fyi - thank you for your posts on time tracking. I am greatly benefitting from them. There is definitely room for an app/webbased/offline component here. It's gotta flexible, customizable....simple for those just starting out and not needing intimidation but can also get complicated.... I'm currently working with excel to get some graphing and tracking going there. I also use ever note for more text based items. ie. that's where I keep goals and resolutions. So when I get to the part of my routine that I need to review those, that's where I go.
I've greatly benefitted from your blog and am glad a friend of mine passed it along to me. Keep up the good work.
Here's an idea for a post (if you haven't done it already): How I decide what to write a blog post on next...or how I decide what to do next (sounds like you're juggling tons of projects.)
Thanks. I doubt I'll ever build or get involved in a time tracking app - yes, there could be a better one, but it's a saturated space. It's a relatively small market, and there's a disproportionately huge amount of competition in it. There's already tons of offerings ranging from "satisfactory" to "pretty darn good" - I might build something in the space for kicks sometime, but it's not a business priority. There's just too much low hanging fruit in old world, billions-of-dollar industries that are massively underinvested in technology. Whenever anyone tells me they're building a time/goal-setting/etc app, I advise against it until they're doing it for non-business reasons.
How do I prioritize? Six months ago, my answer would have been "haphazardly" - I just picked things somewhat arbitrarily and did them based on… whatever.
Since then, I've gotten a bit more systematic about it.
Every morning I fill this out -
Vitamins, stretch, brush, breathe, posture:
Borderlands, celerity, gratitude, life goals:
Highest Impact Creative:
Highest Impact Enterprising:
That's my morning routine.
What are those "Cycles"? They're bloody miraculous is what they are.
I realized a few things:
1. "Expansion" - doing creative or enterprising work - won't happen automatically unless it's prioritized, and it's the thing with absolutely the most positive impact on life. So I prioritize it, and aim to do it first.
2. "Maintenance" - there's generally ongoing commitments I've got to uphold. This is where I reply to letters, follow up with appointments, run errands, whatever. Generally, my mind starts to burn out on expansionary tasks after 5-10 hours of it at most since it takes a lot of mental horsepower. So I can shift gears to maintenance, and get in a few more hours of cleanup, cleanup, etc.
3. "World" - I realized that working all the time doesn't max out productivity. Every day I try to define some activity to either do in the evening or split my day in half. Go shopping, go look at art, go visit with friends, go walk around, chill out in a cafe with nice music, see a tourist site, etc.
I try to somewhat explicitly schedule these. Like, if I'm up at 6AM, I might say I'm heading out at 4PM to go play around out in the world and I'm done working for the day unless I get inspired (I often do get inspired and work a few more hours at night, but explicitly stopping work unless inspired is good - and perhaps conducive to inspiration anyways)
The trickiest thing for me is building around other people's schedules. I'm working on projects or in correspondence with people in Western Europe, East Coast USA, West Coast USA, and Asia. That means I get appointments scattered all over the place, sometimes winding up with something silly like a 2-3 hour call at 11PM China time (11AM EST USA) followed by another call at 6AM China time… I look at on that the schedule and say, "Who is the idiot that set that up?"
(The idiot, of course, was me)
So I've got to get better at coordinating my calendar and appointments across timezones, and yet not burning out off of no sleep and not enough relaxation. It's a tricky thing, but life is really fantastic overall. One thing I've started doing lately is spending a lot more money - keeping myself in the nicest surroundings, taking taxis even short distances, etc. I've been meaning to write about this, but I was hyper-frugal as my dominant strategy for years. I'm getting away from that, because I need to spend more to keep myself going at the rates I'm going.
I think most people are at, maybe, 10% of their max capability. Probably more like 2%. That's where most of my life I've been. Lately I'm near 40-50%? It's intense. Better technology, better coordination, better planning are all necessary.
Speaking of which, one thing that's helped a lot is doing a fast weekly review in business. The senior partner at a company I just came onto is a savant when it comes to productivity - he's got basically six full-time projects going on, one in finance, one in IT, one in government, one in consumer goods, and a couple consulting things. He's amazing with technology. I take his recommendations wholesale - he actually convinced me to buy the Mac, for instance. It's amazing how much technology can serve you if you're systematic about it. He's also ultra-fast at planning, filtering things into the right thing, action, etc.
I use Wunderlist pretty extensively, a great free app that syncs across platforms. It only does a couple things, but it does them really well. You create a task, you set a date when it's due, you can see what's due today, tomorrow, this week, and what's overdue. You can share it collaboratively easily, and it syncs easily. Great app, it's helped a lot. That's one of the things I review.
