Friday, January 30, 2009

Fighting procrastination or Need of Focus

I started to write this post about a week ago. I needed to focus on writing about focus :)

So! It appeared so that the whole January I was unemployed and had a lot of free time for finishing my unfinished tasks, making new year resolutions, self reflection and everything in general.
Still, i haven't succeeded in completing all of the tasks that i have set for myself, productivity as well as satisfaction of how i spent the day was sadly low.

The saying that the more you have to do, the more you manage to do is sadly true for me.
Some years ago I used to study for Master's, had a full-time job + one part time (classes, teaching) + self-studying Italian. But now, when i don't have any assignment other than doing housework, I feel that i'm not doing anything valuable and i'm not even bringing my tasks to finish.
Since the beginning of January i started several things that i still didn't finalize. I left them undone and it's like a stone hanging from my neck.

Months ago i started to read the famous "Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity" by David Allen and tried to implement it, but I failed.
The basic concept of GTD is getting all those commitments, bits of information and must-dos out of your head and into a trusted system. I tried different tools for that but it didn't work. I couldn't get all that in one place and couldn't force myself checking that one information repository constantly.
In fact, GTD has got many fans and many people write about it, make applications for it. It's simple, seems easy but in fact, you're spending more time on collecting, organizing, planning than actually doing anything. You need to change a lot of your habits to adapt to GTD. So this method certainly has its weaknesses. The following article gives more opinions: What is wrong with GTD? In any case it's worth reading since personally for me, it helped to realize many things about productivity and planning.

Then i read a lot of posts that came across in my Reader, and learned a lot from them. For example:
Then i realized the main reason of the failure. The multitasking isn't always favorable. Especially when i have to write something, make something, i'm being badly distracted by gtalk conversations, email notifications, unread items in Google Reader, etc... I have read lots and lots of articles on productivity and getting things done and analyzing all the information i got, i made the most important conclusion: I need to FOCUS.

And here are my follow-up points:
  • Do a planning for 5 years (inspired by "What would you do with five years?") 
  • When writing tasks, write them in S.M.A.R.T. goals format *.
  • Be online only when it's necessary and there's time and wish to talk (gtalk, odnoklassniki, etc)
  • Connect to the internet only when it's necessary
  • When writing, reading or working on smth, leave only the windows and applications necessary for that. close all others.
  • Check the to-do lists in the morning and in the evening,
  • Check the email 4 times a day: morning, lunch, after work, before sleep.
  • Clean-up the Google Reader from time-killing useless feeds and leave only the ones that are necessary and are enough to read daily and setup time for reading feeds, morning for and before sleep, for example
  • Setup daily and weekly things to do that would include gym, reading, movies, etc...
  • When there's need for motivation and good mood, put on nice music on shuffle and sing aloud :)
  • Don't leave open tabs in FF or Chrome!
  • Define ONE place for writing tasks and plans. Here's a nice list of GTD tools.

* From AIESEC, among all other useful things i've learned, is the goal-setting and especially the S.M.A.R.T. goals, what a wonderful invention of humankind :) SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely.

And now i'm setting a SMART objective to plan the tasks i have written and set smart goals for all of them.
S: Write the goals in SMART format
M: All of the goals have timing and a detailed plan
A: It is achievable :)
R: Sure it is realistic
T: I put a deadline Sunday midnight.

If you would like to read further, i'd recommend following blogs:

    No comments: