2013 has been a tough year for me productivity wise. After accomplishing close to all my 2012 goals, I ratcheted all my goals for 2013 without considering environmental changes. Needless to say Sebastian's latest posts have come at a good time.
The problem is I mentally associated my previous productivity pattern with the norm, and although I can allow myself to ratchet back down, (for instance allow myself to watch 4 hours of television a day), I can't help feeling that this is disappointing.
My weeks consist of a few highly focused, productive days, followed by a few days where I just sit on the couch watching The Walking Dead. This suggests to me that my problem isn't a result of bad ratcheting, although that may be a factor, namely, setting my goal to 4 hours of tv a day and then slowly decreasing that amount to 3 hours and so on, won't fix this. I think there is a structural fix that needs to be done with emphasis on environment. I also think that if I squeeze out all my will power, and create a string of successful days, that the solution will stay permanent (yes, i also believe that will power is a limited resource).
So for now, I will change 3 things:
1. leave the house. Aside from eating, sleeping and other general needs, I will be spending the rest of my time outside the apartment.
2. eat without distraction. Lately I have been turning on the t.v. to help with the boredom of eating.
3. write a daily to do list. Yes, I know I should do this but for some reason, I skip it in the morning and never get around to it later in the day.
I will use all of my will power on these 3 things, and any remaining will power on the actually daily tasks.
Please share your thoughts and suggestions. I will update with results by next Thursday.
On the TV thing, never had that problem with TV. I have played a lot of video games in the past. They're a complete time-sink, but fun. My main tactic for overcoming that habit has been to get obsessed with creative/study projects.
I am studying statistics and find there's only so long I can concentrate on math. To keep productivity up I mix in slightly less hardcore stuff like listening to economics podcasts, reading popular books on related topics and coding up models etc. This gives more intuition and more motivation.
Basically I distract myself from really unproductive activities with sort-of productive activities.
Another tactic that works for me in the absence of to-do lists is to cane one big task until it is done.
Things have improved slightly, I have used alot of will power to get myself to do work and work has increased. But as I reflect on my past week, I know see that I once again have put alot of emphasis on work and will power and have neglected my goal of making 3 changes. I still stay in the house for too long, I still eat while watching t.v. and I still forget to make a daily to do list.
I have been so focused on work and willpower that I am completely neglecting the 3 simple goals I made for myself.
I have a "Work Computer" (the one I'm replying on) and a "Play Computer" that I'll play Chess, surf Hacker News, and otherwise indulge in distraction on.
You might benefit from some separation like that. Were I you, I might dump the TV entirely if that's an option and something you wanted to do, or only watch TV at the gym (if your gym has TVs, I used to watch baseball games while on an exercise bike, so it didn't seem like a total waste).
A very good guest post by Matt Mazur - if you enjoy this (and I think you will), then you can find his blog at mattmazur.com. He currently runs two business apps: Preceden.com, a tool for making timelines, and jMockups, a high fidelity web design tool. Here's Matt -
Nine Tips for Getting Started with Life Tracking
Inspired by Sebastian’s posts about the benefits of life tracking, I decided to try it for myself. After several false starts, I’ve now been doing it for almost two months straight and have had some great results. In this post I’ll explain how my current tracking system works and I’ll share some of the lessons I’ve learned along the way.
How it Works
Every Sunday morning I print an eight page document that I use throughout the week to track various aspects of my life. The first page is an overview, which I will fill out at the end of the week to summarize my results. The remaining seven pages are devoted to each day of the week.
These past two weeks have been amazing and I have been almost constantly doing what I love: Biking, exploring the city, eating good, diverse foods, reading good books, hanging out with good friends, learning more about nutrition and productivity. Unfortunately, I got very little done. My Japanese and German have been in a state of flux for the past 2-3 weeks mostly because of the countless amount of minutiae I have had to do or be involved in. Fixing my bike, attending information sessions, homework, Socializing, exercising and commuting time. So of course in times like this I ask myself; what can I do or change to make serious progress on my goals?
After a long time thinking about it and reflecting on past times when I had achieved hyper-productivity I’ve come to the conclusion I need a goal with a strong framework setup so that everyday the action I have to take and the amount of time I have to a lot is taken care of.
Without structure you might make progress, but its not effective. Too much time is spent answering an email, commuting, socializing, taking a random shower, or finding out what or where to eat. Having a structure takes away all this, it fixes these issues. Instead of wondering around trying to decide what has to be done, in how much time it should be done, and then being distracted, having a plan lowers down your choices to two things: Do or don’t do.
So I’m launching a new website called language 270. The whole concept is that I will go hardcore on a language, cramming and reviewing everyday, 3 hours a day, for 90 days. I’m kind of cheating with Japanese, since I already know about halfway through Genki 2 (Read: lower intermediate-intermediate), but since I haven't seriously studied in over 6 months a lot of it will be reactivation.