Classic example for myself - when I used to commute to work, I would change lanes at exactly the same point every day. There was a month of trial and error to begin with, but this route and those lanes gave me the 'most likely fastest journey'. No more thinking about traffic, worrying that the lane next to me was moving faster, should I change etc etc.
I even have an automated rule for when I need to automate a rule - only when something annoys me three times. Can't find my keys when heading out the door? Very quickly automated where they live (ie, it happened 3 times very fast). Trip over a stair once? Not even going to register as an issue until it happens two more times.
Any place I go regularly, I have a set range to park in. I never lose my car and I don't have to think about it, I leave and go to my car.
Keys and wallet have a set place in my house. If I'm in my house, they are there, if I'm not, they're in my pocket.
For a long time, I would just go to lunch at Subway just so I wouldn't have to think about it.
Hell, I even have a set way I start and stop my vehicle to ensure I don't leave my lights on, etc.
Everything goes swimmingly when I stick to the routines. It's when for some reason the routine breaks that I find myself missing things.
1) Bad thing happens
2) Brain says 'Has this happened before?'
3) If no, ignore (file away)
4) If yes, has it happened once or multiple times
5) If once, ignore
6) If multiple times, work out a solution
So all I have to do is rely on my memory.
I colour code my diary and contextualise it a month in advance. Today was a Blue- Sales day, so every sales opportunity this month has been offered today as an option- none of my clients (Blue- Delivery day) had it as an option
My pockets are consistent- phone lhs side, money clip rhs, keys to the rear- To check I haven't forgotten/lost anything I just touch 3 pockets
At shopping centres I always park in the same section- replaced standing still remembering my park with automatic 'walking to section' while remembering
When I get a plate of food I generally plan which order to eat it in then exexute, rather than thinking with each mouthful. That may be bordering on ocd but at least I don't do it in alphabetical order!
Laundry is always washed and hung in the same order, linked to where clothes go when clean- ironing pile, top drawer etc. Ditto washing dishes.
I always round up time for calculating travel legs. I don't like being late, and don't mind being 30mins early
I clear my inbox by person not date- allows me to address many emails dealing with the same or related (Tracey- training; Darryl- IP development) discussions at once
For 6 years we have been once a month cookers- 6 meals x 4 portions (roughly chicken, beef, pork, lamb, fish, vegetarian) which are frozen and reheated based on the calendar I draw up
We have holidays drafted from now until November and try to book up our weekends 3-4 weeks ahead, to balance our social life and prevent waking up and wasting a day wondering what to do
And lest all of this seem boring, I applied this mindset most recently to completing the Monopoly Pub Crawl in order- 26 pubs over 13 hours. One definitely needs a system for that.
If I blogged more about any topic specifically, which ones would interest you?
[As for what doesn't work for me- anything linking tasks like 'I will do x then y then z'. One interruption to x means nothing gets achieved.]
Planning for a month. How detailed really? I would imagine that such a plan doesn't survive life. How do you cope with changes? I don't plan so much ahead now because other people influence my doings too much.
Always the keys, phone and wallet are in the same location. Take the same buses always so I remember the schedule. I store my stuff in the same location always. Shelves are organized, everything boxed and labeled. Plastic bags stacked by size and tied with rubber bands :) That's just being an organized person. Bookshelf has no particular order because it's acoustically better. Only the to-read -books are in one place in order of interest.
No need to decide in what order I eat stuff, I just put stuff in mouth :) Actually, rotating between the parts, trying to put meat and other stuff in each mouthful.
So far I haven't decided to wear the same clothes every day, or wear my stuff in any order. But this takes only a minute each day.
I'm also always in time. That means I usually wait for other people, I use that time to observe other people or read something on the phone. To work I almost never need to be on time but just come at my usual time +- delays in traffic.
Inbox, I answer stuff when I read it. Should mark some items as followup I guess.
