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The New LifeHacking #6 – Staying Away from Harmful Gadgets

The New LifeHacking #6 – Staying Away from Harmful Gadgets

In my prior article, Tricking Yourself into Making the Changes You Need, I wrote about the right blend of supports that are needed by those who want to change critical time-management behaviors. These supports help us make the transition from the habits we use today to the ones we intend to practice at some point in the future; they help prevent the collapse of well-intended plans once our willpower inevitably fades.

Thankfully, we live in an age where powerful new technologies are being introduced every day that have the power to shape habits on a massive scale. For example, it’s clear now that smartphones have transformed the world’s daily habits in ways that were never anticipated when these devices were popularized in the early 2000’s.

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In fact, the makers of these devices imagined a connected future in which users would be untied from their desktops and office, giving them greater choices and flexibility, increases in productivity and more balanced lives. This future has been realized in part, but it’s far from the total picture. In exchange for greater convenience, we are now working more hours than ever before and are available to receive and reply to messages late in the night and early morning and on weekends, holidays and vacations. Not even sick days are exempt. At the same time, dangerous multi-tasking while driving has become a world-wide problem, and the increased discovery of fecal matter on phones shows our new tendency to use smartphone in unlikely places.

New technology has led us to a world of new workplace habits on a massive scale, including both good and bad habits. The creators’ intentions are quite beside the point and it’s fair to say that they we are using these devices in ways that were simply not imagined. Unfortunately, this all points to our tendency to adopt new technology in ways that are unplanned, and therefore unproductive. We jump to using the shiniest new gadgets without understanding how we want to use them.

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Readers of Lifehack who have followed this series of 6 articles could place themselves in a very different position. After completing an analysis of their current systems, and setting new target practices, they know they can get a good idea of the new habits they want to implement, and how quickly they wish to make the transition. They don’t fall into the trap of trying to change everything at once, and have a good idea of the habit support system they need to succeed.

With this knowledge, they can make much more sophisticated, and effective choices about the kind of technology they should be looking for to help complete their improvement plans. Instead of having their habits shaped by the latest release, they forgo what they don’t really want as they search for what they really need.

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In my book, Bill’s Im-Perfect Time Management Adventure, I took the liberty to introduce an email app into the story that I wish someone would invent, as it would fill a gaping hole in my time management system. I called it “Tzinbox” and in the book it’s used by the employees of Syscon, the setting for the book, a weekly report to employees on how well their email, and therefore their time, is being managed. In the story, it returns a score that tells the protagonist, Bill, whether or not his time/email management skills are improving.

On reflection, you’d probably agree that this is the kind of app that should exist. It probably doesn’t because we are too busy chasing gadgets, and not busy enough figuring out where the gaps are in our systems. We leave new technology ideas to the companies that produce software, mobile devices and computer.

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It’s a mistake. The roots of lifehacking weren’t about mindlessly chasing down tips, tricks, shortcuts and gadgets in the hope of quick, slick improvements.

Instead, the new Lifehacking is about intelligently analyzing our needs and gaining a deeper understanding of what we really need. Then, it’s up to those of us who live on the cutting edge of personal improvement to clamor for features, add-ons, plugins, apps, gadgets, programs, devices – anything that we need to be more productive.

We need to get off our collective behinds and separate ourselves from the thoughtless consumerism that has turned knowledge workers into the most distracted people on the planet. The New Lifehacking isn’t about just following trends. It’s about doing the work to figure out what people need, starting with a sophisticated understanding of our own shortcomings.

In my final article in this series on I’ll describe what’s possible if we pull together all the ideas presented in this series of posts.

More by this author

Francis Wade

Author, Management Consultant

How To Manage A Post-College Productivity Dip Why You Need to Understand and Accept Your Productive Type A Tendencies The New Lifehacking #7 – Why You Should Be Open to New Stuff, But Wary About Using It The New LifeHacking #6 – Staying Away from Harmful Gadgets The New Lifehacking #5 – Tricking Yourself into Making the Changes You Need

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Published on July 17, 2018

How Productive People Compartmentalize Time to Get the Most Done

How Productive People Compartmentalize Time to Get the Most Done

I’ve never believed people are born productive or organized. Being organized and productive is a choice.

You choose to keep your stuff organized or you don’t. You choose to get on with your work and ignore distractions or you don’t.

But one skill very productive people appear to have that is not a choice is the ability to compartmentalize. And that takes skill and practice.

