Productivity = The Management of Time, Attention, and Energy
Today, most of us have shifted to doing work that’s a lot more complex. It also requires a lot more creativity, focus, and mental energy. Our environment is more distracting than ever, so procrastination is easy and focus can be harder to come by. Due to this shift in the nature of our work and our environment, it has become vitally important that we pinpoint and manage the factors that affect our energy and attention in addition to our time.
Additionally, thinking of productivity as the product of time, energy, and attention can help you avoid the trap of believing that more hours worked = greater productivity – which can cause you to give up things like adequate sleep,exercise, and regular breaks in favor of working more.
The 6 Procrastination Triggers
A task is will be aversive if it is:
- Unstructured or Ambiguous
- Lacking in personal meaning
- Lacking in intrinsic rewards (such as being fun or rewarding)
The more triggers a task has, the more averse you’ll be towards it.
A boring task can be made more fun by going to location you like (maybe a coffee shop).
Likewise, a difficult, unstructured task can be improved when you break it into smaller, well-defined steps and place those steps in the proper order (see The Captain America Method). Once that’s done, you’ll know exactly what needs to be done next – and it’ll be a small, manageable sub-task.
Biological Prime Time
Since managing your energy levels is just as important as managing your time, it’s useful to know at what time of the days your energy levels are highest. If you know that, you can plan out your day’s tasks to ensure that the most challenging, brain-intensive work is during this period.
This is known as the biological prime time. Schedule your most challenging tasks during those times and relegate the rest to other timeslots.
Our Future Selves are Strangers
How many times have you agreed to too many commitments in the future, or procrastinated on a project, thinking you’d have time for it later? Most of us are guilty of these crimes against our future selves – and as it turns out, there’s a scientific reason for why we do it.
To put it in simple terms, we think of our future selves almost exactly the same way we think of strangers. We can’t feel the stress, pain, or weight of the problems strangers deal with, and we can’t feel the weight of those things for our future selves either. In fact, our brains perceive our future selves as more similar to strangers than to our present selves.
To counteract this fact, Chris used an app called AgingBooth to create an elderly-looking picture of himself. By looking at it, he says he’s less inclined to push work and extra commitments onto his future self. In the same vein, he occasionally writes letters to his future self as well using FutureMe.
The “Waiting For” List
The “waiting for” list is a place to keep track of anything that requires action from other people before you can complete it or continue working on it. This could include things like:
- Packages you’re waiting for
- Money people owe you
- Email replies you’re waiting on
By separating these items into their own list, you ensure they won’t fall through the cracks without letting them clutter up your more action-oriented task lists. It’s a good idea – just remember to check on it regularly!
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