Holidays are difficult to plan for me, never know when can take, should take, need to synchronize with other people, work etc. Besides it feels good to waste time on days off. That's when the brains come up with new ideas. Wasting a day typically means spending it on something that I then thought was most interesting, which is the right thing, yes? If I'm bursting to do something, I do it.
I guess for me the same that plan x -> y -> z doesn't work. Such processes are inflexible. It should be possible to do x, y and z in whatever order I feel like and all of them should be possible to finish in one go. Or not do at all. Now how to string a bigger project together ...?
Cooking part is interesting. What do you do with fresh foods or they are just no on the menu? We cook for 2-3 days at a time and it does take more time than to heat stuff up.
Many of your choices require commitment not only from you but from your family and friends. How does that go?
Then set a calendar reminder for the 10th of each month, to login and review this month's payments.
On the 10th, you login to your checking account. Review/adjust the pending autopayments; add anything else that has come in recently; and you're done for the month.
Wouldn't it be easier to just take a train then? :-)
I personally would have to drive a half hour to get to a train station, hardly a time saver. I live in Connecticut, one of the more densely populated states, which is even somewhat part of the NYC transit system. I can't imagine what it's like in other areas of the country. (My current job is the first time I actually would take the train if it was available to me).
Worth it? Don't think so.
Working remotely is often impossible because of security policies and also not the same in terms of presence.
What location are we talking about?
For a 10 minute commute today, I would have pitch in another 100K for living. My experience at the moment is working 5 years for same client/location on average.
P.S. If I move out I can reclaim some of that 100K, some go to tax, fluctuating prices, I don't calculate inconvenience of moving and stressful location etc. details.
Efficiency is not your friend when it comes to cognitive growth. In order to keep your brain making new connections and keeping them active, you need to keep moving on to another challenging activity as soon as you reach the point of mastery in the one you are engaging in. You want to be in a constant state of slight discomfort, struggling to barely achieve whatever it is you are trying to do, as Einstein alluded to in his quote. This keeps your brain on its toes, so to speak.
The proper role for your pre-frontal cortex is to decide what behavior you want to change, design the ritual you'll undertake, and then get out of the way. "It is a profoundly erroneous truism that we should cultivate the habit of thinking of what we are doing," the philosopher A.N. Whitehead explained back in 1911. "The precise opposite is the case. Civilization advances by extending the number of operations we can perform without thinking about them."
Different strategies for different goals.
Also, many of the things to automate-such as sorting email or paying bills-don't really improve your brain anyway. The getting smarter article points out that once you get good at something, doing more of it doesn't make you any smarter.
A good summary of current state of research is "A handbook of self-regulation", edited by Roy Baumeister, but it's definitely not an easy read. It's amazing though to find out exactly how far we've come in understanding these things - and it's also pretty exciting how recent most of it is.
There are more practical books out there, drawing from the same research. "The Procrastination Equation" by Piers Steel is the best I've found so far.
The conflation of the two leads to the state where you get things done with rituals so it frees up your mind to take up challenges that keeps your brain on it's toes.
The second one is what I do: Schedule challenges as a ritual. What I do is solve a projecteuler.net project every morning. Helps me stay sharp all day.
The third one is a bit meta: You can have a constant thought process going that examines your rituals and injects as much challenge as you can handle in the form of optimizations. This way you can keep improving your rituals, keep things interesting, and gradually free up more time for productivity. This is what I aspire to.
Following this is the trifecta of: exercise, eating well, and sleeping enough.
Sometimes it might be possible to combine commuting and exercising, but at the moment it's not worth it, since commuting and meditation, as well as commuting and reading, are possible with public transport.
One thing I can recommend is to get a cross-trainer or exercise bike and watch some interesting stuff while exercising. Recently I've been reviewing open courseware, Clojure webcasts etc. Saves time.
I would say working less for money is the single biggest thing people can do to be more productive, or to have more time.
moving closer to work has similar effects on your free time without cutting in to your free money.
but yeah, I agree. It's hard to have time to work on your stuff if you work 40 hours a week, especially if you need some family or social time. working part time helps a lot, if you can pull it off. Again, though, be mindful of the commute and reduce the number of days a week you work rather than reducing the number of hours a day you work.
