Productivity 101 For Beginners

post by peter_hurford · 2014-11-05T23:04:46.263Z · score: 20 (31 votes) · LW · GW · Legacy · 34 comments

Contents

  Step One: Get some goals!
  Step Two: Track Your Time!
  Step Three: Timebox
  Step Four: Commit!
  Step Five: Keep Going!
  Step Six: Build!
None
34 comments

I'd like to believe that I'm pretty productive, and people seem interested in how I do it.  Previously, I had written "How I Am Productive"and it became one of my most popular essays of all time.

The real secret is that, in the past, I wasn't nearly as productive.  I struggled with procrastination, had issues completing assignments on time, and always felt like I never had enough time to do things.  But, starting in January 2013 and continuing for the past year and a half, I have slowly implemented several systems and habits in my life that, taken together, have made me productive.

I've learned productivity, and I want to try to teach it to others.

When I wrote "How I Am Productive", I kind of brain dumped everything that I knew in one place.  To do better, I should help people go one step at a time.  I also focused a lot on particulars of my situation -- to do better, I should be more general.  The aim of this -- Productivity 101 for Beginners -- is to try to make a general, step-by-step guide to increasing people's productivity.

...It's basically what I would do if I somehow had to start over.

-

Disclaimer: This is still advice based on what works for me.  I've attempted to validate it by trying it on a couple of other people and integrating feedback.  I've also tried to improve it based on what I've learned in the year between writing this and writing "How I Am Productive".  But your mileage still may vary, and I'm not a professional coach.

 

 

Step One: Get some goals!

...So here's my step-by-step guide to being productive.  ...Start on step one.  Focus on step one.  Do not move on from step one until you're done with step one.

Most people think productivity starts with "how", but I always find that it starts with "why".

Why do you want to be productive?

...If you could do more, what would you do?  Would you try to exercise?  Would you practice programming regularly?  Would you start writing?

Action point for this step: Carefully pick two goals -- two things that you want to accomplish that you're currently not doing.  Focus on them and how awesome it would be if you could get those things done!

Avoid this common mistake: Do not pick more than two goals.  Only focus on two to start small and simple.  You can add more goals later.

You can progress to the next step when you've picked two goals that you're excited about.  These are the reasons why you want to be productive.

 

 

Step Two: Track Your Time!

So you have your two goals now.  (If you don't have your two goals, go back to Step One.)  We now know why you want to be productive.

Now we have to make some time for your goals.  But in order to do that, we have to figure out where your time is currently going.

Action point for this step: Using paper and a pencil, Google Calendar, Toggl, or some other time tracker, map out roughly what you do on a given week.  If your week is atypical, wait until a more typical week.  If all your weeks are atypical, just track one and we'll work with it.

Avoid this common mistake: Don't stress out about timing.  You can do rough estimates (I started out with fifteen minute intervals, but half hour intervals are fine) and if you miss something, it's ok.  It might take a day of practice.  Remember to have your timer with you (carry your notebook, get Toggl's mobile app, etc.) so it's easier to track things.

You can progress to the next step when you have at least three days of usable timelogs, preferably a week of timelogs.

 

 

Step Three: Timebox

Now you have to figure out when you want to accomplish your goals.  Timeboxing refers to making a box of time in your calendar when you'll accomplish something.

Action point for this step: Look in your timelog to see if you have any time that you're not spending the way you want, and make that the time you do your goals.  When I started out, I found that I would read the internet aimlessly for two hours a day.  I cut that down to one hour and then used that free hour to exercise.

You might find that good times include right when you wake up, right before you go to sleep, after class, before work, after work, etc.  Lots of different times work for different people -- just find a time that works for you!

Avoid this common mistake: Don't cut out too much suboptimal time.  Breaks are important for rest!  Maybe you can set a timer (implicitly based on agreeing only to watch one TV episode, or an actual timer that rings), take a break for that amount, and then do what productive thing you want.  Remember how excited you are about doing it, and how bad you'll feel if you watch that second TV show!

You can progress to the next step when you have a concrete time in which you will accomplish both your goals.

 


Step Four: Commit!

We've long recognized that we can't get our goals done ourselves -- weakness of will is just too strong.  You need the power of a commitment device if you actually want to accomplish your goals in the long-run -- there is no other way.

