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Productivity & Work

The structured procrastination strategy

The biggest trick about email is that it gives you the feeling you’ve done something. Every time you open an email, your head lights up like a Christmas tree.

Can you imagine sitting outside your snail mail mailbox and opening it up twenty times a day? What a waste of time!

Running on the dopamine trail disrupts your productivity.

What you could do instead is structure your procrastination so you get other stuff done. The father of structured procrastination is Stanford professor John Perry, author of The Art of Procrastination. He writes:

All procrastinators put off things they have to do. Structured procrastination is the art of making this bad trait work for you. The key idea is that procrastinating does not mean doing absolutely nothing. Procrastinators seldom do absolutely nothing; they do marginally useful things, like gardening or sharpening pencils or making a diagram of how they will reorganize their files when they get around to it.

John Perry
The structured procrastination strategy

Repeat: Procrastination does not mean doing nothing

Don’t beat yourself up for avoiding things at the top of the list. Chew on them while you go to work on something else. It’s the overthinking and doing nothing that tears you apart.

Note that staying busy does not mean checking Facebook. Social networks and their variable rewards are even more addicting than email.

Keep in mind that you’ll have to put your ass in the chair and dance with the anxiety at some point. If you don’t do the work, you simply don’t care enough.

Procrastinators can be finishers. Until then, reframe procrastination by doing important smaller things.

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Life & Philosophy Productivity & Work Writing

The streak goes on

Writing can be a painful activity. The idea of thinking and starting from scratch every day frightens the muse.

But just as exercise, the trick is in getting started.

Knowing that we’re not always propelled by the underground voltage of curiosity and enthusiasm, we have to depend on a non-thinking routine.

Showing up to practice is what puts the bones in our words.

Swimming in impulses and doubt — remembering the possibility of revision helps tame the symphony of perfection.

Relaxed in process, mixing words into a jigsaw puzzle of sentences, we hold material and belief more firmly.

We finish another day, until the brain strains for another run tomorrow. Addicted to vocation, flush with anxiety, we numb all feelings with adamant flow.

The streak goes on.

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Productivity & Work Social Media Tech

One too many chips

Continuous partial attention makes it too easy to snack. Instead of waiting for the main meal, we fritter our hunger away on too many chips and salsa. We’re full before the entree.

Replace chips with social media, and you start to see the excess wear and tear we put on our bodies and minds. We can’t possibly consume all this information and still devour the main meal. It’s like eating all the popcorn before the movie starts.

Unless we plan on taking the food home with us or putting on some extra weight, we better slow down and refocus our attention on why we decided to eat out in the first place.

If you’re going to snack, do it in moderation, so you’ll still have plenty of room left over to absorb the good stuff.

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Life & Philosophy Productivity & Work Writing

Doing honest work

When it’s all said and done, your work’s satisfaction will depend on your level of completeness.

Should your efforts have skirted the task in any way, incompleteness may leave an indelible stain. Let the resistance win and it’ll sow you with regret the rest of your life.

Very few writers know what they are doing until they’ve done it.

Anne Lamott

It’s better to surround yourself with disciplinary practices to avoid laziness and to hinder the appetite for taking shortcuts.

Not to be overly obsessed but an achievement-hungry personality already makes one different than everyone else.

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Productivity & Work

Trust the routine

The writer, blogger, or boxer must always keep in training. The artist or athlete can’t wait for the muse to inject them with productivity serum.

Routine is much more compelling than inspiration, which is fickle, comes in flashes, and rarely sticks.

On the flipside of consistency, is also imperfection. The practician not only faces the resistance, they also face human error.

Showing up every day is one thing, doing it again regardless of the results is yet another habit to develop. All that you are is a result of what you have thought.

Error is human. You need some form of struggle to remind you what needs tweaking. However, when the going gets good, you’ll want to maintain it.

If you’re wondering how you’re going to do it all again tomorrow, build off the confidence of yesterday.

I’ll leave you with this advice from thought leader and psychologist Benjamin Hardy.

Get this clear: confidence is a direct reflection of past performance. Hence, yesterday is more important than today. Luckily, today is tomorrow’s yesterday. So, even if your confidence today isn’t optimal, your confidence tomorrow is still within your control.

