Thanks to Tea Silvestre, The Word Chef, for inviting me to participate in The Word Carnival, a monthly event where several bloggers write on the same topic. This month, the prompt is about productivity.
Raise your hand if your default day looks something like this:
- Check email—both work and personal. Good morning! This is the first of 40 times you’ll check today. Frantically answer those emails you can quickly dispense with.
- Check Twitter. Retweet the best stuff. See what the 4 people who really interest you are doing.
- Check Facebook. Make sure that nothing earth shattering has happened while you weren’t looking. Upload the pictures you took on your trip.
- Check Google + to see if anyone found a link you haven’t found. Comment or +1 something that someone posted.
- Read some of the blog posts in your feed reader.
- Check to see how much traffic you got to your blog.
- (rinse and repeat)
The term “rat race” was coined before the internet existed but it aptly describes a day that looks like this.
There are things I do to make sure I don’t get caught in that wheel:
1. Have a must do list
While my to do list consists of some rat race items, my must do list is comprised of 2-3 things I would just as soon put off but take concentration and time without distractions. Knowing that I can’t finish a day without either completing or seriously chipping away at my must do list, assures that the work that is easiest to put aside gets done—and it’s usually the most productive work.
2. Never, never start the day at the computer
I realized that once I get sucked into email volleys and “checking” behaviors on social networks, I can spend hours avoiding everything else. Most of that behavior is not productive. It is a reaction to the balls that are being thrown at you and the built in procrastination opportunities of the web.
3. Spend the first few minutes of the day sitting quietly, doing nothing.
I try to meditate for at least 10 minutes when I wake up. The half dreamy, just out of sleep time of the day before my mind starts yammering at me is perfect for setting the tone for a less-is-more approach to getting work done. Ideas slide into my awareness, important things that I need to address present themselves.
3. Plan around my natural rhythms
I am a morning person. My mind is buzzing before noon. I feel more creative, more able to plan and to write in the mornings. If I use the web to procrastinate in the morning, I’m cooked. overwhelmed by later in the day to accomplish real, productive, creative work. Knowing what time of day the different types of work can be done makes me more efficien
5. Sprint and pause
I first heard this concept of pacing yourself when I visited the Facebook offices. It turns out that the “sprint and pause” approach has been proven by neuroscientists to be the most effective way to work without burning out. You focus and work intently for a period of time, then step away. Take a break. People usually lose steam after a period of 90 minutes or so. Don’t force yourself to fight an uphill battle with your brain.
Remember that the great ideas do not tend to come when you are staring a a computer. They come in the quiet times, in the shower, when taking a walk or a run. It’s like the white space in a design. Without that quiet, empty space, it’s nothing more than noise.
What do you do to avoid the rat race and get real work done?