Advertising
Advertising

The Top 10 Things I Learned about Productivity Living in Total Isolation for 10 Days

The Top 10 Things I Learned about Productivity Living in Total Isolation for 10 Days

I almost quit this productivity experiment on day five.

I hated this experiment. Hated hated hated hated hated this experiment. Every morning I woke up with no energy, no motivation, and feeling like the life had been completely sucked out of me. I had no social support network to fall back on, felt completely isolated nearly all of the time, woke up sick most mornings because the basement was so goddamned cold, and experienced deep, emotional trenches that left me tired, exhausted, and depressed.

And at the same time, I loved this experiment. I loved living on an island, a cocooned paradise where no one could contact me or reach me. I felt unburdened by the commitments that come with people. All of my time was mine – I wasn’t being tugged in a million directions – I could move freely, productive or otherwise, in whatever hell direction I wanted.

You could say that this experiment had its ups and downs.

The purpose of living in reclusion was to dive deep into how social interactions impact productivity, and I certainly did that. At 5pm today I’m stepping out of my cocoon and back into the real world, but not before writing about the things I’ve learned down here. Here are the top 10 things I learned about productivity while living in reclusion for 10 days.

10. Wait a bit before sending important emails/messages

I think almost everyone has Tweets, emails, text messages, pictures, and other online stuff they’d like to take back, and can’t.

On my computer’s desktop I have a big-ass text file with a ton of emails, tweets, and blog comments that I wasn’t allowed to send during the course of this experiment. Here’s the interesting part: as the file has been sitting there for the last 10 days, I have significantly revised the more important messages in the batch, and sometimes completely changed some after I would have already hit ‘Send.’ Most of my edits took place in the 24 hours after I wrote the original message.

Advertising

When you give your mind time to collect and form thoughts, what you say is more complete, valuable, creative, and generally better. Before hitting ‘Send’ on your next important email, try waiting several hours, or even a day if you can. The world certainly won’t fall apart, and you’ll be able to get your point across much stronger.

9. Don’t eat several mandarin oranges when you’re going to live in the same small room for 10 days

The room I lived in for the last 10 days is tiny, and mandarin oranges give me a lot of gas. Needless to say, this is a lesson you should take to heart if you ever find yourself spending time in reclusion.

8. It’s easier to ‘let yourself go’ when there aren’t people around

Toward the end of the experiment, especially as I began to write more and make less videos about the experiment, I began to care a lot less about my appearance. I dressed sloppier, ate poorer, and didn’t care a hell of a lot about impressing people (and not in a badass kind of way, either).

I’ll personally admit that one of the reasons I want to become fitter, more focused, smarter, and so on is vanity. It isn’t the only reason, but it’s one of them. I want people to look at me and think, “Holy s**t, is that man ever [blank]!” Without people around to impress, I found myself letting go of my appearance.

I’m not sure if this lesson can be generalized, but I’m going to do it anyway. When you’re surrounded by more people, especially if receiving validation motivates you, you will try harder to make yourself into a better person.

907499_44633000-1024x468

    7. Meditation is the key to staying sane

    Over the last 10 days, I’ve meditated for 47 minutes a day, on average, and this has undoubtedly kept me sane in reclusion. At the beginning of my experiment, I found my mind racing and restless, but after each meditation, my mind revved down considerably. Meditation may just be the key to keeping your mind calm and in check.

    Advertising

    As the old Buddhist saying goes, “You should sit in meditation for twenty minutes every day – unless you’re too busy; then you should sit for an hour.”

    timechart

      6. Digital connections provide a much smaller return than real connections

      Over the last 10 days, as I separated myself from my real and digital connections (people I haven’t met), I came to the realization that my real connections are profoundly different than digital connections. Real connections are deeper, more valuable, and provide greater returns as you invest more time and energy into them.

      The problem is, and maybe you’re like me with this, I invest way more time into my digital connections than my real connections. That’s not to say that there isn’t a human being on the other end of every Twitter account (except for Horse ebooks, of course), but that is to say real relationships will provide you with much larger returnsThe trick is to spend your time in a way that matches up with that fact.

      5. The most boring, cliché things are the things that actually work

      I think that behind every cliché is a truth that’s so powerful that people feel compelled to repeat the phrase over and over and over. Work out. Get a good amount of sleep. Eat well. Take a vitamin every day. Drink a lot of water. The problem is that they’re repeated so often that they lose almost all of their meaning.

