Got a question from a reader having a "productivity slump" - the solution isn't difficult, it just requires focusing on and doing it. And if you do it, you'll feel better and get more done at the same time.
For productivity slumps, focus on re-gearing the fundamentals. It's almost always the following things -
How's your eating? Are you drinking enough water? How's your sleep schedule? Are you deciding the most important things to do for the next day before going to sleep? Are you reviewing and working on the most important things right away the next day?
Also think about if you've gotten fitness time, full relaxation/disengagement, and time in nature lately.
If you do those seven things - eat well, drink water, sleep on schedule, plan tomorrow before sleeping, start on what's most important, exercise, fully relax regularly, and get some time in nature - that almost guarantees busting out of a slump. If you're in a slump, you're almost certainly not doing one of those.
Got a question from an aspiring artist about what to do beyond just working on his craft. Now, I don't know personally, I don't have so much hands-on experience in the art world. He didn't specify what his medium was either, so I'm really just throwing something out there. If you're an accomplished artist, feedback in the comments is welcome. My reply:
So, you've probably got a medium and style of some sort. If there's a place where people with your style/medium congregate or gather or feature their work, go look there and see who is doing what you like. Write down their names, then hit Google. Find their websites /myspace/facebook/linkedin/whatever, and look for their bios. In their bios, note what they're proud of and what they feature - what galleries, magazines, photographers/photography... whatever... it's hard to be precise without knowing exactly what you're doing.
If you're doing your own unique medium/style, then look for people who you generally admire who are doing things that are relevant to you. If you're doing something very unique with sculpture for instance, then anyone else building any kinds of sculptures or similar might be relevant.
One thing that could help you if you're still working on your skill is to send a very short targeted message to someone you admire via email or even a call or letter. Make it very brief and do these things:
1. Say you admire them, and why 2. Say that you've got a quick question, ask something intelligent 3. Stress that you're a hard worker and will actually apply their advice 4. Be very grateful
So, I record my time tracking by hand, and later I sum it up and divide it out by hand.
It takes me about an hour a week. I regularly get the suggestion that I should get it into a spreadsheet or an application to cut that time down.
By doing it by hand, relatively slowly, I'm forced to turn the implications over in my mind of the numbers.
For instance, I slept 8.2 hours on average over the last 13 days.
Got an email from a reader who has about 30 goals. They're all good. But he's wondering how he can do them all. My reply:
So, your goal - anyone's goal - is basically to get the most success you can as quickly as you can in the way most suitable/enjoyable to you, right?
I ask because that's pretty obvious, you probably want to do that. But you've got a lot of goals, and some of them are quite big and significant.
What I've found is trying to change 10 things at once - and have big changes that'll take years to complete - is not the the best way to get the most success as quickly as possible in the most suitable/enjoyable way.
I travel a lot.
Not all countries have the same standardization and cash controls as the United States or Western Europe. In most of the world, actually, everything is pretty ad hoc.
Part of this means, at least 5-10 times per year I'm having someone hand me the wrong amount of change or otherwise screwing up billing pricing.
Funny enough, no one ever hands me too much change. No one ever accidentally marks a bill as paid that isn't paid.
But the reverse happens. Often.
I'm staying with a friend of mine who is a very successful executive. He used to work from home before getting a huge contract at a Fortune 100 company, so he's not in his home office any more. He invited me to stay here, and so I'm sleeping in the office of an incredibly successful executive, investor, director of some large public companies, and otherwise incredibly prolific and brilliant guy.
It's 99% pleasant. We get to have brilliant conversations about money, strategy, investing, history, governance, travel, and so on in the evenings and weekends. I normally don't like chaos, but the home office is the most wonderful blend of chaos I've ever worked in. It's stacked with stuff - a couple of iPads, old discarded smartphones and Blackberries, a wireless printer, luggage, filing trays, tables. On the top shelf out of reach is a gigantic Grey Goose bottle, a painting of Buddha, and some sort of ornate chest.
The 1% of unpleasantness? My friend has a gigantic wolfhound. In the morning, someone picks up his dog and cares for it during the day, and the dog comes back at night.
It's a beautiful dog. But it doesn't respect anyone except my friend, and it wants to jump all over me or whoever else is nearby. He's clawed the hell out of my arms and I've got cuts on them. I need to study basic dog survival techniques post-haste because it's a little ridiculous.
This dog could cause massive problems for anyone. It's huge. It's enormous, with tons of weight and power and energy. And it's a hyper dog that doesn't like being inside, and we're on the 16th floor of a highrise.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Well, hello there. I've amended my time tracking twice recently.
Here's the old version, v5 -
——————————————- START OF DAY ROUTINE: Time awake: Total sleep (hours/minutes): Appointments today: Other time-sensitive things: Key habit today: What assets could I build/improve/acquire today: Planning: ——————————————- DO BEFORE GOING ONLINE: Vitamins (C, Fish oil, Calcium/D): Stretching: Situps: Brush/floss: Breathe: Borderlands (+Solo): Gratitude: Review Life Goals: Review “Current Targets”: Reach out: Help someone: ——————————————- DO SOMETIME DURING THE DAY: Exercise (walk/run/other): Listen to audio: Blog post: Email in box, start: Empty inbox completely: Organize/cleanup/etc: Look at to-do List: Do one thing on to-do list: ——————————————- TIME TRACKING:
File under "things you don't normally notice" -
I was in a cafe/art district in Beijing. Outside the cafe I normally work at, they were filming a scene.
There were maybe 60 extras who just walked back and forth in the foreground/background a number of times.
All normal stuff so far - but then I noticed, all 60 of the extras ranged from looking and dressing from above average to beautiful.
I never noticed this before, but I bet the people in the foreground/background of most TV and movies would be similar. I'm going to pay attention next time I'm in front of a TV or at the movie theater and see if this is true.
I was working on some tight deadlines while at a cafe.
Overwhelmingly, I had the urge to break from my diet and order a bunch of junk food - sandwiches, french fries, etc.
I'm not exactly sure why that urge comes up, but I think it's quite common. You've probably experienced it, yes?
If you're trying to refine your diet, or stop binge drinking, or sleep at a reasonable hour, or quit some bad habit, or... whatever... well, how have you gotten off track in the past?
Probably when there was a "good reason" - either something more important (like a deadline) or some general exception (like a "special occasion").
The best phrasing of this idea I've found. Meditate on it -
"Not what I have, but what I do, is my kingdom." - Thomas Carlysle