But really, commuting is impossible to avoid if you work in consulting, where your customer changes from time to time. You can't expect to move as often. My work used to be only 10 minute walk away ...
Depends on house prices. I remember a study about those prices around London, and they found a nice relation between duration of commute vs house price. (I did some calculations, and assuming a reasonable hourly wage and interest rate (to convert the house price into a rent): each minute was bought at less than what you'd get for working that minute.)
07:15-08 Wakeup, shower and breakfast
09-19 At work, includes lunch and snack
20-20:30 Grocery shopping
23:30 To sleep (slightly late)
How does that work out for you?
8:30 Wakeup, shower, breakfast
9:00-9:50 Browse the net, email
9:50-10:00 Walk to work
18:00-20:00 Buy groceries, cook, eat, do dishes
20:00-21:30 Relax in some way. May include tv, movies, exercise. Sometimes extra hacking.
21:30-01:00 Hack (may include leftover work)
Three years ago I had exactly the same 10 minute walk to work and then I did have more time available. However have to consider that:
1) Consultant usually works at client's location and client may change often, though I'm a counter-example of that myself. Moving often is not worth it. I consider my current location pretty optimal. A more central location creates more stress and costs way too much. I would believe it's more effective to just decide to work less hours every week for reduced pay but I'm not yet strong enough to commit to it :)
2) I do not spend any time travelling to shop, to exercise location or to do fun stuff. My travel time maximum is 2 hours every day - the shops, bars, movies, etc. are along the same route and do not increase time spent travelling in a day at all.
3) Car would not improve the situation. In fact it would be slower due to traffic. Or I would have to leave at 06 from home, way too early. And the tradeoff of money to time is ridiculous with so few other uses for a car. And there's the maintenance.
Thanks for the example. Maybe somebody else can chime in too.
Now, I don't exercise but I spend 2x30 minutes bicycling to and from work.
2) grocery shopping every day? Order it online or do it once a week (or both) - another daily half hour gained.
3) daily exercise is laudable, but maybe you don't need a whole hour every day. Half hour after waking up should be more than enough - unless you're doing weight lifting for muscle gain, in which case you should only go 3 times a week.
That's a couple of hours a day recovered there.
4 x 10 might be nice to have a longer weekend. Have to think about it since now 5 days are mostly spent working, exercising, eating and sleeping :)
2) Well that was an example day. Instead of the shopping it might be cleaning, cooking or other housework that takes half an hour to an hour. I shop two or three times a week. I also don't cook every day but cook for two or three days at a time.
I don't own a car, bike or skis because the maintenance would take time :)
3) I keep a rest day once a week and on weekends I might do two kinds of exercise in a day. Still 6-7 times a week is fine counting the occasional extra walk back from shop. That totals it to 6-10 hours a week on physical activity.
I don't spend any time going to exercise since all the equipment is either at work (gym, pool), at home (cross-trainer, weights) or I go running.
I guess I should add long commutes to my list of productivity hacks.
In the winter I mostly slept/meditated in the bus but now I have enough energy to read. I found out that coding is practically impossible in the bus because of the sun.
I wish they listened.
In short: I agree with this article (originally proposed in THIS article/video http://www.fastcompany.com/video/why-change-is-so-hard-self-...)
I moved on from my job as a project manager a few years ago and spent a year dabbling here and dabbling there on different projects. Some open source and some not.
The majority of the time I was "working" I was mostly showering myself in self-imposed guilt: "Why aren't you a huge success by now? Why don't you have an awesome startup on HN yet? Why don't you go back to work for some company and stop wasting money? Why don't you grow all your hair back?"
I enjoyed the freedom of the year, but the guilt and self-doubt was getting to be exhausting. It shook my confidence a bit, but I think my optimism towards life in general helped shore-up that weakness a bit and kept me facing mostly forward instead of giving up and falling down on the ground for a good cry or turning sideways and taking up another position somewhere just to stop the self-loathing.