Benjamin Hardy
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Life & Philosophy Productivity & Work

What unlocks you?

A good read, a daily meditation, journaling, a simple contemplation, a trip overseas—it’s the moments of rest and reflection that shape us.

Head down in the sand at the desk at work can be expansive but exhaustive. We need more activities that generate thinking without thinking (as showers do), unmoored from the depths of the laborious ritual. 

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

Make life new again

The challenge in making life feel new again is figuring how we can copy and combine the observations and artifacts we collect into something that feels original. 

We should lean more into our guidance—everyone knows what they need to do, as long as they are willing to embrace the pain.

Change is on the palette, a necessity no matter how subtle it presents itself. And sometimes it reveals itself only when we step away from the mind virus of excess engagement and overworking.

Tapping into the world around us requires that we simultaneously step away if only for a solid minute, to unlocks the true potential of one’s mind.

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Productivity & Work

The paradox of proximity

So close yet so far. It appears that the closer we are to something: the gym, the pool, a loved one even, we are less likely to invest our time with them.

We avoid what’s closest to us because proximity obviates the need for effort. When it’s too easy, we have a propensity to get stuck in inertia.

Our motivational sweet-spot lies somewhere between opportunity and effort.

Why do anything?

Procrastination is the purest form of idleness. Trading in long-term value for short-term convenience is a lazy compromise.

We shouldn’t need a crisis to wake us up out of our stupor.

We all inherent the same amount of time. Those who get off their ass and jump into the world with aliveness tend to do things that matter.

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Creativity Productivity & Work

Reexamining the Kiss Principle

“Keep it simple and stupid.” That was the acronym coined by aircraft engineer Clarence Johnson during the early 1930s. He proposed the “H” style tail for airplanes which helped stabilize flight.

Keeping it simple is always easier said than done. What may appear visually simple, took a deduction of complex details.

We don’t get to simplicity without amassing a pile of disparate parts first and then building shitty first drafts.

Complexity is often hidden within the design — such as the case with Apple products and apps like Instagram which appear simple on the outside but contain convoluted architecture and code on the inside.  

“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication,” said Leonardo da Vinci, who painted over pieces that didn’t meet expectations. Artists like Pablo Picasso and writers like Ernest Hemingway edited down their pieces, again and again, to reduce their craft into the most practicable and understood forms.

Erasing difficulties requires patience of experimentation. It takes both head and heart work to minimize the unnecessary while maximizing utility in powerfully simple ways.

With a bit more curiosity and execution, we can turn less into more.

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Creativity Productivity & Work

It’s never too late to do something incredible

Everything good takes time.

We have to get comfortable with the idea that the work worth doing almost always never comes to fruition immediately.

Our craft is also likely to be misunderstood for long periods. There will be periods of self-doubt and chapters of confusion, all signals that the muse wants us to keep going.

If we’re 100% certain about where we’re headed, then we need a little more nuance and complexity in our life.

Being vulnerable and taking on challenges fuel aliveness, preventing one from getting too satisfied with results.

As the Japanese artist Hokusai said:

“Until the age of 70, nothing I drew was worthy of notice. At 110, every dot and every stroke will be as though alive.”

Hokusai

If we work on something long enough, it should look just as simple and confounding as when we first found it.

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Life & Philosophy Productivity & Work

A wave of inspiration 

Waves come in all shapes and sizes, propelled by the energy of the wind. But they keep coming, in the rhythm of a ripple, breaking in the morning after the swell.

Inspiration comes and goes like a wave. If you only worked when you felt a spark, you might work fifty days out of the year.

But if you want to keep creating, you’ll need to grind out every day, motivated or not.

Gif of wave Photography by Ray Collins
Photography by Ray Collins

The consistency of waves

Waves show up on shores regardless of wind power. They do their work, rain or shine, ebbing and flowing with the sunlight, undulating up and down or side to side with the slightest of gusts.

Doing all your work at once will lead to a tidal wave of burnout. Instead, what you want to build up is a consistent motion.

You’ll be ill-prepared to ride the wave of opportunity if you rarely show up. Inspiration is fickle; hit the shores with commitment.