DiscoverOK Productive
OK Productive

OK Productive

Author: Leo Dion and Erik Gillespie, productivity and kid wranglers

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a podcast of banter and being productive enough
36 Episodes
036. When to Quit

036. When to Quit


We're going to step away from the podcast, but the episodes, website, and social media accounts will remain.Reach out if you have questions or want to say hi, and thanks for listening!What led us to this decision... Well first, why did we start? We wanted to talk about things we're interested in We wanted practical tips, not the productivity trap We were feeling the courage to experiment What decisions made us want to stop? Growth was plateauing We did the exercises in Traction by Gabriel Wineberg Learned that growth would require more time and money We were already constrained by both We both want to focus on fewer initiatives in 2020 What we learned from the show Struggles that we learned from Fully understanding marketing Productivity is a diluted and saturated topic Importance of organization Balancing guests and topics The happy, fun, growing, learning side Over 5,000 downloads Documenting processes, scheduling, and content Leo’s growth Interview skills Organization Recruitment Self-reflection Erik’s growth Learning from guests and each other Improved image design that continues to be used in other projects Channeling nervous energy into talkative yip-yap Related episodes 001. A Sleepy Episode 009. Working On Your Own Episode 012. Saying No Episode 025. Productive Podcasting 031. Clear your Calendar! with Justin Jackson Big thanks to our listeners and these amazing contributors:❤️ Leah Fitch❤️ Jonathan Baillie Strong❤️ Will Gant❤️ Christian Genco❤️ Peta Sena❤️ Jessica D'Amico❤️ Tim Mitra❤️ Justin Jackson❤️ Allison Spooner❤️ Sophia Dagnon❤️ Laura Lopuch❤️ Julien Borrelli ★ Support this podcast on Patreon ★
Differences between 2018 and 2019 Erik fully embraced Notion for planning Leo switched from Todoist to a spreadsheet Mastermind meetings for group accountability Leo's Year in Review Improvements to health Successful speaking engagements A consistent schedule with podcasts Successful at writing output Audience improvements: +156.32% at Learning Swift +12.85% at BrightDigit +726.15% at LeoGDion Future Improvements include email, more video, and audience research Erik's Year in Review Came up with whole-year goals and broke down into quarterly, monthly, and weekly lists Also made weekly and monthly habits checklists About 20-30% of the anticipated objectives and habits changed over the year The habits that stuck were those that Erik had the most direct control, like stretching and diet The items that changed or were not met the most typically involved other people or deep research Erik's biggest regret: not enough "for-fun, but also is work" tasks Erik's biggest desire to change: more regular date nights Leo referred Erik to Derek Sivers' article: Stay in touch with hundreds of people What's being cut in 2020 Leo's stepping away from organizing meetups and local networking Erik is getting away from nonprofit administration, business social media management, and the status quo of local tech events We're stepping away from the podcast, too. More on that in the next episode! ★ Support this podcast on Patreon ★
Introduction Laura's first email tip: write so the recipient will imagine how their life could be How to discover a love of email as a paralegal Realizing skills, eight years later The benefits of setting weekly email goals Treat email correspondence as a journey Wait 2 to 3 business days before the first followup Two types of cold email: making a pitch and making a connection Anatomy of a Cold Email Where are people with your problem going to talk about their problem?   Explain why you chose the recipient over everyone else Start a close relationship with your contact and compliment them Prove a hypothesis, they should agree with each statement you make All of those small yesses lead toward a yes on the big ask Avoid exit language Avoid asking for more than one thing Tools Streak, CRM for Gmail Boomerang Crystal Knows Laura Lopuch online @waitingtoberead on Twitter How to double your conversion rate on cold outreach, a recap of Laura's talk at Microconf How to Optimize for Replies on Your Cold Emails on Laura’s blog I used cold emails to 14x my freelance copywriting business. Here’s how. on Copy Hackers ★ Support this podcast on Patreon ★
