Last week, I came to an interesting realization, neatly wrapped up in this Facebook message:
Amidst my SATs, summer program applications, tutoring, tests, Student Congress work, and homework, I had, slowly but surely, become a workaholic. I have absolutely no idea how that happened, (*sarcasm) but everything’s calmed down a bit since then. As a precaution though (and because I’m curious), I’ve decided to try a couple of productivity experiments.
Inspired by this post by Cal Newport about using a “depth deck” to focus on long term projects.
The basic strategy is to write every step of a project on a separate index card, clip them together, and as you complete individual parts, record the date and remove the card from the deck.
Well, what if my entire life is a huge project and I used post it notes instead of index cards?
Fun fact: When I was in 6th grade, I collected used post-it notes from everyone in my grade to fold origami with. Yes, used post it notes. Yes, everyone. (We were learning how to use post-it notes to annotate at the time.)
I created some interesting pieces from the post it notes, but I still had ~100 post it notes that I never got around to folding. So I grabbed a felt tip pen, wrote everything I had to do on a separate post it note, and stuck the top one on my laptop. BOOM. INSTANT PRODUCTIVITY. (Just kidding.)
The main benefit I got from this was
finally finding a use for all these post it notes forcing myself to only work on one thing at a time. Whether I actually did what was on the post-it note was another matter, but I didn’t have any of those times where I get so sidetracked that I forgot what I was originally supposed to do.
1) Working in fullscreen. Something about physically seeing multiple tabs at the top of Chrome makes it way too tempting to Ctrl+Tab to another screen, hence distractions. Fullscreen takes care of that wonderfully.
2) Blocking my Facebook feed with AdBlock. Sometimes I end up spending an obscene amount of time scrolling through the same stories over and over on my feed. So I abused AdBlock and claimed that my entire newsfeed was an ad. Either I choose ads on all my other sites, or no NewsFeed. It’s usually a pretty clear victory. I’m not really sure how well this works, since messaging kills more of my time, but I like to think that it’s at least somewhat useful.
3) StayFocusd. I can easily exit full screen or pause AdBlock, but once I activate Nuclear Mode on StayFocusd, there’s no going back. At the time of writing, I currently have nuclear mode on for 2 hours. It’s wonderful and horrible at the same time.
The daily time limit doesn’t work for me. Nuclear mode is the way to go.
Do I actually want to be productive?
Do I find procrastination a virtue? Do I not feel productive unless I’m “working on” three things at once while having 10 tabs open? Is feeling productive more important than being productive?
There are times where I don’t mind wasting half of my night Faceboook messaging people because I have nothing better to do. But those nights are becoming fewer and fewer, and more often then not, I regret wasting all that time.
Yes, it’s going to be hard. Yes, it’s going to take a pretty significant mindshift and self-discipline. Yes, I may get hate from my friends for being “too productive.” But in the end, the truth is that I’ll be getting more done, and no one can take that away from me.