      By day three, I was sick, stuffed up, had trouble breathing, and generally felt terrible. But then I started drinking a ton of water, taking vitamins, eating impeccably, and began to focus more on getting a good amount of sleep each night instead of trying to wake up at 5:30 every morning (for another productivity experiment). As soon as I started doing these boring, cliché things, my health, attitude, motivation, and energy levels all instantly perked up. These things work.

      Advertising

      I-made-a-list-of-what-to-get-on-my-two-trips-up-a-day

        Every day I was allowed two, 10-minute trips upstairs, and throughout each day I made a list of what to get.

        4. Without people around, you have high highs, but lower lows

        Two news articles were published about my project while I was in reclusion, and to be honest, this made me feel just as good down here alone as I would have felt surrounded by friends.

        But when I hit the ‘lows’ of this experiment – taking three hours to fall asleep, battling a huge cold, getting fatigued because of a lack of sleep, and becoming sadder than I had been in months – I had no social support network down here as a safety net.

        I think a lot of people think they don’t need people when they’re on top of the world, only to find they’re alone when they inevitably come back down again.

        As a rule, I think people embellish pretty much everything.

        1425960_55639028-1024x550

          3. Sunlight elevates your mood, regulates your sleep, and gives you energy and motivation

          This was a lesson so big that I wrote a whole other article about itWhen you don’t have enough exposure to sunlight (like me throughout the experiment), your sleep quality severely suffers (since the sun regulates your sleep cycle), you’re less able to handle stress and manage your attention, and you have significantly less energy.

          Advertising

          2. Stepping back from what you do gives you a valuable, bigger perspective

          We spend most of our time at ‘ground level‘, entrenched in whatever we’re doing. It isn’t until we step back from what we’re doing that we can see it from a broader perspective. Living in reclusion, I focused mostly on work, and I found it incredibly difficult to step back from this project. But at the same time, I was about to gain an incredible perspective on where things like my relationships, finances, and health fit into who I am, mostly because I was able to step back from those elements of my life. Stepping back from the elements that comprise your life gives them meaning, gives you purpose, and allows you to see how what you do fits into the bigger picture of who you are.

          1. People matter (more than you think)

          At the end of the day (well, 10 days), I was less productive in reclusion than I would have been normally. Everyone has a different definition of productivity, but most of the benchmarks I use to measure how productive I am involve people, such as how happy I make other people, and the difference I’m able to make. When you take people out of that equation, either a) you’re not able to accomplish much, or b) what you do accomplish doesn’t mean a hell of a lot.

          For me, people are my tapestry; so interwoven with who I am and what I do that I take them for granted. But over the last 10 days, like electricity, I’ve missed all of the people in my life when they were gone.

          Throughout this experiment I have been less motivated, energetic, enthusiastic, and happy than I have been for a long time. Sure, some of that is because I’m not getting any sunlight, but I think it’s mostly because I have had no social interactions for the last 10 days.

          People matter, perhaps a lot more than you think. This isn’t an experiment I’ll repeat, but that said, I sure as hell learned a lot.

          More by this author

          The Top 10 Things I Learned about Productivity Living in Total Isolation for 10 Days The top 10 lessons I learned using my smartphone for only 60 minutes a day The Top 10 Things I Learned Meditating for 35 Hours over One Week 10 one-minute time hacks that will make you more productive You Can Easily Learn 100 TED Talks Lessons In 5 Minutes Which Most People Need 70 Hours For

          Trending in Productivity

          1 6 Effective Ways to Enhance Your Problem Solving Skills 2 How to Concentrate and Focus Better to Boost Productivity 3 15 Productive Things to Do When Bored (So Time Is Not Wasted) 4 10 Simple Strategies to Make Your Life Better Starting Today 5 30 Best Procrastination Quotes to Get You Back to Work

          Read Next

          Advertising
          Advertising
          Advertising

          Last Updated on July 16, 2019

          6 Effective Ways to Enhance Your Problem Solving Skills

          6 Effective Ways to Enhance Your Problem Solving Skills

          Have you ever thought of yourself as a problem solver? I’m guessing not. But in reality, we are constantly solving problems. And the better our problem solving skills are, the easier our lives are.

          Problems arise in many shapes and forms. They can be mundane, everyday problems, or larger more complex problems:

          What to have for dinner tonight?

          Which route to take to work?

          How to fix a project that’s running behind schedule?

          How to change from an uninspiring job to a career you’re really passionate about?

          Every day, you’ll be faced with at least one problem to solve. But it gets easier when you realize that problems are simply choices. There’s nothing ‘scary’ about them other than having to make a decision.

          Advertising

          No matter what job you’re in, where you live, who your partner is, how many friends you have, you will be judged on your ability to solve problems. Because problems equal hassles for everyone concerned. And people don’t like hassle. So the more problems you can solve, the less hassle all-round, the happier people are with you. Everyone wins.