Getting your foot in the door Sophia's specialty and how she got there from archaeology How UpWork led to better pay in writing Dealing with the lack of comfort An approach to desiring income without being sleazy Making transactions mutually beneficial People don’t buy stuff, they buy solutions to problems How does your customer think about the solutions to their problems? How to ask the right questions to better understand your customer Improving pitches by trying different things How to reach your customers The platforms with the lowest barriers or are easiest to self-promote Copy Hackers (Joanna Web sp.?) Researching, writing a lot, and sharing content where it will be read Understanding your reader’s familiarity and how informed they are Knowing what it will take for a reader to take action (lots of specific tips here!) Focus on and measure one action that you want your readers to take Tips for getting started Low-risk and simple ways a person can practice self-promotion Reframe risk as an opportunity or something good for you Ways to manage the ever-present emotions that come when taking chances Are there books or other sources where people can learn more on the topic Follow Copy Hackers Read Drive by Daniel Pink Read Influence by Robert Cialdini Read Breakthrough Advertising by Eugene Schwartz Where to find Sophia Dagnon @SophiaDagnon on Twitter Sophia Dagnon on LinkedIn ★ Support this podcast on Patreon ★
Introductions NaNoWriMo and flash fiction Allison Spooner is the author of Flash in the Dark and The Problem with Humans Find Allison online at or @allyspoon Outsource your writing parameters Accountability through writing groups, events, and contests Benefits of deadlines, prompts, settings, and other writing constraints Outlining and other ways to complete a novel in small pieces Writing exercises and parameters that help you get better with practice Telling a story with Joseph Campbell's Hero's Journey Tips for writing when you need some structure Methods for practicing writing Look for random writing prompts online or in your physical environment Start small, like 500 words Go to writing events near you Try writing at different times and with different techniques to find what works best for you Donald Miller's 5 Writing Tips Make your customer the hero of your business' stories Write for fun, define writing success for you, and a little progress is still progress Scale up to make a novel One flash fiction story per day will help you reach your NaNoWriMo goal Come up with writing prompts for the whole month in advance ★ Support this podcast on Patreon ★
In this episode What does a "cleared" calendar look like? How can clearing the calendar improve one's productivity? Why you shouldn't fill up your calendar with work if you are self-employed A clear calendar is open to interruptions and stimulates creativity How to stay focused and avoid getting lost in free time How to be healthy active on social media An experiment that you can try at home or at the office How clearing the calendar can be used by employees at traditional or regimented offices How to observe the benefits of unstructured or free time Other ways to experiment with your calendar and free time Related links Justin’s talk on YouTube Justin is the co-founder of Learn more about Justin at Follow @mijustin on Twitter Justin (megajustin) livestreams on Twitch Books by Basecamp Shape Up by Ryan Singer 11 Reasons Why You Should Schedule Free Time For Yourself by Glenn Santos Related Episodes 003. Goals and Actions Episode 006. Top Disciplines Episode 009. Working On Your Own Episode 019. The Optimization Trap 020. Multitasking 021. Staying Organized with Idea Management 023. 3 Hat Productivity with Christian Genco 027. Productive Creativity with Pete Sena ★ Support this podcast on Patreon ★
Where to find Tim Mitra online @TimMitra on Twitter Host of the More Than Just Code Podcast and Spockcast Cohost of RoundaboutFM Author of How to Keep Learning After 50 Tim's SwiftTO talk about Neuroplasticity Neuroplasticity Why should we keep learning? Neuroplasticity in simple terms The advantage of learning in 45-minute spurts Compound learning: Short-term memories Long-term memories through repetition Micro-skill development (building functions in the brain) Breaks help move memories from one level to the next Use communication to reinforce learning Explain and seek confirmation The rubber ducking technique Using emoji to punctuate words with emotion What the ~ at the end of a Tweet or text means Applying learning concepts to unlearning The amygdala typically makes statements The neocortex typically asks questions Self-monitor and ask yourself questions to consciously replace habits Related links Brainjo's Breakthrough Banjo Course Dr. Lara Boyd's TEDx Talk about Neuroplasticity Because Internet: Understanding the New Rules of Language by Gretchen McCulloch Related episodesMultitasking ★ Support this podcast on Patreon ★
029. Public Speaking

029. Public Speaking


