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.
Most people would agree that having a to-do list is absolutely essential for improving your productivity and getting more stuff done. For the past two months I've been living with a to-do list as well, and it has indeed made me a lot more productive.
I've also learned that just having a to-do list isn't enough to keep me productive at all times. What should I do to further increase my productivity and get even more stuff done?
The answer is quite simple. I should eliminate all distractions. I should only spend time on the things that I wrote on my to-do list on the day before. Yes, I can't go on Facebook while I'm writing a blog post, but it also goes beyond obvious.
Let's say that I get an email that I absolutely need to respond to. Or the phone is ringing. Or I realize that it's been a while since the last time I cleaned my room. Or whatever else seems to be important enough to demand my attention at that moment.
With a bit of self discipline, it's easy to eliminate all the obvious wastes of time from my working routine. When I'm working on my iPhone photography website, I already know I shouldn't be wasting any time on Facebook. That's kind of obvious.