Action point for this step: Bind both your goals to some sort of commitment device that works for you.  Go to the gym with a friend and don't let them let you cancel.  Sign up for Beeminder.  Sign up for HabitRPG.  Bet a friend.  Start making checkmarks for every day on track and don't let yourself break the streak.  Do more than one of these things.  Do whatever it takes to get yourself on track!

Avoid this common mistake: Don't use a commitment device that doesn't work for you.  If you'd lie to Beeminder, don't use it.  If you'd lie to a friend you bet, find some way to increase their oversight so that you can't lie.  You have to make your commitment device inescapable.

You can progress to the next step when you have a commitment device that has successfully made you stick to your two habits for five days in a row.  If your commitment device isn't working, get a new one.  If your time isn't working, choose a new time.  If you find yourself still failing, maybe your goal isn't important to you?  Focus on why you want to do this goal, or consider switching goals.

 

 

Step Five: Keep Going!

Don't stop now!  Keep your habit up!

Action point for this step: Continue to stick to your two goals.

Avoid this common mistake: Do not add more goals.  You must focus on your current two goals in order to make them stick.  It's worth it in the long run.

You can progress to the next step when you have stuck to your goal successfully for three weeks.

 

 

Step Six: Build!

Congrats on getting this far.  Now you're ready to add more goals as you see fit and dig into more advanced productivity advice.

Remember to keep things going slow.  Productivity is a marathon, not a sprint, and the same rules apply.  Minor setbacks don't matter if the long-run is an improvement.

You have reached the end of Productivity 101, but I'd be glad to help you further.  I'd love feedback on how it went for you.

...I'd also love feedback if one of the steps didn't work for you, so I can improve this guide for you or others.

34 comments

Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by [deleted] · 2014-11-06T20:08:33.764Z · score: 10 (10 votes) · LW · GW

Hi, What you have written is the standard approach to productivity. It could be right out of Steven Coveys "7 Habits of Highly Successful People" or any book on productivity. I am sure it's a great start and works for many people.

But I am wondering: How much of it is based on evidence and how much is just correlated with being productive? What of it does actually make you more productive and what only makes you feel more productive?

I think commitment is important since it exploits the psychological effect of loss aversion. Give a large amount of money to one of your friends and tell him to only give it back when you reached your goal. Losses motivate much more than gains. That sounds like good advice.

I don't know the evidence for the other suggestions, but here is a different approach:

  1. Come up with some good goals.
  2. Every Morning choose your 2-3 most important tasks and do them right away. Don't do anything else unless you made good progress on your goals. Then you can check your emails.
  3. Forget about time tracking, schedules, etc.

Here is an even simpler approach:

  1. Forget about goals. Make it a habit to do important stuff instead.

Does your approach work better than these two? Nobody knows.

We really need some good studies about all the contradicting productivity tips that are out there.

comment by peter_hurford · 2014-11-07T17:36:05.420Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Every Morning choose your 2-3 most important tasks and do them right away. Don't do anything else unless you made good progress on your goals. Then you can check your emails.

This is difficult for me to do because I go to work in the morning, and my most important tasks aren't always work related. I could try to wake up earlier, but this hasn't usually worked in the past.

Which leads me into...

Does your approach work better than these two? Nobody knows.

My best guess is that different methods work best for different people.

Though...

We really need some good studies about all the contradicting productivity tips that are out there.

That would be interesting, to get a good high-level view of different productivity workflows, see who they work for, and see if there are any common factors for the groups that gather around certain workflows.

-

Also relevant: Katja Grace on "personal experimentations"

comment by [deleted] · 2014-11-07T20:30:06.651Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I am also a big fan of self-experiments.

However, I actively avoid or give little consideration to other people's self-experiments, because I think that we intuitively give stories way more credit than they deserve (shameless plug for my blog). For the same reason I don't write about my own self-experiments. They may persuade some people, but even the smallest controlled study achieves much better evidence.

I think we better focus on empirical data or at least a good theory (like exploiting cognitive biases) instead.

However, nearly all productivity advice is anecdotal. My guess is that most of the tips work as a placebo or don't do anything at all.

Luke Muehlhauser wrote a great post on self-help in general. Maybe we can extend the section on productivity and look on which part of the advice is actually supported by evidence. Maybe we can also rank it by confidence.

