Well, this is embarrassing. Day Two of my "Most Productive 90 Days Ever" was off the rails. I'll share why it happened to the best of my understanding, along with some best practices on what to do during bad days (some of which I abided, some I broke).
Here was my "the night before" plan for yesterday --
Wake around noon
Morning routine, modafinil, etc.
Write observations from yesterday on blog
Prepare questions I'm trying to learn and things I want to understand about the nonprofit space.
Go through my email, reply call or write to everyone who responded, call people who were out of Beijing when introduced.
Ask questions and/or invite to lunch next week.
Check Basecamp for what needs to be done for GGW
Write a general business plan for GGW that can be used to get feedback, outline plans, set metrics, and recruit providers.
Do any misc. GGW tasks that need to be done
Work at this 3 hours or so, look to get v1 of the plan complete.
5PM or 6PM:
Consider resting or relaxing around this time for a while.
Make advancements on the sales process.
Go through materials on better voicemails, and better followup emails.
Make sales calls. Don't do anything else until on track with this. Aim for 30 to make up for yesterday.
Later: Sleep earlier than I did before.
And then... when I went to sleep:
1. I couldn't fall asleep for a long time (2 hours+).
2. I woke up feeling totally run down, as bad as I've felt in a while.
3. It was hot as hell, so I was feeling heat-fatigued, dehydrated, etc.
My current position on "bad days" is this -- first, they happen; second, you have to be flexible on them; third, try to contain them and keep moving.
I noticed I was scheduling a rest around 5PM to 6PM, so I went back to sleep for a couple others. I was still feeling run down when I woke up. No good. I'm not sure exactly why, but I can speculate -- first, the general heat/dehydration with not enough water. Second, I missed the good window to sleep on Day One and stayed up three hours later... which then arguably cost me five hours of sleep. Third, often after a really breakthrough productivity day the next day comes in flat.
Why that third point? I don't know for sure. Though I speculate that during a breakthrough day you'll have more adrenalin, endorphins, and a juiced up biochemistry of happiness and hormones, the production and withdrawal of which can leave one feeling drained.
That seems correct, I was definitely on natural adrenalin high on Day One, and flat when I woke up.
After that, I scrapped calling to schedule any appointments in the nonprofit world (I was feeling about as charismatic and personable as a dead skunk).
I was feeling totally run down, I accepted it was going to take me around 90 minutes or longer to get to decent strength. I had vitamins, water, coffee, food, and I took modafinil without going to the gym which is unusual for me, but due to the quality of sleep I was underslept. Not a practice I want to do a lot, but it worked out okay.
I drank a lot of water, which I think made a lot of the difference, and I just zoned out and listened to music at a nice cafe for 90 minutes. I was really out in space, no focus capacity, etc. I accepted it and didn't fight up, 90 minutes or so later I came out of it.
I then put my head down and worked on a full business plan for our fundraising initiative that'll help get feedback and help with recruiting, and actually made good progress. This was the first of two good productivity bursts from the day.
After that, I was really moving like I was stuck in molasses. Going to the store to buy some food took ungodly long, and when I got to the office I wound up in a fascinating conversation about DNA and protein structures with Stepan, and evolution and civilization, macronutrients, and chemical reactions. He taught me a lot I didn't know about DNA, proteins, and chemical reactions which was really insightful.
I had an executive call to make here -- break off a fascinating conversation and gear down on production, or run with it. I decided to run with it, which was making it more likely the day wouldn't hit its metrics, but I was already feeling low and it was one of those conversations that was both incredibly enjoyable and incredibly insightful. It's the kind of thing that leads to massive wins randomly in 6 to 24 months or something, and gives me the ability to converse more readily on a topic that's important and relevant to me (health and biochemistry).
If I was on fire, I'd have not gotten into that conversation and "ran out" the production and flow. But I wasn't, so we chatted.
After that, sales was looming as a real drag, so I did a bunch of not-actually-productive stuff playing with different apps and webapps I want to test. I got some value out of that, I guess, but it's the kind of thing that you do when you're not doing what should be done.
Eventually, got 90 minutes of sales calls in -- 12 calls, 1 appointment scheduled going forwards. That was the second big win of the day.
I should have slept earlier, but stayed up a long time after that which was a bad call. You know, bad days kind of want to perpetuate themselves almost, and I should've slept earlier.
Here's my stats for the day --
Awake: 2:30PM (7 hours sleep)
2:55PM: (25 general-life)
3:25PM: Out in space, eating some food, just trying to clear my mind. (30 relaxing)
8PM: (65 semi-productive, 30 distraction, 180 philanthropy)
9:30PM: (30 general-life, 60 semi-distraction)
2AM: (180 distraction, 90 semi-productive)
4AM: (90 sales, 30 semi-productive)
--12 sales calls, 1 appointment.
10:25AM: (25 planning, 60 semi-productive, 60 relaxing, 180 distraction
11:05AM: Damn, got into some good planning, had an idea for a good writing piece and outlined it, and got a great note about a project I bid on a while ago that I thought we lost, but it looks like we got it. All good stuff, but I'm not going to get a great amount of sleep…. (15 planning, 15 productive)
I had a mini-boost right at the very end when I sat down to planning too -- planning the next day the night before is amazing, it helps you keep things on track if they're going off the rails.
I missed my metrics, missed my plan, and overall not a good day -- but the real advantage of focusing on productivity and best practices is that you look to minimize the damage of bad days and get some baseline of production, and then 10x or 20x the really good days...
Questions For You -
1. On your bad days, are you flexible about getting some production in?
2. Do you "all or nothing" things, or try to get what gains you can?
3. Do you panic at bad days, or do you recognize they're normal and happen to everyone?
4. Do you start thinking about just getting through a bad day and being on the next day, or do you obsess over it and beat yourself up?
5. Do you get to bed early on those days?
Recommendation: SCOPE DOWN AFTER BAD DAYS.
The tendency after a bad day for driven people is to SCOPE UP, and say, "I meant do 20 calls yesterday and only did 10, I'll have to do 30 tomorrow" -- this sets you up for potential failure. Falling short on one day is fine, it happens to everyone, it's normal. But when you immediately up the bar/pressure for the next day, you risk getting into a destructive cycle of having a bunch of lost days in the row, piling on more pressure, and going totally off the rails.
This took me a long time to figure out -- after a loss or failure, adjust your goals downward and then get a win next -- you can always keep going if you've got a good flow on, but getting that "next day" win with low pressure and no panic is key.