Somewhere around the middle and end of the first year I made some unintended-but-welcome changes in my thinking.
The first realization I had, due to an article I read somewhere, was: "Guilt is a USELESS emotion".
The article went on and on about it, backing up the claim. Long story short, it was right. It IS useless.
In a way, Guilt is the result of you not being willing to take a stand, make a decision and move on with your life. Guilt is a lot like sitting on a fence and complaining about how your bum hurts all day long, but refusing to get off the fence. And not life decisions... just ALL decisions.
I feel guilty because I haven't called my parents. I feel guilty because I haven't done yard work. I feel guilty because I need to change the oil in my car. I feel guilty because I haven't put any pants on today... etc. etc.
I began to realize that this unwillingness to get off the fence was the source of pain-via-guilt, not the actual decisions themselves.
For the next 6 months I learned to think things through until I hit a logical conclusion, then commit to a decision. Over-thinking was never a problem for me, but committing (I realized) was, so I worked on that.
Only after a few months of almost passive-attention to sticking to my commitments did I realize my life being noticeably easier. I had no idea why, but it just felt great...
That was when I first came across this concept presented by this article: will power is a limited resource.
As a software developer there are a litany of cliched things I berate myself about... gotta work more, gotta exercise more, gotta eat better.
But given my new outlook on life I decided "Enough!", I am going to make decisions and move on with my life. So far this year I have made decisions to work... and work and work and work. Yes lots of things have taken a back seat, but instead of being wishy-washy about it, I am leveraging the mass of my will power against my desire to work and not spending it on anything else.
That means I'm eating fast food and not exercising as much as I "should", but I'm done making half-decisions.
If I decide to eat better or exercise, I'm not going to spend all day thinking about it, I'll just go do it and get on with my life.
Since I learned those two things:
1. Commit to decisions / Ignore feeling of "guilt"
2. Will power is an exhaustible resource
Life has jus become fantastic.
I've gotten a hell of a lot more clarity on the things I want and I don't sit all day rolling my hands together because I want to work on X, but my business sense tells me "NO" so instead I have to pretend that I don't want to work on X and instead I'll go work on something else.
Forget that, it's my life, if I want to work on X, I'll work on X.
I like to get up in the morning now. I like what I do. I like what I work on and I like the people I meet doing it.
I have no idea what is in store for me, but sitting under a wet blanket, grinding your teeth from stress and sweating, trying to figure out a HN-worthy business and become the next-big-thing is bullshit.
Living your life; doing things you love and having success find you on your terms... it is intoxicating and so much more accessible than a lot of people realize.
DISCLAIMER: I wouldn't recommend trying this mental shift until you are ready for it. If you are a stress ball and a pure-rage-fountain, maybe wait until you've calmed down a bit before embarking on this journey.
If you are sick of feeling trapped by guilt and inaction and are ready for a change in scenery, give this a try.
Also, but "this" I mean simply accepting that will power is limited and learning to focus it on the things you truly want out of life instead of the things you tell yourself that you want.
TIP: Having a six-pack or a social-cloud-network-web-scale-synergy-Twitter-killer company may not ACTUALLY be what you want when you finally take the time to look inside yourself. Just be ready/willing to accept that. This can be really horrifying for people to face when they start looking inwards because they define themselves so heavily in (sometimes) false terms that the idea they had it wrong this whole time is... just too unsecure/scary/unsettling/open-ended.
Now I realize that if I don't receive satisfaction from doing something, there's not much reason in doing it. I chose the term satisfaction very carefully here because, for example, people sometimes say eating cookies makes them happy, but they will rarely say eating cookies gives them satisfaction, especially if it's part of an unhealthy lifestyle.
There is still an uncomfortable thought that lingers in mind that I just "gave up" and am trying to rationalize it and make excuses, but I also know that I am still fighting, and if defeating my opponent ever gives me the same elation as just being in the ring, I will be shooting for that goal again. Except at that time, it would be for real.
