Boiled Alive: Beating the Addition to Distraction, Confusion and Lack of Motivation.

Just a word of warning, if you think this is going to be a lot of cheer-leading and pumping you up, then you are sadly mistaken. Most people cast their time management strategies in the light of a seductive seventies style dirty movie, i am going to blare the light from a stark surgical lamp at how i get work done.

Here we go.

Time management breaks down into two simple parts:

• figuring out what you need to do aka the “easy part”

• actually doing it aka the “part that is more difficult than quiting an mind altering additive drug that kills you in much the same manner as a slowly boiled frog”.

The Easy Part

Hint: You know this all already.

Once you have a desired outcome that can be measured there is rarely many questions of what is the next step to reaching that desired outcome. Granted the next step might very well be to sit down, get on the phone, pick up a book and figure out what is the logical next actionable step to reach a measurable result.

If there are may possible steps, then do a handful of them in a pipelined fashion. If you can’t manage that, flip a coin and pick one.

Cross things off your todo list which are nebulas or who’s outcome is unmeasurable.

Let fires burn themselves out. Identify the parts of your business which are “too big to fail,” and unless one of them is on fire, let it go for now. Don’t play with matches.

Don’t B.S. yourself, you know what you need to do. The world is not out to get you, it doesn’t owe you anything and it doesn’t matter if its your fault or not, there are steps to get where you are to where you want to go, be an adult and respect reality.

Work on the things in your business which have the most leverage first, i.e. least amount of work, resulting in the greatest measurable results.

Obviously, you have to set deadlines, without them nothing will ever get done.

An Actionable Template for Doing What Needs to Get Done

The basic idea behind my system is that after you pick what you have to do, you create blocks of time which you give for working. The blocks of time are just a certain number of minutes to work on a “kind” of task. Kind, can specifically “right this function” or work on project “foobar.”

A forty-five minute block, should not be confused with “from 4:00am to 4:45am.” Its just forty-five minutes sometime before the deadline.

The big breakthrough is to not think in terms of small blocks of time. Its much easier to sit down when you are looking at forty-five minutes instead of three or four or more hours.

Also you don’t schedule these time blocks for certain parts of the day, thusly you can distribute them to best advantage. You can take your breaks when you are most lazy, and you work when its easiest.

Now you may say, “well do to friends and family i know i will only have three free hours today so i need to work every last second of them.” If you can work it, than work it, fine. But i still think its better to take fully disengaged breaks during that time. A fifteen minute escape up and away from the computer. I am a big fan of doing pushups to change up my metal state. I do pushups often, anywhere, anytime i need to reset myself and get my head out of whatever loop it is in.

This is also a good system because its much harder to find excuses why you can’t do a forty-five minute block, as opposed to saying “it will take me three hours to get this done and i only have two hours, so i will start later.”

If you find yourself procrastinating, not starting your next block, i have found that its easier to think of when you want the block of time to be done, instead of when you are going to start it. It seems strange, but i have found this to be very helpful. Don’t bother doing the math consciously, your sub-conscious will do it for you.

When you are inside of a time block, ONLY work on your given task. Do not distract yourself. If you get the “but i don’t wannas” DON’T DO ANYTHING ELSE just sit in your chair and stair into space. This is the magic pill. Your brain hates not doing anything, and if you give yourself two options “do work” or “stair into space” eventually your brain will beg for something to do (i.e. work). If you give your brain a third option “check email,” your dead in the water and wont work done.

Another huge bit thats along the lines of the above is when you must get up for whatever reason during work, such as for fresh tea or to use the restroom. When you get up, try not to think of ANYTHING. What i do is get a song stuck in my head and sing it loudly in my head. In much the same way that little kids cover their ears and makes nahahahaahaha-i-cant-hear-your gestures, basically i am doing that in my head. I am not thinking about work, i am not thinking about play, i just think about nothing. If you need help thinking of nothing, ask the next Hare Krishna you see how to chant.

What you need to be optimizing

If you haven’t noticed, I love finding dimensions of problems which once you consider the problem in terms of optimizing those dimensions the entire system becomes optimized naturally.

For this system its the speed at which you can switch from play-to-work and from work-to-play. The faster you can get your brain to fully engage or fully disengage, the more productive you will be.

If you don’t take anything at all away from this post or this entire blog for that matter, its simply to optimize the speed at which you can switch between engaged and not engaged.