Best regards.

comment by peter_hurford · 2014-11-07T22:04:01.158Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Sounds like a fun project to do some digging to produce a literature review. Is that something you'd be interested in doing? I'd definitely love to see the final product!

comment by [deleted] · 2014-11-08T13:39:35.465Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Sounds like a good idea.

It may take some time. I'll let you know once I am finished.

comment by peter_hurford · 2014-11-08T16:07:45.720Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Awesome. Let me know if there's anything I can do to support you -- if you want to talk methodology or anything, or if I'd just be a useful commitment device.

comment by ChristianKl · 2014-11-07T22:23:35.928Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Academic journals not only publish studies with multiple participants. From time to time they also publish case studies. Case studies are useful for understanding an intervention.

With productive advice it's likely that someone reads a "productivity tip" and then tries to implement it but does something different than intended. Stories help illustrate what we are actually talking about in a way that's easier to understand.

comment by [deleted] · 2014-11-08T13:37:25.528Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I agree that there is some value in stories. They are a tool to communicate the idea of more reliable information sources to a greater public.

The problem is that we trust stories based on their coherence and the coherence of a story has little to no correlation with its validity. Or: "Everyone can tell a great story, but a great story is not necessarily true".

The other problem is that we trust personal anecdotes way too much.

We say Ben Franklin/Steve Jobs/Warren Buffet does X and he is successful. Therefore, if I want to be successful I have to do X. That is a formal fallacy.

A better approach is to say "Millions of successful people do X, therefore I should do X". This is better than anecdotal evidence, but still only a correlation. May successful people buy expensive cars. Does buying an expensive car make you successful? Of course not. It's only the result of having more money.

The best kind of evidence comes from controlled studies. Set up a group with people that use time-tracking tools and one without. See who gets more stuff done. Try to have at least a 95% confidence level. Report that in a journal. Done.

Sorry if my explanation is overly long and obvious to many of you (I don't know, is it?).

comment by ChristianKl · 2014-11-08T14:44:36.380Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

What do you actually mean with "trust"?

Does the average person who reads a story about productivity tips automatically implement the tip because the trust it? Usually not. Usually people just read and then do nothing.

Don't underrate the effect of telling stories in a way that get people to change their behavior.

I think it's likely that my main challenges don't lie with having the right evidence about which productivity technique is best but with akrasia around implementing techniques.

comment by [deleted] · 2014-11-08T19:07:46.729Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

With trusting stories I meant something like "we assign them a higher probability to be true than they actually have".

Something along Kahneman's theory that we default to believe everything we hear. That disbelieving is harder (a System 2 activity).

But akrasia is also a good point! I agree that many people already have all the information they need and just need to take action.

comment by DeterminateJacobian · 2014-11-06T10:37:02.574Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I'd like to make the suggestion that one shouldn't begin productivity posts with statements about how the author is just so productive, especially if the aim is to help those who are struggling with being productive, and who have perhaps failed in the past. Statements like "I was not always productive before" are on the right track, but I would instead lead off with that narrative, and more fully develop it: Describe what it actually felt like to be unproductive. And then give the good reasons you found to begin anew, which may offer hope to people still struggling. The last thing you want to do is make the reader feel like they are in a different reference class than you, and begin to feel like your suggestions can't apply no matter how much effort they put in.

I get this post is meant to be an introduction for beginners who maybe are learning these concepts for the first time, and there's a difference between learning productivity and combating akrasia. I'd just like to suggest there's a much bigger inferential gap across the webs than with your friends you've tried this with personally, and so perhaps it would be helpful to write more narratively than prescriptively.

comment by John_Maxwell (John_Maxwell_IV) · 2014-11-06T10:12:52.850Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Thanks for writing this post, Peter! Out of curiosity, how did your actual productivity "takeoff" compare to the idealized one you present here? I have a hunch that there's a lot of randomness in whether people who work to improve their productivity end up "taking off" or not, and that the factors critical for "taking off" are not always the ones you think that are critical. (For example, this psychology research makes me a bit pessimistic that your Step 1 will work consistently for a broad range of people.)

Another interesting thing about productivity: even after training yourself to be productive, you're liable to fall prey to new tank syndrome and lose your good habits if you change your context (after graduating from college, moving to a new city, etc.) I've experienced this a couple of times.

comment by peter_hurford · 2014-11-06T14:40:26.036Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

how did your actual productivity "takeoff" compare to the idealized one you present here?