In this episode The value in public speaking for you and your audience How to understand your audience by researching the conference Different ways to organize a talk: story-telling, LEGO instructions, fireside chat, speed dating, and more How to handle interruptions and questions Following up with your audience after your talk Tips for promoting yourself and your work without giving a sales pitch Practice: it smooths out the wrinkles and lets your confidence shine Different ways to practice your talk before the big event Use simple slides, don't switch apps, use a clicker, more words, fewer pictures, use notes Observe your body language, tone, pace, and filler words How to turn your nervousness into confidence and excitement Get extra practice at Toastmasters, meetups, and lunch-and-learns, but remember to get feedback Figure out what to speak about by considering past conference topics, your own expertise, whatever excites you, and where you want to grow How to find speaking gigs and tips for getting accepted to speak Special thanks to Justin Jackson Kristen Belcher Mohammad Faani Olivia Liddell Patrick Masi Related episodesEvent Planning with Jessica D'Amico ★ Support this podcast on Patreon ★
Where we plan events Erik: Lansing Codes Leo: Lansing Marketing Hackers Jess: Peers Conference As self-employed folks, events are a great way to get feedback from others and learn new things. Part of productivity isn’t just about doing it all yourself, but also about reaching out to others and educating yourself.Getting started with event planning Organizing an event as a way to connect people that can help each other out Events have many benefits including establishing oneself in a community, educating others, reinforcing skills, developing new skills, and opportunities to travel Find speakers by paying attention to who's talking online and offer a way to accept proposals Find sponsors and volunteers by picking ambassadors who know an area well and are eager to ask others for help For a first event, start small, set reasonable goals, and keep logistics such as room size in mind As an event grows, try different things to keep things fresh and understand what the audience wants Some ways to get participants contributing: Ask "what are you working on?" Ask an audience about the challenges they face Host speed-dating style events Think about formats you've never used before Consider the power dynamics at your event Pick a venue that is physically accessible and easy to get to Reach a wider audience by repeating your message a lot, talk about what you're doing, help people be seen, offer discounts and free tickets to underrepresented people Twitter is a great place to practice talking to and helping others There will be challenges Start locally and keep it simple to avoid unnecessary challenges Make sure to cover the basic necessities like water and bathrooms Help everyone feel welcome Don't make the event a sales pitch Pay attention to the things that feel right Paying a venue to manage logistics can reduce the stress and planning you need to do, but can cost more and seem less authentic Have a few backup speakers or audience members who can wing a conversation Layout a logistics plan down to the minute Audiences are often sympathetic when challenges arise Write down the things you want to pay attention to and keep it in mind when reading tweets, considering proposals, etc. Make sure your profiles on social media direct people where you want them to get involved Have a Code of Conduct and be clear about it Train on important issues like how to remove a disruptor and what to do in a medical emergency You can’t have a plan for everything, but planning helps prepare for the unexpected things too Be selective about where you’re spending your time Emulate people you think are doing it well Useful tools Google Sheets for budget tracking TypeForm for forms and surveys Zapier for scheduling and automating communication Trello for task management Twitter Lists for reaching and connecting people TweetBot to more effectively navigate Twitter Buffer for scheduling social media Slack for coordinating with your team Where to find Jess Twitter: @justjessdc Peers Conference DC Women Who Code ★ Support this podcast on Patreon ★
Introduction Pete Sena (@petesena) is the founder, CEO, and CCO of Digital Surgeons, a design, branding, and digital marketing consultancy Pete explains his responsibilities as Chief Creative Officer The intersection of creativity and productivity Create / Produce vs. Creativity / Productivity The seesaw of effectiveness and efficiency Creativity is born from curiosity Productivity is how people are a pro at their craft Critical thinking is important for becoming great creatives Being "Creatively productive" "Creativity is just connecting things." -Steve Jobs "My powers are ordinary. Only my application brings me success." -Isaac Newton Understanding shortcuts Repetitive vs. Unique Managing creative duties and other responsibilities How productivity differs in a CEO and a CCO role “Labels are important but be