What I've Learned From 8 Productivity Courses Part 2

You’re reading part two, you can read part one here and part three here.

3. Taking breaks

You need rest, even for 5 minutes sometimes. To stretch the legs, relax, and do something you like. I remember from one of Robin Sharma’s book the quote, it goes something like this:

Having time to pause, refuel and enjoy the life is not a luxury. It’s an absolute necessity.

  • Robin Sharma

Getting a good night sleep also helps your memory, since you create new connections in your brain based on your current and past experiences. That’s why we sometimes wake up with a solution to the problem - which is awesome.

So rest in general matters, if that means 5 minutes to take a short break from the work you’re doing every hour or so, or to get some sleep, or to go on a vacation and not worry about work and being productive - something I wrote about (Being Unproductive Is Fine).

4. Information overload

The difficulty a person can have understanding an issue and make decisions due to the presence of too much information.

The more choices you have, the less satisfaction you will have with your decisions.

  • The Paradox of Choice - Berry Schwarts

That’s because if you have ten decisions to make about one thing, even if you make the right decision, you will question yourself was that decision good or could have you done better.

Solutions:

  1. Do a brain dump - list everything that’s on your mind. Next decide the time you are going to deal with it, or remove it from the list;
  2. Two minute rule - gather tasks that take you less then two minutes to complete and do them in a batch;
  3. Make the important decisions first (The Willpower Instinct - Kelly McGonigal);
  4. Push down authority - delegation;
  5. Turn things off;
  6. Take action.

The thing that worked for me is minimalism, since I’m not taking in to consideration a lot of things that I don’t need.

Also, getting some rest, and not thinking about the problem (if it’s not urgent) gives you solution sometimes (related to part of sleep in Taking breaks).

One short story I remember about buying new stuff, goes something like this:

A parent of two children bought one child some toy. Second child got jealous and wanted the same, to which the parent answered that if she waited for seven days, that she’ll get the same thing. After seven days, the parent asked if she wanted the toy, to which she answered that it looks boring and doesn’t want it.

Moral of the story is that sometimes you just have to wait to see if that’s something that you really like. Things shouldn’t be bought in a rush, or at least not very often.

5. Being consistent

Success is the sum of small efforts, repeated day in and day out.

  • Robert Collier

Consistency is tightly related to habits. You do something for some time (good or bad), it becomes a habit. But also, consistency is why you grow.

For example you go to work out for three times a week, and you keep it up, no matter how bad you are at it (as long as you don’t get yourself injured), will yield positive results.

The key to real growth is consistency. Consistent, gradual action taken every day is the way we changed our lives. It feels like a slow climb at first, but once you build enough momentum, you won’t want to stop growing. It’s growth that makes you feel alive.

5.1. Accountability partner

Being consistent is easier with accountability partner. You track one another, talk about the thing you are doing, are you meeting the expectations and requirements… If you fail, you can pay in some sense to the partner so you have to do the thing to not give him the money.

If you don’t have accountability partner, you can use some kind of software. Being consistent is part of habits (next item in the post), so you can use some habit trackers.

6. Habits

Motivation gets you started, but habits keep you going.

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit.

  • Aristotle

We first make our habits, then our habits make us.

  • John Dryden

Habits, methods, routines, systems - these are terms that I hear all over again and they mean the same thing. Since most of the items from the list are a broad topic, and this is one of broadest, I suggest you search for James Clear book called Atomic Habits. There you can get a lot of great information about how to form habits, and there are a lot of details. A lot of the things from this item will be taken from James Clear, all credit goes to him.

What habits are made of and how to form a good habit:

  • Cue - make it obvious
  • Carving - make it attractive
  • Response - make it easy
  • Reward - make it satisfying

For letting go of bad habits, we just invert:

  • Cue - make it invisible
  • Craving - make it unattractive
  • Response - make it difficult
  • Reward - make it unsatisfying

Make a list of habits you want to acquire and start working on them little by little. I started meditating for only five minutes every day, and now I’m up to twenty minutes. In words of James Clear, make the habit of showing up. Showing up is more than half the work done. When you sit to meditate for one minute every day, it’s easy to do four more minutes, since you’re already there. James also gave great example for the gym: there was this guy who went to gym every day and exercised only for 5 minutes. This way, he mastered showing up to the gym. Once he was there, he just does the work. This is related to being consistent.

One great thing that worked for me is stacking habits. This means that once you do one habit, you immediately start next one. For the morning routine, that would be get out of the bed, raise the blinds, drink some water, make the bed… You get the point, some of those are small habits, some of them are bigger ones.

The thing is that not all habits are equal, some habits you can make last in few days, since you enjoy them, they’re easy to do and similar. Others are not so much. I started exercising in December 2018 and started meditating on January 2019, both are hard habits, but I stick to them. I failed one day for meditation - since I meditate daily, and three weeks for exercise (I did two times per week instead of three). So there is no correct answer in how long it takes to build a habit. And besides, we as humans are not all made equal (at all), so it depends on you too, not just the habit itself.

7. Batch similar tasks

This one is quite easy to implement.

For example you have to iron one shirt to wear for work, that takes for example few minutes to set up the iron to heat up, adjust the board, get the shirt, and you need about a minute to iron, and then about two minutes to put everything to its place. Why not take one day a week, and iron all your shirts that you’re going to wear for a week. That’s around 30 minutes saved every week on preparing the iron, the board, and putting everything back.

I’m sure you can figure out more tasks to do like this, like reading and responding to emails, cleaning, washing dishes, and similar. I’m using it for next few weeks to fix everything that needs to be fixed on my car, so I’m taking it to few different places day after day to finish everything as soon as possible. While ironing the clothes is easy to batch and relatively fast to do, fixing the car isn’t.

8. Outsource

Think of cleaning as something repetitive that should be done once a week (for your home for example). If that takes like 3-5 hours to finish, and you pay about €3 per hour, but you make €5/h, then you’re in plus with time and money.

Similar to previous point of batching similar tasks, you can outsource a lot of stuff to save time and maybe even some money.

Lately, I’m giving more value to my time than money, so I’ll even pay extra if it’s going to save me some time, since it’s probably worth it.

Tip from one course:
When outsourcing, make sure you have something like a user manual, exactly what needs to be done. This is because the person who does the work probably has zero experience, so everything should be written. This way they won’t bother you that much. If they have question about something, make sure to include it in the “manual”.

9. Paradigm shift

Paradigm shift is a powerful way to think about one thing from another perspective. A quite good example in my life is doing math. I haven’t been any good at math in school, but since I’m in programming for more than a year and a half professionally, I’ve started to look math from the programming perspective. Things in math aren’t that strict as they seemed to be in school, but everybody explains math from the point of math, it wasn’t something practical (at least some advanced subjects), and I now can see the practical side of math through programming.

Simply shifting the way you think about something can give you a breakthrough.

The way we see the problem is the problem.
-Stephen Covey

Strength of the chain is the output of how successful (or productive) you are. Fix the weakest link and the strength of overall chain will become much stronger. This link takes a form of a habit, a process, a bad influence, a weak belief in something.

For myself, that weakest link is taking action. This is because of the comfort zone. I plan something for so long and don’t take any action. One of those things were writing this blog. I wanted to write a blog for about ten months now, but only three months ago I started.

Usually, the weakest link is something that will give you the boost in everything else. One habit that I do want to stick to is waking up early, and I’ve tried, but I have bad habits about waking up. Even with that, I usually wake up about hour and a half before going to work, so I do accomplish something before the commute.


You’ve read part three, you can read part one here and part three here.

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