A More Productive Mindset for Work in Six Steps
I should start this blog post with a full confession: I have not yet read most of Tim Ferriss’ book the 4-Hour Work Week, even though it already strikes me as a useful read.
However, given the handy world of instant analysis online, I can quickly extract six useful mindsets about personal productivity with the help of manic productivity blogger Eric Barker.
Echoes of Our Foundations of Excellence Methodology
As we step through Ferriss’ six steps for being more productive, we find confirmations that our own work with clients is focused on fostering the right work habits, as you will see as we go along:
Manage your Mood
Give yourself a running start to the day by getting the right amount of rest, and starting early. The early bird really does get the worm, largely because no other bird is there to distract you!
Do not substitute an early start with a late finish: “I will get that done after dinner” has a series of issues with it:
- That could be family time.
- Productivity and focus are weaker late at night than early in the morning, so you get less done, and less accurately.
- You still get up with the rest of the family, and so working late really cuts down on rest.
Don’t check e-mail in the morning
The moment you check into your inbox, you open the door for someone else to control your day. If you put off your appointment with your inbox until 10 am, you get a shot at focusing on your own priorities first, and make progress before your working world intervenes.
Ferriss notes research about CEOs that discovered their work habits are horribly fragmented during the day. None could focus on any one subject for more than twenty minutes. The highly productive ones, however, captured alone-time early in the day to get their own priority list tackled before opening their “door” to staff interactions.
Stress-test your priority list for false friends
Here we find our Pursuit of Truth philosophy applied to priorities. What is truly a priority, and what is on your list because it is easy to do, and keeps you busy? What actions and decisions truly help you make progress, and which are “filling time” but take you nowhere? The same stress-test can be applied to other people’s demands on your time. Which are critical to your mutual success, and which can be ignored for the moment?
Clear your space of distractions
In our time management training work, we emphasize that each person needs an “A Space” in which to work. This A-Space is clear of distractions:
- No alerts and alarms from inboxes or mobile phones.
- No open windows on your computer desktop (especially your e-mail inbox!)
- No distracting photos and graphics that can capture your eye and draw you out of your thought process.
- No other project files in sight. Put them away until it is their turn for attention.
- Turn your phone off! Your friends and family will survive without your advice and insight for 90 minutes at a time.
Create a system that forces you to meet objectives
This is part of the habit-change we work so hard on with clients. You have to set up a personal management system that reinforces good behavior. We all backslide on our personal productivity habits occasionally, so our “system of working,” according to Ferriss, needs to keep us honest and focused.
Most of this boils down to setting up and sticking to a productive routine that works for you (which will take some experimentation, so don’t worry about a lack of instant results.)
Hemingway wrote from dawn to noon, then took the rest of the day and night off, for instance. And Barker notes other typical aspects of routines:
- Most had a clear routine. There were more morning people than night owls. The majority woke early, worked until midday, took a break for a few hours then resumed work until dinner. Most seemed to use the evening hours for relaxation and socializing.
- Going for walks was another pattern. Tchaikovsky, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Georgia O’Keefe and many others had long walks as part of their daily routine.
Define your goals for the next day the night before
Before you shut down for the evening or night, assess your day, and use your results to assemble your to-do list for tomorrow. As I was once taught in a training session for a vendor of binder-based organizing systems, review and reset the next day’s agenda at the end of each work day. Assess whether you are prepared, and get that preparation done. Then, “zip-zip-zip” up the three sides of the binder, and put it aside for the balance of the evening to let your mind relax.
Keep a notepad next to your bed, to jot down panicky late-night moments of “oh no!” so that your brain does not have to keep that mental file open all night.
Much of this can be summed up with “Get Organized, and Stick with Your Plan!” However, these six elements of your organization each need attention if you hope to stay focused on the prizes you seek in life, and your energy engaged in accomplishing them!