The thing is once you are fully engaged your momentum will do ninety percent of the work. Its easier to try and get fully engaged (a sprinting exercise) than it is to try and stay productive over the course of the day (a marathon).

Advanced

I have been using the system for a long time now and naturally my brain has tried to create new ways of getting me not to work. For me i hit a point of friction when i go to “clock in” using emacs’ org-mode. That C-x C-i key sequence tells my brain, oh crap now i have to work. To get over hurdle i now, start “doodling” in my code, marketing or whatever and then once i see that i am off in mental-work la-la-land, i go back to my time-clock and punch in. In this way the full engagement happens the second i clock in. It is a very fast transition from disengaged to full engagement.

I also punch out as i start to see my brain wander a bit and i know that i am moving away from peak performance. That way when i am ready to walk away i can just walk away. The disengagement than can happen very fast and completely.

Eye of the Tiger

Much like real exercise, i think there are times when you should push yourself well beyond your comfort zone and see what you can really get done.

So every so often i like to go into my “Rocky Mode” for a day or a weekend. In Rocky Mode, i work in long stretches of time (+16 hours) and don’t leave my work bench. I get a bunch of crappy high carb foods, which i can just slam down (mostly can veggies and legumes), close off the world and just kick into high gear.

I plan ahead of time when this Rocky Mode will be (DO NOT USE ROCKY MODES AS AN EXCUSE NOT TO WORK). DO NOT Say “i will get X done in my rocky mode.” The fight isn’t there to be another intense training session, you are in the fight to get out AHEAD, not just to catch up.

The magic pill of Rocky Mode, is to do it once you are caught up enough. It trains your brain to think “hard work pays of.”

I think most people know “Rocky Mode” by another name. Rocky Mode is just post graduates name for “Finals Week” at university (assuming you are not the kind to leave your papers to the last minute, but instead are the type to make sure you get an A+ on your finals).

Rocky mode is something you want to get into the habit of doing every six weeks or so.

Because its the most Ridiculous thing i Could Think of.

Now you might think that the opposite of Rocky Mode, is sit on your big butt and watch TV for sixteen hours straight and that this will get you all nice and refreshed. It wont, it will drain you.

You do need the opposite of Rocky Mode, but that isn’t sitting around doing nothing its a “Bizzar Day.”

What really will get you relaxed is to catch up a bit on sleep at both ends of your bizzar day and to do something social, spiritual or physical that is way outside your comfort zone.

So for example. Lets assume your are a shy geeky type (not that any such read this blog i am sure) then a Bizzar Day, might be to go take Tango lessons or run up to every person you see and ask them to recommend to you where you should take your (imaginary) date out tonight. If you are a cool social type who gets lots of attention you might go start volunteering at an old folks home or cleaning up at your local park. If you have no idea at all what to do, go hitchhike (dangerous) or camping with people you find off craigslist.

These activities should not be confused with the few things you do which are out of character. Like you might be a geek who knows Tango, or you might be a extrovert who goes woofing. It should be some rare, sort of “uncomfortable” activity that when you are done you reflect on the event.

Every so often you have to just confuse your brain with a new, somewhat uncomfortable experience. You need to get out of your headspace.

Filling The Pipe

Ok i am going to talk more about how to label and organize your time blocks for best advantage in a future post, but i want to make sure that you get this one block of time into everyday as soon as possible.

Every day I set out one or two time blocks for what i call “filling the pipe.” This is probably the habit that i have gotten into that has made me the most money. Thats an understatement, this is DEFIANTLY the habit that has made me the most money.

Filling the pipe means doing tasks that will _directly_ make your money in the future. This is not to be confused with projects that you are working on but as of yet have no way of making you money.

So for example, writing a sales letter and getting it posted would be filling the pipe. Similarly, posting three videos to youtube with links to landing pages on your network would be filling the pipe.

Its too easy to sit around tweaking something that isn’t even ready yet and saying “ok once this is out i will be making a bunch of money so i better just work on it.” ITS A TRAP. Every day, do something which has a direct cause and effect for making you money.

A way to test if a task is a filling the pipe kind is to look at the task, and say “if i just did this ONE task, would it make me money sometime in the near future?” Not this task, plus this other thing it needs, plus getting it up and testing, etc. But just this ONE, clearly defined task, can it make me money? Yes, then its filling the pipe, No, then it needs to wait until “after” you have filled the pipe.

Everyday, fill the pipe!

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