Some people have a need to lose.
I think both are important. Satisfaction is typically the result of accomplishment. Accomplishments give us confidence. Confidence (an amazing subject) gives us the strength to mold and shape our lives into things we want.
As an MMA'ist, you know better than probably anyone here the role that confidence has in a fight. If you are fighting someone new to the ring, you've probably had that sense where you can feel yourself dominating him before that first bell ever rings... and he probably feels it too.
I think Happiness plays an important role in exciting us out of bed in the morning; giving us a spring in our step and helping us chase things that eventually bring us satisfaction.
Happiness recharges our willpower (re: this article) and that helps us move forward towards things that bring us satisfaction and the circle feeds on itself.
My limited understanding of this, right now, is something like:
Happiness > Accomplishment > Satisfaction > Confidence (loop)
Without the little things in life that make you happy, you can still accomplish things, but you will eventually run out of gas or do it begrudgingly and the satisfaction won't come.
From what you describe, I wonder if that was what was going on. You continued to do things that you felt brought you satisfaction (fighting) and would time again get to the precipice of "Accomplishment" and stop, so the opponent would take the win and you would fall back a rung in the ladder and feel crappy and feed this cycle of self doubt.
Was the fighting making you happy or was that missing from the equation and you liked it for other reasons? (stress relief, toughness, etc)
This isn't at all as hard as MMA, but I do something identical to this with tennis. When I play regularly I'm pretty good; strong serve, good returns, fast balls, big topspin, etc.
The thing that frustrated me to the point of stopping playing tennis was that no matter HOW GOOD OR BAD the opponent I played was, I would always lose to them.
It was so obviously a mental handicap that it stunned me into a silent rage when I played.
I could play a 4.5 and hang in with them one day, getting to 3 sets and eventually losing. Then play a 3.0 the next day, go to 3 sets and lose to them.
I don't know if it was a lack of accomplishment on the court such that I could never push forward in the circle of confidence, but I realized it wasn't making me happy. So I stopped.
Much like you said, I always wonder if I just "gave up" -- but I really do subscribe to the "Guilt is bullshit" thought process, so I don't dwell on it. I just figure "Hey, if some day I decide to get back on the court, I'll do it. End of story."
If some day you decide Featherweight is all you want, you'll get back in that ring and do it and the whole will-he/won't-he back and forth in your head will be irrelevant because you will have made up your mind THIS is what you are doing and THIS is what is going to happen.
Sorry if that was preachy... the similarity between what you said an my own fumblings with sports was uncanny so I had a lot to say on the subject ;)
2 days made so far and it's not even noon :)
Originally I found the cow-cud-chewing article, and that sounded less spot on, but then I found the "mental rumination" link :)
Glad you enjoyed the read. It's something I deal with personally as well.
And the best advice on creating these rituals, or HABITS is Seifeld's "Don't break the chain", coupled with Pavlina's 30-day trials.
> I lost seven pounds in the first week, mostly from going to the bathroom as all the accumulated dairy mucus was cleansed from my bowels (now I know why cows need four stomachs to properly digest this stuff)
WTF? Does he think cows eat dairy? Or did I parse that wrong?
Just skimmed it, but in this study 60 students were given tasks and those who believed that willpower is a limited resource made more mistakes after doing a "willpower-draining" activity.
But I wonder if people who were already willpower-drained before taking this test would be more likely to report that willpower can be drained than well-rested students.
For what's worth, I remember the "magic number" for creating a habit is 60 days - and there's also good research on the stages one goes through when creating a habit and what's most likely to sabotage him/her at each stage. We really really need more "science in plain English" books about modern psychology.
But they are not those most likely to loose weight.
I was half expecting the advice to be: "the only way to achieve stuff is to give in to the less important cravings. That is, you get extremely fat eating cookies, but in exchange you finish your weekend project".
