Productivity is a little bit like fitness: You can’t fake it.
We can think about it and talk about it, but when it gets quiet, we’ve got to be [and be able to see] about it. When there’s nothing to see we create noise, and chaos for camouflage-even if to ourselves and in, walks the clutter.
If you know me, I’m big on mind/body/spirit, and tend to look at each as essential function for the next: they all all need to work together. When one’s off, so is the other.
While I believe it’s not humanly impossible to ‘balance’ everything, I believe that as we control our minds, we (can) control our body which ultimately controls our spirit. However, that takes effort-constant, conscious, meticulous effort with anything (be it personal, creative,or professional).
I found this article useful (by Asana and Quora co found Justin Rosenstein), helpful for people like me, who go and go and go and may need a little reminder that certain things have to be done and tended (e.g your environment, your mind and body, and your process) to in order for you to keep going and going and going- in the right direction.
Optimizing your environment
Turn off all distractions. The verdict is clear: “multitasking” makes people feel more productive, but research shows that it makes us less productive. The temptations of email are strong. But frequent interruptionsand it takes much to get back on task. So when it’s time to focus,
- Set your phone to Do Not Disturb. On iPhone: swipe up from the very bottom of the phone, and then hit the Moon icon.
- Close all browser windows that aren’t directly related to the task at hand.
- If part of your work is composing emails, get into a state where you can write them without seeing new ones come in. In Gmail, bookmark
- Turn off email push notifications on your computer.
- Log out of chat.
Find your flow time. If your day is constantly interrupted by meetings, it’s very difficult to get into flow, a state where you’re really jamming and go deep on complex tasks.
- Add 3-hour “meetings” to your calendar where you’re the only attendee. Coworkers will schedule around these busy times, and you can get uninterrupted work done.
- If you can, get your whole company to agree to a day per week where there shall be no meetings. At Asana, we have .
- Track what times of the day work best for you for different activities. Do your hardest work during your “Superman time.” Here’s the process I used to determine that mine is from 10:00a-noon: .
Master your tools. If you use a computer all day, every time you reach for your mouse, it slows you down a little, and you lose a little bit of flow. You want to interact with your computer at the speed at which you think. Doing so requires learning the keyboard shortcuts of the software you used most.
- Every time you find yourself using your mouse, see if there’s a keyboard shortcut. Usually it will appear right next to the menu item, or on the little tip that shows up when you put your mouse cursor over a button. On a Mac: ⌘ means Command, ⌥ means Option, ⇧ means Shift, and ⌃ means Control.
- Use to quickly rearrange your windows without a mouse.
Optimize your mind
One of my favorite books on this topic is Tony Schwartz’sEven the book’s name is a powerful reminder.
Take regular breaks. Common sense tells us that the more time we spend working, the more work done we’ll get done. But that’s just not true. Humans are not robots. Our minds need time to recharge. Research suggests that a 15-minute break every 90 minutes is a good rule of thumb for.
Take care of your body.
- Hydrate. At the beginning of the day, I put 5 tall glasses of water on my desk. I drink them all by the end of the day. Seeing them sitting there is a good progress indicator.
- Eat well. A carb-heavy lunch is often a disaster for afternoon energy.
- Take supplements. According to the book
- • Vegetarian DHA: 1000mg daily
- • Olive oil: 1tbsp daily
- • Alpha-lipoic acid: 600mg daily, 30minutes before meals
- • Coconut oil: Virgin, organic; 1 tbsp in morning
- • Pterostilbene: 50mg morning & evening
- • Sulforaphane: 30mg morning & evening
- • Curcumin: 200mg morning & evening
- • Green tea extract: 200mg morning & evening
- Exercise. Cardio at least twice a week has been .
- Fast. One day a month to
- In short, make sure you’re using your time outside of work to get nourished, so that you have the energy to give it your all when you’re at work.
Overcome procrastination by facing discomfort. I don’t procrastinate because I’m lazy; I procrastinate because my highest priority task makes me subtly (or not-so-subtly) uncomfortable. When this happens you should:
- Be honest about what’s making it uncomfortable. Explicitly, compassionately write down (or share with a friend) the exact source of the discomfort. Why does this feel so dreadful?
- Identify one easeful next step.
- I’ve written more on this technique at .
- If you don’t have the energy to face the fear right now, then at least do the second-highest-priority thing on your list, rather than switching to Facebook. Prolific Stanford professors John Perry calls this “Structured Procrastination,” and attributes most of his success to it at .
Optimize your process
Get clarity of plan. A lot of un-productivity arises from a lack of prioritization. It being unclear what you actually need to do to achieve your goal, and what’s highest priority.
- Don’t do any more work until the next steps are 100% crystal clear to you, and agreed upon by everyone on your team.
- Start by grounding in: What is our goal? Why do we want to achieve it? What are all the steps required to achieve it? Who’s responsible for each step? What order must they be done in?
- Here’s more on
Buddy up. Some people love working alone, but, for complex tasks, I generally find it painful and prone to distraction.
- Find a teammate who would enjoy collaborating. Sometimes tasks that would have taken me 2 days can be completed in 2 hours with the right partner. “Pair programming” is common in software engineering, but it works for anything.
- Alternately, you can have a conversation with yourself by buddying up with a text editor or journal: start asking yourself the big questions and write out your answers. I’ve had long, strategic, and productive dialogues with my computer by simply writing out questions and answering them in free-flow form.
Publicly commit to a deadline. Harness peer pressure to your advantage. If an important task doesn’t have a natural deadline, I’ll tell people confidently, “I will send you a copy by end of day Friday.” Now I don’t want to look ridiculous in front of my teammates, so I will naturally make damn sure it’s ready for them by Friday.
Use software to track your work. Unsurprisingly, I believeis the best place for this. Not only does it keep track of your own to-do list; it also manages the flow of work among the entire team, so you don’t need endless meetings to stay on the same page. And it keeps the conversations alongside the work, so you’re not constantly wading through emails to get the information you need.
Take time to reflect. Budget just (cont’d)