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.
A few days ago, I wrote "24 Hours of Training Per Day" - my goal is to gradually build it so that all of my life is spent devoted to the things that are most important and valuable to me.
That doesn't mean having no fun, because fun is important. That doesn't mean no relaxing, because relaxing is important. That doesn't mean no socializing, because socializing is very important.
You know, I don't differentiate between work and play. I think my time is spent in either excellent, good, okay, or bad fashion. If too much of my time is just "okay" or "bad" - I'm doing something wrong.
Creating, enterprising, thinking and planning, and serious exercising and conditioning are all excellent time for me. Socializing, reading, doing maintenance, walking, research, relaxing, and daydreaming are all good. Okay is general-life type stuff or being semi-productive. Bad is submerging my mind entirely - this could be being stuck in a commute/transit without anything I find worth doing (doing business, socializing, listening to audio, or reading while commuting would move the category to excel, good, or okay) - and bad time is giving in to distraction against my will.
Again, that doesn't mean all work and no play. Consciously choosing to play games or socialize or relax isn't distraction, consciously choosing to watch a good movie or program and enjoy it isn't distraction. Giving in to low level crap is distraction. I've got a copy of Conrad's Heart of Darkness in my Kindle for PC reader - choosing and reading that isn't distraction. Researching a new investment (I bought HP stock a few days ago, I think the stock price is under the liquidation price of the assets + patents of the company... disclaimer: don't listen to me about investing because I don't know what the hell I'm talking about, do your own research, etc, etc.) isn't distraction. Surfing the net mindlessly, without choosing to do - distraction. Bad time.
I've talked a lot before about priorities in a macro sense-- that it's a good idea to have one large overriding first priority. In my case, that priority is SETT. So when another really exciting project comes across my desk, I can easily turn it down and just focus on SETT. On a daily basis, though, SETT isn't actually my top momentary priority at all times. If it was, I wouldn't ever eat or sleep, because working on SETT would be more important.
One of the keys to high efficiency (which translates directly to high productivity) is knowing what you're doing next. The biggest indicator on whether or not I'll have a productive day is whether or not I know exactly what I should be working on. When there's one big fix that needs to be created or one big feature that needs to be built, I have no problem putting in a 12-14 hour day. On the other hand, when I have ten low priority things I could work on, I tend to get much less done.
These deliberations happen outside of SETT, too. If I have a good block of SETT work to do, should I skip my daily blog post? What if a friend invites me to tea?
Without a clear hierarchy of priorities, it's easy to succumb to decision paralysis. I might start a paragraph of a blog post, but then when it's not coming together well, go answer some emails. To combat this, I decided to take the time and write out my micropriorities. Here they are with notes: