Category Archives: Productivity

Living A Distraction Free Month

A few days ago Matt Mullenweg (@photomatt) tweeted the following video of Joe Kraus talking about creating a “culture of distraction“. Joe talks about how we are constantly distracted, what we’re losing, and what we can do about it. Something really important happened to me while I was watching the talk…I was captivated by what he was saying, but I really had to fight the urge to not open another browser tab to do something else, I don’t even know what, just something else while I was listening. He had me convinced. I love being in “the zone”, but I hate to admit that it just doesn’t happen that often. I find it incredibly hard to sit and focus.

I’ve searched for “how to be productive” on more than one occasion, and I’ve downloaded programs, tried different products, etc, but they usually don’t make a difference. My problem isn’t not having the tools, it’s not being able to focus. Even just writing this for the past few minutes I’ve received/sent text messages and emails, I’ve had to fight the urge to get up and grab another cup of tea, and I feel like I’m bouncing around.

So here I am, publicly admitting that I have a problem. In an attempt to get to the root of the problem, I’m going to try to have less distractions and live more mindfully for the next 30 days.

My rules:

  • Less browser tabs (I currently have 30 open and that’s a lot less than normal). Maybe no more than 5 (?) at a time.
  • 30 minute walks three times a week  WITH my phone, but without using it.
  • NO using the phone while interacting with people. I try not to do this anyway because I HATE when I’m talking to someone and they start playing with their phone, but this goes for if I’m out somewhere with someone, or at family’s house, even if we aren’t talking at the moment.
  • Make a good effort to do one thing at a time. Pretend like I can only do one task at a time. Drink a cup of tea. Eat a sandwich. Watch a movie. Just one thing at a time.
  • Meditate, even if only a few minutes every day.
  • Write every day. Even if it’s writing about how much I don’t want to be writing.
  • Embrace “gap time”. I will not email/check twitter/whatever while standing in line at the grocery store.
I think this is a slightly harder 30 day trial because the steps aren’t as tangible as “don’t eat meat” or “exercise everyday”, but I will keep brainstorming and working towards it. In the meantime, take 15 minutes out of your day to watch the video below. Do nothing else. It’s interesting, I promise.

 

Giving Up TV-30 Day Trial

The Challenge: No television for 30 days.

Background

The other night I was laying in bed going through old episodes of Angel, and I was thinking about all the time wasted just sitting around watching TV. Not doing anything at all, except staring at an electric box in the corner of the room. For the most part, I hate sitting down with the intent to watch TV (unless it’s bed time). I have to be doing other things too, even if it’s just writing or drawing. But I always find myself getting distracted and I’m sure I’m not as productive as I should be.

Fears

This experiment has me worried for a couple of reasons. My biggest fear is that I’ll fail at it. Not so much that I’ll get the shakes and have an uncontrollable urge to watch soap operas, but that I’ll either forget and innocently start watching, or that I’ll make an exception (for the finale of True Blood, for example). I feel stupid for even worrying about this, but what does it say for me if I can’t go without television for one simple month?!

Now that I got that out of the way, I can say that I’m also kind of worried about not being able to sleep since I NEED a tv on to fall asleep. Unless I’m completely exhausted, my mind wanders for hours.

Ground Rules

I’m setting some rules for this coming month. Number one: Exercise DVDs and movie nights are allowed. I’m wondering if I should allow seasons 2 & 3 of the X-Files since I’m reading a book about them. If I do, I feel like it’ll be cheating, but if I don’t I’ll have to put reading my book on hold since I like to go through the episodes as I read about them. I’m considering putting my Netflix account on hold (gasp!) because it’ll make it harder to accidentally watch something, plus I’ll save a couple bucks. (Note: I don’t have cable so Netflix IS my cable.) Should TV be allowed at the gym? I don’t really pay attention to it anyway, but I usually tune into the Simpsons if it’s on after work. I think I might let that one slide because if I don’t I probably won’t do cardio for a full half hour. I guess that’s up in the air for now.

Speculations

I think it’ll be weird and quiet at first. Already just thinking about giving up TV makes me realize how much I watch it. Hopefully I’ll get some more reading done that I keep putting off.

I’m curious to see if I actually become more productive. Maybe I’ll read more, maybe I’ll do things outside more. I don’t *think* that my current TV habits prevent me from doing those things, so it’s hard to tell what will happen.

How to Stop Procrastinating

1. Get organized-Knowing what needs to be done, in what order, and how long it will realistically take is half the battle. Writing out a game plan can help get you started because it may not seem like doing the actual work, but it IS doing something. Don’t assume it’s going to take you 10 minutes to write out that email if it’s really going to take you an hour. If you give yourself more time, it’ll feel good to finish with time to spare (just don’t let that time go to more procrastinating).

2. Find inspiration/get excited-Have a hard time getting to the gym? Look at pictures of people who are fit and imagine what you’ll feel like when you are in shape.  This may have to be a daily thing. Keep it fresh. Picture that dream vacation you’re going to take as soon as your project is done.

3. Start simple-You have a game plan, now start at the beginning. Do something simple to get the ball rolling, then don’t stop.

4. Caffeine-Sometimes stimulants are necessary. I am against the daily cup (or pot) of coffee to get moving, but sometimes you need a little pick me up. Yerba Mate is my current drug of choice. Not quite the caffeine content of coffee means I don’t get jittery, and I can drink it all day for a smooth level of alertness without the crashing.

5. Stop Googling “How to overcome procrastination” and reading productivity blogs– I’ve done it before: Googled “how to stop procrastinating” and that in itself was procrastinating from doing any real work.

6. Bore yourself to death-Say to yourself, “okay, well if I’m not going to work on project X, then I’m not allowed to watch tv/surf the internet either.” Get rid of distractions. If you’re forced to sit in a quiet room or cubicle with no form of stimulation, eventually you’ll want to do *something*, even if it’s work.

7. Don’t be a perfectionist-“I’ll do it later when I have more time” is NOT a valid excuse if you’re a procrastinator. I do this all the time with emails. I tell myself I want to write a really well planned and thought out letter, but I’ll have to do it later when I have more time.  The outcome is either never writing it, or writing it 2 months later when it really doesn’t matter anymore.

8JUST DO IT!!! Put everything else aside and just go. Whether it means writing a paper, coding, going to the gym, cleaning, etc. Just do it.