careful how they define and limit you” Set a vision Remove obstacles Methods for giving all roles the attention they need Mitigating affronts to productivity in different roles Tips for managing creative people Stop managing creative people! Understand their motivations and enable them Servant leadership Daniel Pink’s Drive: three intrinsic motivators Problems that are unique to creative teams and their work Pete's advice for a new manager of a creative team Dividing work up in a creative team Find out why work is important to the team and client Translating the needs and wants of the client Look at team members, project requirements, brands, rules, etc. Logistical planning meetings for dividing tasks and ensuring consistent messaging Create concepts to review Find opportunities for people to collaborate Cultivating a creative skill Critical thinking is clearly listening to the intention of the person who is saying or writing something Design thinking exercises Combine uncommon things (three columns exercise) Idea discussion > brainstorming Keep using it. If you’re not, then the skill will diminish. Outside of work: make a vision board, mash sources from media (e.g. magazines) Improving a creative skill over lunch breaks Why do you want to start that creative thing? (5 why’s) If there are multiple answers, split them up and explore them Elon Musk's first-principles thinking Use existing tools, read, and watch others Micro progress and the power of getting started, a James Clear interview Make a game out of it Other ways someone can grow a creative skill The importance of motivation, inspiration, technique, gumption, and experience Knowing where to focus your energy when developing a skill Related links Digital Surgeons Warren Berger’s Three-Part Method for More Creativity on Farnam Street Pete Sena blogs about productivity on Medium Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott for better writing Write Dumb: Writing Better By Thinking Less by James Dowd Related episodes 017. Atomic Habits by James Clear - Part 1 018. Atomic Habits by James Clear - Part 2 ★ Support this podcast on Patreon ★
How to build momentum in your day First, have a good night of sleep (see episode 1) Erik drinks a high-calorie, low-sugar coffee shake (thanks, gallbladder) before doing anything else in the morning. Energy (calories) and caffeine work well to kickstart the day so long as they're not overdone What part of your day has the most momentum? (morning, afternoon, night) It may depend on what you'll be doing (see "Have a plan to follow" below). Identify which tasks you have planned and how they will affect your energy. If you have something planned that requires lots of prolonged focus, engage "no distractions" mode. If you have something planned that you have to split up (because of meetings or other interruptions) or it's something you don't have sustained energy for (making lots of phone calls), consider spreading the tasks out with pomodoros or other tasks. Avoid distractions when getting in the "flow" Use Do-Not-Disturb when you can. Otherwise, consider turning off notifications for non-critical functions like Slack, email, etc. so you can still receive phone calls. This is especially useful for parents! Even easier parenting trick: set your phone across the room so you can still take calls, but you won't see all the other distracting notifications Don’t check email — there are apps and extensions to help with this! Work on a task for 10-20 minutes to build some momentum If you need to focus, avoid working at places with lots of distractions or use other environment-design techniques to lower the impact of those distractions Changing your phone screen to greyscale doesn't work as well as one might think Screen Time on iOS is a great tool and if you have an iPhone you should try it! Is flow endurance a thing? Erik can code for longer periods of time than he can do correspondence, social media, graphics, etc. on most days. Is this due to building endurance for programming or is it more nuanced? Have a plan to follow The biggest challenge is not knowing what to do… Use your calendar for yourself to plan activities Erik’s weekly checklist marks the day of the week that certain tasks are due so he doesn't have to look at his calendar (which is yet another distraction!) Managing interruptions Managing unplanned time Exercise! Morning vs Afternoon Exercise and play spread throughout the day can help with creative tasks and learning. If you take breaks, get up and move around, play, walk, exercise, please! Seriously, there's science behind this: Related episodes Sleepy Episode Distractions Episode Christian Genco Episode ★ Support this podcast on Patreon ★