I also think willpower is learned just and takes time just like building muscles. It takes practice and doesn't follow a linear trajectory. There is also a personal aspect that each person must find on their own to help them keep going when the ability to maintain willpower becomes tough.
Whenever he feels the need to comment, he extracts the commented block into a new method and gives it a name that explains the purpose - instead of the comments.
The result is code cut into small self-explaining blocks that reads pretty much like a sentence.
I tried to follow it these last weeks and IMO it works great.
Instead of a comment - use a function name.
# Check too many lines. Count number of lines without a comment.
If I were to turn that into a function name I would either have one long ass function name or (more likely) I would cut out several words and lose a lot of readability and clarity.
I wonder if anyone has examples for or against of running such checks against your codebase? I can imagine some horror stories of how those tools would slow down all useful work. But some success stories? I guess I have to try on myself first :)
It's tied to Windows at the moment, but it's only ~70 loc so porting should be easy.
I don't think this implies our brains become more capable with more enhanced civilization. For example I can eat an apple without knowing how to plant and tend to apple trees because I live in a civilization where farmers and software developers can exchange services. I don't have a ritual that allows me to grow apples without thinking about it. The whole process of growing apples has been completely outsourced from my life.
So I doubt that creating lots of rituals will work out in the long run. Eventually they might overrun my schedule. And it takes energy to remember the rituals.
Example: Try to go to bed tonight without brushing your teeth.
Of course, if you can completely outsource a task, that is even better. But I guess you won't be able to outsource your workout, sanitariness, writing down of ideas, going to bed at the same time etc. any time soon.
Now, Whitehead's cite is another thing:
"It is a profoundly erroneous truism that we should cultivate the habit of thinking of what we are doing,[...] The precise opposite is the case. Civilization advances by extending the number of operations we can perform without thinking about them."
I find it much better for me to be mindful of the things I do. That does not mean I have to make new decisions all the time. It is a non-judgmental mindfulness, the practice of experiencing the present moment.
Good advice, though.
I follow many of the advices, they make, already and they work great but many others I keep struggling to make a ritual.
1) Morning Workout: Takes time, especially on days where I have to commute a lot. Sure, I can make a good 5 minute workout but if I have to leave a lot earlier than my usual sleep cycle I don't even want to take that time. I might even decide to only shower the night before and hence can't afford a real work out before jumping in my clothes. Also, I found that I'm often significantly more tired over the whole day when I do a hard morning workout. I have plenty of experience of this from my time in the military. Sure, I should probably do a lighter workout. But I rather have a real workout later than wasting time on some wishi-washi with Homeopathic weights. And real, strenght workout requires full concentration and an awake mind.
2) Sleep Cycle:
In winter, I usually succeed on this and I love the benefits. But now that the days are long its hard to enjoy a social life and still get up early. So I do get up early only when I have to and stay up late when its worth it. Not very healthy but a lot more fun.
3) Planing the day ahead: I would love to make it a ritual to decide the night before what is going to be the most important task tomorrow. Sometimes, I do, but tonight for instance I fail. I worked in "the zone" for hours, stopped at midnight. Now, instead of making that decision, write it down and then go to sleep, I'm procrastinating here for more than an hour. I guess, I'm afraid to take the step back to look at the whole task - which is huge for me - and get mentally destroyed by the weight of that challenge. Whereas, if just keep writing tomorrow where I stopped, I might not work on the most important thing, but at least I get something done.
Any thoughts or suggestions?
- "today my [morning priority] was this blog, then i gave me a reward to play tennis" and
- "always get 8hours of sleep"
- "exercise in the morning"
...if i can always get 8h of sleep, always "be with my kids", write blog posts all morning (after the work out) and still have some time to myself to play tennis... i wouldn't be reading about getting things done.
The main problem everyone i know have is to conciliate work, loved one(s), hobbies, 8hour sleep. all in a 24h day.
and the only way to solve it is give up on two each day.
In fact, I find that my body can handle significant variation to the 8 hour rule. Knowing this doesn't help my obsession.