Then I periodically review what my "Top Priorities" are - I'll list out the 4-5 active business projects and 3-4 life projects I've got going on and check the due dates on everything in Wunderlist, or skim things I haven't set dates on yet. I update this weekly, when I do the weekly business review (which goes surprisingly fast).
I try to prioritize expansionary activities, because they just don't happen if they're not prioritized. After that, the next thing I prioritize are things that are a "dependency" for someone else - if I don't get it, it hoses someone else.
I complete every item that's scheduled a day unless an amazing opportunity or an emergency comes up, in which case I reschedule. The exception is if I feel burnout setting in, which I'm being very careful to manage.
My fitness instructor, he always advises me "against being hardcore" - if I feel weak, sore, or not there during my workout, just quit for the day and get back at it. Maybe gains are slightly slower, but you avoid being injured which takes you out of the game.
I'm treating burnout the same way. On a day when it seems the weight of the world is on my shoulders, I finish any critical dependencies so no one else is hosed, but then maybe I reschedule everything and take the rest of the day off. I could theoretically grind out a few more low quality hours when feeling early burnout set in, but you risk giving up weeks of higher productivity if you do. Just like in fitness, I'm not trying to be hardcore - maybe I lose a few small gains here and there, but I want that sustainability so I don't get taken out of the game for a while.
Very good question here. I hope my notes help. A quick recap:
*I define "Cycles" every day - Expansion, Maintenance, World.
*I start with Expansion, because it doesn't happen otherwise.
*After Expansionary time, my next priority is getting in deliverables that are other people are depending on me for.
*I choose my Expansionary and Maintenance cycles based on my Top Priorities list.
*I do weekly review of all my top priorities. It only takes 20 minutes making a quick list.
*I keep a bunch of tasks in Wunderlist that need to be done, and always do them on the day I pick or proactively reschedule. Things getting late is unacceptable under normal circumstances.
*With the exception that I listen to my body and mind - if I feel too worn out, I might clear the decks for the rest of the day and take a break. What you lose in a few hours of low quality work, you gain back in being fresh the rest of the time.
Try NirvanaHQ. The search is much faster than Wunderlist. Also, it allows creation of management "areas" which nearly segregates Expansion from World, for example.
Wunderlist is undoubtedly prettier, but I think NirvanaHQ has a nifty interface, all the features of Wunderlist, plus couple more, and its still simple
Wunderlist is beautiful, but I found NirvanaHQ to be much better, especially the speed of search (I'm comparing the web apps). You may want to give it a try. It also has "management areas" which neatly segregate lists or projects
Your 2% vs. 50% comment struck me as interesting.
Do you have experience being 2% productive? It would be interesting to hear from you exactly how you are different.
I can't quite get it right, even though I've been trying to for a while now. So I'll just scratch out the thoughts I can and publish anyways, because I think the topic is worth thinking about.
There is, roughly, something called a "thought cycle" - it's a series of a thought forming, the chains of thoughts that go from it, any actions that it spur you into, and the feedback from the actions.
Or something like that. I haven't defined it really well yet.
What's the length of a thought cycle? Well I suppose it depends, and goes between some sort of range. Most are very short (sometimes very short), and occasionally - rarely - they're somewhat longer.
It seems to me that everything that almost everything that humans do are created by thought cycles. To some extent, they're automatic and habitual and we don't pay attention to them. Something like blinking or breathing is automatic until you think about it. With training, you can even control your heart rate to some extent.
My apologies for not posting in a while. It's been hard to find the motivation to start again, but I'm not sure why. It may be something between starting my new job, figuring out my money situation, filling out forms for my financial aid for the fall semester, spending time with family, getting acclimated to living in an apartment with my friends, and my own laziness - pretty much just my normal life overwhelming me. With all these things on my mind, I spend a lot of my time just hanging out with friends and trying to forget my stresses... But at the end of the day, when I'm laying in my bed trying to sleep, I can't help but think about all the things I've spent the day trying to forget.
One of those things that keep me up at night is the fact that I'm avoiding this blog. I keep coming up with other things to do and excuses to get me out of writing, like "I'm too tired", "there's not enough time", or "there's better things to do other than sit in your room and write." I'll tell myself that, and then tell other people how I've been trying to work on my writing. I mean, I have been trying this whole summer, but I don't think I've actually convinced myself to buy in. Too easily I am distracted by the stresses of my everyday life and I forget that I'm working toward a brighter future.
But I'm trying to come back now. I think the key is to just get back into a routine, so in about 15 minutes I'm going to ride my bike to Wal-Mart - a familiar experience that should get me back into my writing swing.