It was pretty similar to this here, except I took on way too many goals at once and spent way too long thinking that Beeminder was scary and not something that would benefit me.

-

I have a hunch that there's a lot of randomness in whether people who work to improve their productivity end up "taking off" or not

I'd be interested in hearing more about that.

-

even after training yourself to be productive, you're liable to fall prey to new tank syndrome and lose your good habits if you change your context (after graduating from college, moving to a new city, etc.)

I did transition from school to job without too much loss. I've found it usually takes me about three to four weeks to recover my habits in a context switch (e.g., school to internship, internship to school, school to job).

comment by John_Maxwell (John_Maxwell_IV) · 2014-11-06T18:52:14.427Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I'd be interested in hearing more about that.

Limited data suggests that the long-term success rate for any given productivity hack is low. CFAR recommends people try lots of techniques and see what sticks. But I think for most people, if the first few things they try all fail, they'll be discouraged and will be turned off of self-improvement for a while. On the other hand, if one of the first few things you try happens to succeed, you have the potential to build a success spiral (or at least get that critical encouragement to keep trying more techniques).

(If this all is true, it suggests you're best off starting with something that's easy and has a high priority of sticking, in order to get the self-improvement cycle started. For example, taking nootropics--it doesn't require any willpower, it seems to work reasonably well, and it's something you'll probably want to try eventually anyway.)

comment by shminux · 2014-11-06T18:06:53.764Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I usually fail out on step 2, time tracking. Apps don't seem to help at all, they are mostly annoyance and a drag on my limited willpower supply.

comment by Gunnar_Zarncke · 2014-11-06T23:22:01.120Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Was the same for me. As I'm a text person I started to write minimal time tracking in a text file with an absolute minimum format: date stamps and time stamps at any point. A parser for that is trivial: Advance a clock at the stamps. use consistent prefixes and you can sort by text. Add a running sum. Done. I have one window with the text file open at all time. It also contains the todo list right below the now point. No UI tool can beat that.

ADDED: Old comment about this: http://lesswrong.com/lw/iug/timelogging_programs_andor_spreadsheets/

comment by 27chaos · 2014-11-05T23:45:09.181Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I find that tips about productivity tend to drain what little productivity I have left unless they are written very efficiently. I think this post could be made much shorter, if you wanted to.

comment by John_Maxwell (John_Maxwell_IV) · 2014-11-06T10:05:40.189Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Given the propensity of LWers to be high-IQ effective altruists, I'm inclined to think that improving their human capital is a good use of time. (This is practically the premise of CFAR.) But yours is not the first comment I've read about how reading stuff on how to become more productive demoralizes you. It seems like we should solve this problem before spending a lot of time inventing and sharing productivity techniques. I'm guessing it has something to do with cognitive dissonance? Perhaps you've read productivity posts in the past and have never implemented the ideas in them, which causes cognitive dissonance. Or you visit LW when you're tired and you don't have the energy to work on self-improvement. Or reading a post on how to be productive makes you feel bad about your current level of productivity, which is demoralizing. Any other ideas?

If I was to write a post on personal effectiveness that was purely conceptual, with no action items, do you think you would find that to be draining? For example, if you read this post on "ugh fields", you don't need to put anything in to action in order to benefit... the post just gives you something interesting to notice in yourself, a concept that usefully stands on its own.

comment by 27chaos · 2014-11-06T16:05:51.266Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Perhaps you've read productivity posts in the past and have never implemented the ideas in them, which causes cognitive dissonance. Or you visit LW when you're tired and you don't have the energy to work on self-improvement. Or reading a post on how to be productive makes you feel bad about your current level of productivity, which is demoralizing.

A bit of all of this is in play, but the lengthiness of the essay is also a factor. If I'm reading an essay that is supposed to help me become productive, I want the essay to make bold definitive statements and get directly to its point. If the essay delays its message, reading it turns into procrastination. I prefer plans that motivate me to begin execution right away.

Here's how this essay might have been written instead:

I've written the popular How to be Productive post. But I haven't always been this capable. I struggled with productivity for years before finding a method that allowed me to achieve my goals. While How to be Productive is written for someone already highly capable, this post will serve as a step by step guide for those who are currently struggling, just as I once was.

