Getting to a 100% productive day
Today was my first 100% productive day in many years. Actually, in my life. It sounds impossible to a continual procrastinator like myself that works on a very unstructured environment and has many projects in his hands, but I did it. And, even as it is time to go to sleep, I don’t want to stop.
Procrastination is a very common problem. I have had it for as long as I remember. And I have never been able to do anything that I consider useful to combat it until today.
I work a lot. I have been involved in several startups, have had ideas regarding several projects (a book, this blog, learning several subjects, mastering a new language, programming again, etc.) and everything seems to come to my head, but nothing really gets done. It is usually the most urgent thing, the one which is getting very close to a deadline that ends up being done. Hence, the really important things never get off the ground. And I get frustrated because I didn’t do them. So I believe I can’t finish anything and then I procrastinate (both in small and big scales) again.
But a few days ago I came across this masterful post that describes precisely how procrastination works in my head. And I realised that the instant gratification monkey will never leave my side. However, the post didn’t really tell me how to get out of the cycle of procrastination. So, I needed to find a way to make it work for me. And it was a lot easier than I thought. Today I made progress on all of my projects. ALL.
These are the projects and tasks I am working on right now:
- Chief Product Officer at a startup. Essentially a 26/hour a day job. At this stage it includes fund raising, generating the product roadmap, talking to customers, changing the on boarding process, creating demos for specific customers and a few more things.
- This Blog
- Going back to coding for the above mentioned startup. (Absolutely necessary at this stage)
- The book I always wanted to write
- A project on a disruptive way to fund entrepreneurs
- Getting my hands dirty on implementing responsive design (Same as point 3)
- Writing an absolutely, completely, totally, amazingly important email (about 2 pages long, don’t lecture me in its unreadability, it summarized a 5 year process)
- Reading a book about a subject I am deeply interested about even if it has nothing to do with anything else in this list
- My daughters. They are neither a project nor a task, but I always have one hour a day for them, and just for them no matter what.
And some other minor things (like shopping for groceries and eating).
What I realised is that I procrastinate when I am not clear about what to do next. If I have to think about what to do next, I fall prey to the monkey. And I like video games, twitter, and technical and news gossip as much as the next guy; all those wonderful things that jump in front of me when I hesitate on what to do next.
The solution? Amazingly simple. A to do list. WHAT??? 400 words to say that? yes. But not any to do list. A tailored for me to do list. I did a quick research on the web to find a suitable tool, and Google Keep worked for me. Why? Because al I need is a group of lists organised like this:
- Personal things to do TODAY
- Personal things to do SOON
- Work things to do TODAY
- Work things to do SOON
- Shopping list
The important rule is: Whatever is on a “today” list must be doable in less than half a day, ideally in minutes. And whatever is in a “soon” list is either short (can be moved directly to a today list) or can be broken into smaller pieces that can be moved.
How does it work?. In two stages: First, every time I remember something I need to do, I immediately put it in its corresponding list in the board. IMMEDIATELY. And then stop thinking about it (so, I don’t get derailed by that amazing thought that took me into a different area of my brain, which tends to get distracted, and.. I digress). Full stop. Put it there and forget about it. Second, whenever I can’t continue doing what I was doing (I get stuck, tired, need a break, etc.) I look at what I can do from any today list and move on to it. Straight away. If I know I have little time, I choose something simple, if not, something else. But there is always something there I can do immediately. And that is all. I jump from one thing to another at the time that, before, I would let the monkey loose. And it works beautifully.
Last, but not least, at the end of the day I move all that makes sense from SOON to TODAY and the cycle starts again. That is all. My board for tomorrow looks like this:
I don’t know if tomorrow I’ll do everything on the tomorrow list. But, if today was any indication, I’ll do most of it. And play zero games. And stay away from facebook. And twitter. And anything else not important.
Wait. What about the shopping list? Simple. Google Keep reminds me of it when I am close to the shopping location. And that is a beauty. I am next to the supermarket and it reminds me I need to buy something. And I do it in a jiffy. Lovely.
This may not work for everyone. But it will work for people that lose their train of though easily; to me it was amazing today. I was the most productive I have been in years. And people that have worked with me think I am very productive.
Leave some comments or questions. I am sure this can be improved easily with your input.