The things every high-achiever should know
We’ve all been there before. You have a paper to write and you fire up your word processor. After 15 minutes you somehow end up on StumbleUpon, Facebook, or your distraction of your choice. Next thing you know, an hour has passed. I noticed my productivity slowly dropping in the past few months and I was getting less done and taking more time to do it. I was fairly certain that it had to do with having access to the Internet in my room, since I spent almost all of my time doing work on my computer. But because I couldn’t quite place my finger on what it was that was distracting me, I decided to completely remove Internet access from my place of residence for 2 days to see if I would be more productive within that time period. I decided to remove everything for a day and then slowly add in one element at a time to see which triggered a drop in productivity.
The first day was the toughest simply because a lot of my productivity system is based online. I had to brush off the flash drive to move around files and print out my Google Calendar and RTM to-do list. Besides that set back, I noticed a big spike in my productivity. Because I could only check my e-mail in the library, I was handling e-mails a lot faster and more efficiently than normal. It was also worth noting that I did go through a bit of e-mail withdrawal, since I’m used to checking my e-mail roughly 20 times a day. Not being able to check my e-mail so frequently made me feel anxious. Interesting.
Day two was rough. I cheated by checking e-mail on my iPod Touch when I woke up. E-mail withdrawal got the best of me. By mid-day I realized that my normal productivity system was noticeably suffering, since I normally e-mail myself reminders to check later in the day and I also rely heavily on Google Calendar and my ability to make changes on the fly. So I allowed myself access to Google Calendar on my computer, but nothing else. This didn’t cause a drop in productivity. However, the second I allowed myself e-mail access in my usual fashion, in which I leave it up on my browser all day, my productivity dropped back down to the way it usually was. Aha.
After further analysis, I realized that the time I spent mulling over unimportant e-mails was tantamount to a form of procrastination that appears to be “productive” since I’m handling an e-mail. By only allowing myself to check my e-mail twice a day and using a countdown timer to allocate and keep track of how much time I’m spending checking e-mails, I’ve noticed that I’m able to get more done in the day with less distraction.
While Facebook, StumbleUpon, Twitter, etc. are obvious examples of distractions that should be avoided when you’re trying to accomplish something on the computer, e-mail is a tricky example of a potential time-waster in disguise. Periodically conducting an analysis of not just your productivity system, but also your diet and finances, is key to keeping you at peak performance.
Have you ever discovered a flaw or bottleneck in your productivity system? If so, how did you fix it?
I'm Jon Guerrera, a life hacker at heart, and the man behind the scenes here at Living For Improvement. This blog documents all of my successes, failures, experiments and lessons learned as I hack my way to happiness, fulfillment and success.
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Unlimited Drive is the result of four years of diligent research on what drives people to achieve great things. I always wondered how the most successful people in the world could reach such high levels of success and accomplishment. Well, I found the answer and wrote an ebook so I could pass it on to you (for free).
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