Step 1: Get some goals!

Before you do anything else, you need to clarify your goals. Most people think that productivity is about "how", but I've found that it starts with "why". Don't move on to the other steps until this one is complete.

Choose two goals, no more and no less. Write them down. Then focus on these goals, imagining in detail what it would be like to achieve them.

Step Two: Track Your Time!

You won't be able to achieve your goals if you don't dedicate any time to them. In order to do this, you need to know where your time is currently going. Using paper and a pencil, Google Calendar, Toggl, or some other time tracker, map out roughly what you think you do on a given week. If your week is atypical, wait until a more typical week. Don't worry about making the record perfectly precise, just do the best you can.

Record your time spent on various activities for at least a week before moving on to Step 3.

Step Three: Timebox

Look at your time log, and notice where you're wasting time most often. Make plans to change your behavior so you can work more often on your goals. Don't cut out too much free time, as breaks are important to your psychological wellbeing and you'll work much less effectively without having some of them.

Step Four: Commit

Willpower is not necessarily sufficient for success. To change your behavior, you need to change your incentives. Make yourself accountable for failures to stick to your planned schedule. Go to the gym with a friend and don't let them let you cancel. Sign up for Beeminder. Sign up for HabitRPG. Bet a friend. Start making checkmarks for every day on track and don't let yourself break the streak. Do more than one of these things. Do whatever it takes to get yourself on track!

Your commitment mechanism needs to be inescapable. Don't choose a friend who's gullible enough to believe you if you lie. Don't make a bet if its amount is small change. Unless you're not planning to fail in this attempt at productivity, making your commitment device more reliable can only help you, so err on the side of increased and extra reliable penalties.

It may take you a while to find a commitment mechanism that works for you. Experiment with it if necessary. Once you've found a system that lets you work on your goals consistently for three weeks, you are sufficiently ready to add a new goal into your schedule. Don't try this before three weeks are up, lest you overwhelm your capabilities early. Congratulations! You're now a highly productive human being!

I think this post is easier to read. It has lost some aspects of the original's charm, but the original was focused too much on trying to be charming and not enough on trying to be motivating or succinct. I think the brevity could be retained even while recovering the charm if I were a more practiced writer or were willing to spend more time on this comment.

Now that it is all written out in front of me, I can see another reason for my irritation is that I'm already familiar with all of these ideas. My own impression of them is that only Step 4 is likely to help the typical person, and only Step 4 is likely to be unfamiliar to the typical reader. I would have preferred to see a post concentrating entirely on commitment mechanisms and the strengths and weaknesses of various approaches, rather than a post that says "commitment mechanisms are very important; figure it out on your own by experimenting".

comment by peter_hurford · 2014-11-07T17:37:27.409Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

The true shortest productivity post would be: "stop reading this and just do something".

comment by John_Maxwell (John_Maxwell_IV) · 2014-11-06T20:58:50.857Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Thanks!! I've got some more questions, would love it if you (or anyone else) would answer as many as you feel inclined to.

Any thoughts on the difficulty of reading posts like the Ugh Fields one? Would you say you dislike reading long posts in general, or just long posts about productivity? What about posts that aren't framed as being about productivity but nonetheless contain insights about how to be more productive? If I've got some kind of productivity insight, is it best framed as an insight about productivity or just a random interesting insight?

Also, if a post is actually going to ask you to take steps to be more productive, what's the best way to accomplish that? Is it better to have some kind of call-to-action at the end of the post giving the reader an easy way to take action now? Or is it better to just give the reader some actions they can take later when they're in a high-energy, motivated state? (Or just tell the reader to save the post and come back later when they're feeling high-energy and motivated?) What if the call-to-action is relatively easy, like, say, installing a Google Chrome extension that tries to help you waste less time on the internet in a relatively unobtrusive way?

More generally, if you (or anyone) looks as the posts that actually resulted in them trying things out to improve their productivity (regardless of whether those things worked or not... that's not the stage in the process that I'm trying to debug right now), what features did those posts have?

comment by 27chaos · 2014-11-07T00:56:27.158Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

This essay felt exploratory to me, as though it was trying to take a concept and introduce it to the reader in a very thorough way that would be fully understood. It went into a lot of detail and sometimes described the same idea in two or three different ways. I think this approach is better suited for providing an academic argument than for providing actionable advice.

