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. :-)
You know when I was the most productive? The day before I started writing about how productive I was. You know when I was the least productive? About a week after that. You know where I am now? Still trying to get back to the pinnacle.
What went wrong? I started to believe not that I was producing, but that I was a productive person. I'm a man, and it takes no maintenance to stay that way. I'm American, and it takes no effort to remain american. Those are things I am. But producing is something I do. I'm productive when I'm producing, and I'm no longer productive when I stop. There's upkeep involved.
When I write a blog post about how productive I am, and it is received well, I see myself in a different light. I shouldn't, but before my conscious could grab ahold of it, my subconscious granted me the title of Productive Person.
So I started slacking. Not a lot, but enough to notice. Rather than pushing myself to not browse Reddit all day, I'd take a break here and there. Instead of pushing through from 11pm to midnight, I'd cut out early and waste time for the last hour of my day. I downloaded a chess game for my phone and would play a few games per day, rationalizing that it's an intelligent game, so learning how to play was a good idea. But that's not why I played-- I played to escape the pressure of hard work. Twelve hours of honest work shrunk down to six or eight hours of work stretched to a twelve to fourteen hour window.
Patrick McKenzie writes in "The Hardest Adjustment to Self Employment"
I wanted to have AR in beta six weeks ago. Between consulting, vacation, and BCC, I haven’t made almost any forward progress on engineering.
I know that to be true for AR because code isn’t getting written, but I always think it to be true for BCC. It turns out that I am smoking something: I ran a shell script to compare my productivity (commits, A/B tests, etc) prior and post quitting. I thought it would show me spinning my wheels. Turns out I am getting more done than ever. ... Sales are up, too. Why doesn’t it feel this way?
I've been thinking about this since I read it this morning. Could it be that work you dislike and are being mandated to do feels more productive? I did about six hours of great work today, but most of it was talking to people I enjoy talking to and learn a lot from and playing around in Google analytics. I felt like I got nothing done until I looked at my list at the end of the day - tons of good stuff checked off.
One of the greatest things about working for yourself is that you can focus on what you want to do, and often that's work-that-feels-like-play-but-also-pays-you. Isn't that magnificent? Work that doesn't feel like working that's highly productive? Just, it's easy not to feel productive afterwards, since it felt like playing all day... what do you think?