What is compartmentalization

To compartmentalize means you have the ability to shut out all distractions and other work except for the work in front of you. Nothing gets past your barriers.

In psychology, compartmentalization is a defence mechanism our brains use to shut out traumatic events. We close down all thoughts about the traumatic event. This can lead to serious mental-health problems such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) if not dealt with properly.

However, compartmentalization can be used in positive ways to help us become more productive and allow us to focus on the things that are important to us.

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Robin Sharma, the renowned leadership coach, calls it his Tight Bubble of Total Focus Strategy. This is where he shuts out all distractions, turns off his phone and goes to a quiet place where no one will disturb him and does the work he wants to focus on. He allows nothing to come between himself and the work he is working on and prides himself on being almost uncontactable.

Others call it deep work. When I want to focus on a specific piece of work, I turn everything off, turn on my favourite music podcast The Anjunadeep Edition (soft, eclectic electronic music) and focus on the content I intend to work on. It works, and it allows me to get massive amounts of content produced every week.

The main point about compartmentalization is that no matter what else is going on in your life — you could be going through a difficult time in your relationships, your business could be sinking into bankruptcy or you just had a fight with your colleague; you can shut those things out of your mind and focus totally on the work that needs doing.

Your mind sees things as separate rooms with closable doors, so you can enter a mental room, close the door and have complete focus on whatever it is you want to focus on. Your mind does not wander.

Being able to achieve this state can seriously boost your productivity. You get a lot more quality work done and you find you have a lot more time to do the things you want to do. It is a skill worth mastering for the benefits it will bring you.

How to develop the skill of compartmentalization

The simplest way to develop this skill is to use your calendar.

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Your calendar is the most powerful tool you have in your productivity toolbox. It allows you to block time out, and it can focus you on the work that needs doing.

My calendar allows me to block time out so I can remove everything else out of my mind to focus on one thing. When I have scheduled time for writing, I know what I want to write about and I sit down and my mind completely focuses on the writing.

Nothing comes between me, my thoughts and the keyboard. I am in my writing compartment and that is where I want to be. Anything going on around me, such as a problem with a student, a difficulty with an area of my business or an argument with my wife is blocked out.

Understand that sometimes there’s nothing you can do about an issue

One of the ways to do this is to understand there are times when there is nothing you can do about an issue or an area of your life. For example, if I have a student with a problem, unless I am able to communicate with that student at that specific time, there is nothing I can do about it.

If I can help the student, I would schedule a meeting with the student to help them. But between now and the scheduled meeting there is nothing I can do. So, I block it out.

The meeting is scheduled on my calendar and I will be there. Until then, there is nothing I can do about it.

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Ask yourself the question “Is there anything I can do about it right now?”

This is a very powerful way to help you compartmentalize these issues.

If there is, focus all your attention on it to the exclusion of everything else until you have a workable solution. If not, then block it out, schedule time when you can do something about it and move on to the next piece of work you need to work on.

Being able to compartmentalize helps with productivity in another way. It reduces the amount of time you spend worrying.

Worrying about something is a huge waste of energy that never solves anything. Being able to block out issues you cannot deal with stops you from worrying about things and allows you to focus on the things you can do something about.

Reframe the problem as a question

Reframing the problem as a question such as “what do I have to do to solve this problem?” takes your mind away from a worried state into a solution state, where you begin searching for solutions.

One of the reasons David Allen’s Getting Things Done book has endured is because it focuses on contexts. This is a form of compartmentalization where you only do work you can work on.

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For instance, if a piece of work needs a computer, you would only look at the work when you were in front of a computer. If you were driving, you cannot do that work, so you would not be looking at it.

Choose one thing to focus on

To get better at compartmentalizing, look around your environment and seek out places where you can do specific types of work.

Taking your dog for a walk could be the time you focus solely on solving project problems, commuting to and from work could be the time you spend reading and developing your skills and the time between 10 am and 12 pm could be the time you spend on the phone sorting out client issues.

Once you make the decision about when and where you will do the different types of work, make it stick. Schedule it. Once it becomes a habit, you are well on your way to using the power of compartmentalization to become more productive.

Comparmentalization saves you stress

Compartmentalization is a skill that gives you time to deal with issues and work to the exclusion of all other distractions.

This means you get more work done in less time and this allows you to spend more time with the people you want to spend more time with, doing the things you want to spend more time doing.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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