The Ugh Fields post is attempting to introduce a new concept, whereas this post is attempting to provide a list of useful steps that the novice can follow. So an academic approach fits the Ugh Fields post better. That said, I feel like even that post would be improved if it were condensed.

I have a slight dislike for lengthy posts. But it's the efficiency or inefficiency of a post that concerns me most. A medium post with dozens of insights is better than a short post with none.

The best productivity post that comes to my mind is Humans Are Not Automatically Strategic. I also like some of PJEby's stuff. It's not clear to me why I like those so much more than anything else, but that's how it is.

comment by peter_hurford · 2014-11-07T17:39:43.564Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

This essay felt exploratory to me, as though it was trying to take a concept and introduce it to the reader in a very thorough way that would be fully understood. It went into a lot of detail and sometimes described the same idea in two or three different ways. I think this approach is better suited for providing an academic argument than for providing actionable advice.

Thanks, that's valuable feedback.

How do you think this post compares to my other one? Does that one frustrate you as well?

comment by 27chaos · 2014-11-07T23:55:15.088Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I like the intro to that. The four subdivisions were a smart idea, they helped make it easier to process quickly.

The "Organize" section felt a bit disorganized to me. It went into a lot of detail about emails, to do lists, and various zones. That was a lot of content to put in a mere subdivision, you might have been better off breaking it into its own post. If that option didn't seem like a good idea, you could at least have shortened the advice. Just guessing, it feels like half your word count went into this section, when it should have been closer to 1/6th based on your headers.

The "Do" section had a problem similar to this post's, though less egregious. You could probably have described the Pomodoro technique in one paragraph instead of several, or even just provided a link to Wikipedia or something like that.

The "Additional Tips" section was haphazard, though you probably already know that.

But don't let me discourage you. I liked and agreed with all of the content. A lot of my criticism here is nitpicky, I am trying to provide a lot of criticism in order to be as helpful as possible, but don't think that means I'm only seeing bad things. I liked the post a bunch despite these minor issues. Anything I failed to explicitly mention is probably something that I liked.

Also, I probably care more about word efficiency than the average reader because I did debate back in high school, and that places a premium on efficient communication because speeches are only a few minutes long.

comment by peter_hurford · 2014-11-08T16:16:25.454Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Thanks, I appreciate the feedback. :)

comment by peter_hurford · 2014-11-06T00:21:46.006Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

You could just read the headers. ;)

comment by tog · 2014-11-05T23:52:51.110Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW
comment by peter_hurford · 2014-11-06T14:23:30.838Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Blank comment?

comment by Pablo_Stafforini · 2014-11-07T05:57:43.578Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I think this post could be made much shorter, if you wanted to.

Maybe tog was illustrating the dangers of being too short.

comment by MarkusRamikin · 2014-11-06T07:40:32.228Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

"101 For Beginners" - Redundancy Man strikes!

comment by Jackercrack · 2014-11-21T22:52:37.293Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Thanks for the write up. I used these tips, and they've been effective for 5 days in a row so far which is great because I'm finally getting callbacks about job interviews now after putting off applying for so long and all my muscles hurt from working out. It was short enough that I couldn't do what I normally do and put off taking action till I'd finished reading the book/presentation/whatever. Ended up skipping step 2 due to having plenty of free time in the schedule, which probably doesn't apply to most employed people but hey, feedback.

I found it useful to set and write down a series of specific rules for myself to follow beforehand to prevent excessive weasling out of things. It seems that although I'm not above some motivated rules-lawyering I can stop myself from breaking the rules if I make them sufficiently bulletproof beforehand. For example, one rule was that if I was going to skip a time slot to do something else, I had to make time to get the work done before-hand in order to stop myself from infinitely putting it off and to prove that it was actually a thing important enough to me to re-schedule around and not just an attempt to get out of it.

All in all, very useful. I'll be reading your other posts on the subject.

comment by oge · 2014-11-07T02:46:22.394Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I noticed that the first link in the essay, "I'm pretty productive", is broken. What were you referencing there?

comment by peter_hurford · 2014-11-07T17:18:09.183Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Link fixed, sorry.

comment by Pablo_Stafforini · 2014-11-07T05:59:29.724Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Here's the link.