There are complicated productivity systems and there are simple ones. Both can be effective, but simple ones are much easier to stick to.
Somewhere in the end of my travels abroad this year I fell off the productivity train. Not entirely, but I had reverted back to "doing what needs to be done" instead of "being productive". I would write blog posts with some regularity, but it was more treading water than a swimming forward.
I try not to micromanage my productivity. It naturally ebbs and flows, which is fine. Sometimes I need to think rather than do, and other times I feel like I'm in a trance, my hands typing at a hundred words a minute without any conscious thought. But this was different. When two week passed without any spurts of productivity, I decided that I was just being lazy.
Todd felt the same way, so we came up with a very simple system. Here are the rules:
1. Each day we e-mail each other the key tasks we're going to accomplish. My tasks are typically things like "write a blog post", "package old phone and ship it", "format book", "proofread one more time".
2. If we fail to do the tasks we said we'd do, the other person gets to pick a girl for the other to try to pick up.
3. If one person feels like the other person's tasks are inappropriately easy, they bring it up.
4. There are no exceptions. Tasks must be sent every day of the week, including holidays and vacations.
That's it. I don't necessarily like the concept of associating talking to girls with punishment, but in practice it's not like that. It's all in good fun and the idea is to pick someone who is challenging or awkward to approach. Plus, it's good for you. I didn't want the punishment to be something that wouldn't be constructive. The girl thing is pretty good because when you're up late, thinking about skipping on your tasks, you imagine being at your friend's mercy, and you get it done.
We've been doing this for weeks now, and it's been great. Life Nomadic wouldn't be released if we hadn't started it. Only one day has been missed between both of us, and we've both gotten more done than we would have otherwise.
Here are the four main reasons I think this works:
I'm sure we'll make tweaks to our system some day, but for now it's working very well. I've been productive every day since we've started, and feel great about it. You might expect that it makes it hard to relax, but I find the opposite. If I want to take it easy one day I just do my tasks early and then enjoy my day, knowing that I've already done what needs to be done.
If you don't have a local friend that you can do this with, feel free to use the tynan.net forums to find someone. You won't be able to do the pickup thing remotely, but I'm sure you can figure something else out.
Wow, that's just an amazing idea! Seeing how you guys make it so simple in finding ways to live life to the fullest! But as mentioned before, finding a partner that shares the similar goal is kinda tough :( Neways, im still not gonna stop searching... Hats off to both Ty & Todd! Cheers!
Hey Ty & Todd,
Funny coincidence that you posted this now. Brian and I have been doing the same thing with a table in a google doc. We include a completed/planned ratio, an unplanned column, and a notes column - things we learned that day. Putting it in a google doc allows you to see how you're trending, etc. - and I guess over time would tell you what you've done with your life in a sense.
Ty, I've just had a dream in wich I came to your blog and you write you opened a mobile phone shop.
I dropped the ball one day, so Ty picked out a cute brunette at Trader Joe's. She had a massive bag with her, so I asked if she had a bomb in it. She was absolutely terrified.
I love the system. It's very productive to wake up and put some thought into the most effective way to spend your time, then keep it in mind through the day.
It seems to me you already have a business partner, and your method might work in that capacity.
I think the rest of us won't be going to your forums to find the answer, as you mentioned.
We will take it on all alone, or, as if we can find someone who will DEAL with our hair-brained ideas.
NO offence, I'm still looking.
Good tips. I'm fairly good at getting stuff done on a day to day basis, but for the bigger picture stuff a couple of friends and I meet up every now and then to talk about business related stuff, and this helps us all keep on track.
We share what we're doing and our plans for the future, offer advice, and so far it's been a great way to move forward over the long term. :-)
A guy on Twitter asked a pretty good question the other day: "Why do you worship productivity so much? Honestly? (I am currently sitting at a ski hill with an ear-to-ear grin from powder turns.)" I gave him an answer, but I think the question deserves an answer longer than one hundred forty characters.
Something I've been circling around a lot recently is the idea that my own experience doesn't really matter so much. Happiness follows the law of diminishing returns, and I'm so happy all the time that making myself more happy is pretty useless. I've had so much fun and had such a breadth of experiences, that, for the most part, I feel like having one additional one is insignificant.
I'm an imperfect human, of course, so I do still do things "just because I want to" sometimes, but when I take a step back, look at the arc of my life, and think about the time I have left, I mostly think about ways that I can impact the world. If I can spend some effort and make someone who's not so happy a little bit happier, help someone who hasn't had so many cool experiences have a few, or help someone become more productive themselves, maybe that's a better use of my time.
None of that means that I think I'm some sort of great person. I'm completely aware that probably a lot of my real motivation stems from ego or from wanting the satisfaction of knowing that I had an impact on people. I get emails sometimes from people who tell me I've changed their lives, and that sort of blows me away every time and makes me feel really good.
It's particularly challenging with tasks that require intense bursts of time and energy. Coding, writing, inteking strange new behaviors and worldviews. These are things that require intense focus, energy, and enthusiasm and just the right mental state. That can be very hard to maintain, and in fact, is often not even beneficial to maintain in other areas of your life that you have a higher degree of mastery and require less arousal to reach your optimal performance. So I think it's natural to fall into and out of this "high-energy" mode, which many of us associate with exponential productivity.
But there are some easy traps to fall into here.
One of the biggest is ignoring the skill of putting yourself in this mode at will. There is not actually a magic genie in your walls. You need to be able to say, tomorrow morning I have time to write, and I will write, and a part of that is getting yourself into "the zone." If you are failing to get yourself into "the zone," then you need to step back and work on that skill independently. Maybe that means re-awakening your original inspiration (thinking about all the people you will help with this book) or maybe it is preparing your vessel (low-fat, high fiber diet the day before, 6 hours of sleep, wake up, run, then get right to work... or whatever ritual ends up working). But these are factors that need to be evaluated.
I think another big one is denial. Thinking that you can maintain this state longer than you can, physio/psychologically or just within the constraints of the rest of your life. It's important to "pump yourself up" to the very high levels necessary to achieve your goals. It's also important to deal with the realities and interruptions and diversions of life as they come, then be able to return to that state.
Anyway, with regard to myself and my major goals, this week was largely a wash.