It never fails to amaze me: People get all hung up on very fine-tuned productivity techniques like GTD, but tend to completely forget about the basics. However, in terms of importance, the basics are where it’s at – they will provide you with much more bang for your buck than the most recent tips on lifehacker.com.
I have always naturally leaned towards perfectionism, for better or worse. No, let me modify this: I have always naturally leaned towards perfectionism and I honestly think that is a good thing. I rarely meet people whose standards are too unrealistically high, but I constantly meet people who do everything they do in a very sloppy manner. So hooray to being an anal stickler for details.
But: perfectionism can also function as an excuse, especially in the context of forming the right daily habits. Perfectionism as an excuse usually works out like this: person X decides on a certain project, i.e. losing weight. Instead of starting his or her diet right away, person X enters into a research phase first. That’s because person X is a self-labeled perfectionist—they are committed to this project now, and therefore want to come up with the best possible method to the problem.
New York always does the same thing to me: Almost by the hour, I discover new things, events and places that I want to try out here. I get so excited by the endless possibilities; I almost end up in a frenzy. The regular reader might object that I once said traveling can increase your productivity – well, not in the case of New York…
But where there is shadow, there is light. Time being a rare commodity in this city, it has brought an important but often overlooked idea back to the forefront of my mind: Utilizing the little breaks of your day. It sounds like your typical pop-psychology advice, but don’t disregard it because it seems too simple. All of us, every day, end up in situations where we are just forced to waste time because of external circumstances. You ride the subway to the Public Library. You wait for your friend who is running 15 minutes late. You have a doctor’s appointment, waiting for your turn. You stand in a really long line at Chipotle. The list is endless.
I have a feeling these posts are going to turn out shorter and shorter over the upcoming days… New York just keeps me busy, but in a very positive sense. I can’t stop marvelling and exploring, every time I visit here again.
So my titbit of productivity wisdom today is about the power of blogging. In the context of keeping up with my daily habits, I’d say blogging is really the one thing that makes all the difference. I’m certain I would have stopped following my strict habit regimen long ago, if it wasn’t for this blog.
If you are even remotely interested in personal development, you probably know the book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen Covey. It’s a modern self-help classic. With that being said, I really don’t like the book. It uses lots of wishy-washy words like “purpose,” “integrity,” “responsibility,” etc. that are just meant to make the reader feel important and pumped up while hardly conveying any real meaning. This vague, ambiguous text goes hand in hand with several references to how you have to be law-abiding proper Christian in order to be become more successful in life… Do I need to say more?
My best friend J recently decided to go on a low-information diet. He is normally the guy who checks several news sites every day, follows a bunch of podcasts, and rounds it out with some Facebook time. As he so eloquently puts it: He is very good at dicking around, hence the diet.
The term “low-information” diet was originally coined by Tim Ferriss in “The 4-Hour Workweek.” It refers to a conscious daily effort to NOT expose yourself to any kind of news or social media. I have my reservations about Tim Ferriss’ writing (too many quick fix promises are involved) but some of his ideas are spot on – and the low-information diet is among his best.
I’m always completely astonished by how much doing mental work resembles physically working out. It works exactly the same way. You stop doing your workouts for a while and when you start up again, you feel weak and won’t accomplish much at first. The same applies for any kind of intellectual work; if you take a break from it for too long, your mental muscles diminish.
I know it’s true because I went through the same thing. After graduating from college in literature and philosophy, I was in pretty good shape, so to speak. I was very used to sitting down for extended periods every day and getting a good chunk of complex reading and writing done. It felt normal and natural to me, as I had been doing it for many years up to that point. Then, as the logical extension of my academic training, I decided to start a martial arts academy for Mixed Martial Arts… Long story.
This blog is obviously a self-development blog. Many people despise that topic, as it smells of indecisive advice like “think positive” or “be grateful every day.” I can understand why people make fun of this – I can’t stand that kind of nonsense either.
The way I look at self-development though, the real thing I mean, is that you really have no choice in the matter. You are either winning or losing at it, notwithstanding a proclaimed interest in Oprah style self-help books or not. You are either losing weight and gaining muscle or you are getting fatter. You are either moving towards a point in your career that fulfills you or you are moving away from it. You are either getting more and more emotional rewards from your relationships or you get more pissed off by the day.
Self-development, i.e. your progress in key areas of your life, is ALWAYS happening, one way or the other. You simply can’t get away from it.
About a year ago, I read the book “The One Thing” by Gary Keller for the first time and immediately got the sense that it had been written specifially for me. It nails my single biggest problem which is my inability to focus on just one thing for an extended period of time, until you have fully mastered it and before you move onto the next thing.
There is a certain irony there. When I tell people that I have a very hard time prioritizing, they usually don’t believe me. On the contrary, they take me to be someone who focuses excessively, bordering on obsession.
Nothing could be further from the truth.