    9. Learn How to Relax

    “Sure, we need to produce sometimes, especially if we have to pay the bills, but, banning obsession with productivity is unhealthy,” writes Leo Babauta. “When you can’t get yourself to be productive, relax.” Don’t worry about being hyper-efficient. And, don’t beat yourself up about having fun.

    “But what if you can’t motivate yourself … ever?” he asks. “Sure, that can be a problem. But if you relax and enjoy yourself, you’ll be happier.”

    “And if you work when you get excited, on things you’re excited about, and create amazing things, that’s motivation,” Leo states. “Not forcing yourself to work when you don’t want to, on things you don’t want to work on — motivation is doing things you love when you get excited.”

    But, how exactly can you relax? Here are some tips from Leo;

    • Spend 5 minutes walking outside and breathe in the fresh air.
    • Give yourself more time to accomplish things. Less rushing means less stress.
    • If you can, get outside after work to enjoy nature.
    • Play like a child. Even better? Play with your kids. And, have fun at work — maybe give gamification a try .
    • Take the day off, rest, and do something non-work-related.
    • Allow yourself an hour of time off. Try not to be productive during that time. Just relax.
    • You should work with someone who is exciting. Make your project exciting.
    • Don’t work in the evenings. Seriously.
    • Visit a massage therapist.
    • Just breathe.

    “Step by step, learn to relax,” he suggests. “Learn that productivity isn’t everything.” For that statement, sorry Leo, I say productivity isn’t everything — it’s the only thing.” However, if you can’t cut loose, relax, do fun things, and do the living part of your life — you’ll crack in a big way — you really will.

    It’s great to create and push forward — just remember it doesn’t mean that every minute must be spent working or obsessing over productivity issues. Instead, invest your time in meaningful, high-impact work, get into it, focus, put in big time and then relax.

    Are You Addicted to Productivity? was originally published on Calendar by John Rampton.

    Featured photo credit: Christina @ wocintechchat.com via unsplash.com

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