          Why Are Problem Solving Skills Important?

          Problem is something hard to understand or accomplish or deal with. It can be a task, a situation, or even a person. Problem solving involves methods and skills to find the best solutions to problems.

          Problem solving is important because we all have decisions to make, and questions to answer in our lives. Amazing people like Eleanor Roosevelt, Steve Jobs, Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr., are all great problems solvers. Good parents, teachers, doctors and waiters all have to be good at solving different sort of problems as well.

          Problem solving skills are for our everyday lives.

          How to Enhance Problem Solving Skills

          Most people believe that you have to be very intelligent in order to be a good problem solver, but that’s not true.

          You don’t have to be super smart to be a problem solver, you just need practice.

          When you understand the different steps to solve a problem, you’ll be able to come up with great solutions.

          Advertising

          1. Focus on the Solution, Not the Problem

          Neuroscientists have proven that your brain cannot find solutions if you focus on the problem.[1] This is because when you focus on the problem, you’re effectively feeding ‘negativity,’ which in turn activates negative emotions in the brain. These emotions block potential solutions.

          I’m not saying you should ‘ignore the problem,’ instead, try to remain calm. It helps to first, acknowledge the problem; and then, move your focus to a solution-oriented mindset where you keep fixed on what the ‘answer’ could be, rather than lingering on ‘what went wrong’ and ‘who’s fault it is’.

          2. Adapt 5 Whys to Clearly Define the Problem

          5 Whys is a problem solving framework to help you get to the root of a problem.

          By repeatedly asking the question “why” on a problem, you can dig into the root cause of a problem, and that’s how you can find the best solution to tackle the root problem once and for all. And it can go deeper than just asking why for five times.

          For example:

          If the problem is “always late to work”…

          • Why am I late to work?
            I always click the snooze button and just want to go on sleeping.
          • Why do I want to go on sleeping?
            I feel so tired in the morning.
          • Why do I feel tired in the morning?
            I slept late the night before, that’s why.
          • Why did I sleep late?
            I wasn’t sleepy after drinking coffee, and I just kept scrolling my Facebook feed and somehow I couldn’t stop.
          • Why did I drink coffee?
            Because I was too sleepy at work in the afternoon, not having enough sleep the night before.

          So there you see, if you didn’t try to dig out the root of the problem, you may just set a few more alarms and have it beep every five minutes in the morning. But in fact, the problem you need to solve is to quit Facebook surfing endlessly at night so you’ll feel more energetic in the day time, and you won’t even need coffee.

          Advertising

          3. Simplify Things

          As human beings, we have a tendency to make things more complicated than they need to be! Try simplifying your problem by generalizing it.

          Remove all the details and go back to the basics. Try looking for a really easy, obvious solution – you might be surprised at the results! And we all know that it’s often the simple things that are the most productive.

          4. List out as Many Solutions as Possible

          Try to come up with ‘ALL POSSIBLE SOLUTIONS’ – even if they seem ridiculous at first. It’s important you keep an open mind to boost creative thinking, which can trigger potential solutions.

          Coming from 10 years in the corporate advertising industry, it is drummed into you that ‘No idea is a bad idea’ and this aids creative thinking in brainstorms and other problem-solving techniques.

          Whatever you do, do not ridicule yourself for coming up with ‘stupid solutions’ as it’s often the crazy ideas that trigger other more viable solutions.

          5. Think Laterally

          Change the ‘direction’ of your thoughts by thinking laterally. Pay attention to the saying,

          ‘You cannot dig a hole in a different place by digging it deeper.”

          Try to change your approach and look at things in a new way. You can try flipping your objective around and looking for a solution that is the polar opposite!

          Even if it feels silly, a fresh and unique approach usually stimulates a fresh solution.

          6. Use Language That Creates Possibility

          Lead your thinking with phrases like ‘what if…’ and ‘imagine if…’ These terms open up our brains to think creatively and encourage solutions.

          Avoid closed, negative language such as ‘I don’t think…’ or ‘But this is not right…’.

          The Bottom Line

          There’s nothing scary about a problem when you start to adapt my advice.

          Try not to view problems as ‘scary’ things! If you think about what a problem really is, it’s really just feedback on your current situation.

          Every problem is telling you that something is not currently working and that you need to find a new way around it.

          Advertising

          So try to approach problems neutrally – without any judgment. Practice focusing on defining a problem, keep calm and not to make things too complicated.

          More About Problem Solving

          Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

          Reference

          [1] Planet of Success: Problem vs Solution Focused Thinking

          Read Next