Introduction Leo recently presented and wrote about getting started with podcasting Leo's motivation for taking a holistic look at what it takes to create, publish, and promote a podcast The overall process Our overall publishing process, from brainstorming to recording, to promoting If you're considering starting a podcast, we recommend that you have two of audience, motivation, and purpose before moving forward Schedule and format What our recording schedule looks like and how regularly we record How we get ready to talk about something in the days before we record We get very specific about our format Here are the "before" notes for this episode Research what your audience wants to know, not just what you want to share Ideas for podcast structure: Answer the 5 Ws Share a chronological story Present a "thesis" Hardware, software, and doing things the hard way We use Skype to record online Erik uses Audacity and a gaming headset to record his audio Leo uses Garage Band and ATR-2100 (with this combo) What Leo learned by editing episodes himself prepared us for asking Julien Borrelli to edit for us Just Fucking Ship by Amy Hoy is a great book to help decide what's worth making yourself and what's worth asking someone else to prepare For album art, Erik takes pics with his iPhone 6s Plus, arranges in Canva, and merges into video clips with FFmpeg Here's an example of how we use FFmpeg to make video clips from an MP3 and photo: ffmpeg -r 1 -loop 1 -i 023.okproductive/images/instagram.png -i okproductive-23-quote1.mp3 -acodec copy -r 1 -shortest -vf scale=720:720 023.okproductive/clips/1-instagram.mp4 Publishing and promoting When everything’s edited and ready to go, here's what we do: Upload MP3 to transistor Fill in title, description, and clean up notes Use Buffer to queue up social media, one week at a time, saving all text in a Google Sheet Write down new or changed schedule and processes in a Google Doc What we do to announce a new episode, drum up interest, and share what we’re creating Let's do this again What Leo has learned by considering how we've changed since starting the podcast In another year, we'd expect to have better equipment and perhaps start putting more money into social media We'll definitely revisit our process in another year or two to see what's changed! ★ Support this podcast on Patreon ★
Introduction Any active desktop issues with Endgame? The unexpected is so memorable, even for simple things like going to the movies Sleep, habits, and apps How we've been sleeping What we've tried from Atomic Habits What we're using besides Google Inbox New parenting tips Erik’s year (so far) Health is going the best of all categories, it's where he has the most control How do you give your kid challenges without breaking down their self-esteem? Staying in touch with friends that live far away How to stay in touch with hundreds of people, according to Derek Sivers Leo's year (so far) Failed at Main Goal but very successful in others Trying to learn to delegate more Saying no to a lot, but saying yes when he can Struggling with the organization of tasks and delegation Ideas for future topics What are some topics we could dig a little deeper on or new topics we haven’t covered yet? Book reviews Small experiments (trying apps, habits, etc.) Small, actionable tips (2-minute episodes between the longer episodes) Managing emotions Productive advocacy Productive learning Send us ideas or ask for more at: Twitter Facebook Instagram ★ Support this podcast on Patreon ★
Introduction A little about Christian and how he first met Leo Mister Money Mustache, spending less Patrick McKenzie, inventor of Bingo Card Creator A day in the life of Christian Genco Prepopulate your task list, start with your most important task and include lots of easy wins Put healthy snacks, hard tasks, and what to do if tired or feeling overwhelmed in your task list Plan for spending time in the sun, meditating, journaling, and cooking Why 3 hats? Challenges that Christian faced in order to balance all of his responsibilities: Putting off difficult work Lots of distractions from new or exciting opportunities The constant questioning of priorities "You can take it seriously, give it the time, money and attention it deserves and build it into something real. But what you’re doing is not working, so either shut it down or double down." — Hiten Shah to Nathan Berry about ConvertKit What didn't work to solve these problems: External accountability didn't align with his personality Homegrown todo lists simply added more distractions Pomodoros didn't help understand why work was important or handle administrative tasks well No framework for breaking down tasks 3 Hat Productivity explained Separate work into 3 modes: CEO - picks the direction Manager - makes a list of tasks Worker - completes the tasks Use Things app to communicate between the three roles Before developing the 3 Hat system, Christian was mostly in Worker mode.  Clear tasks get higher priority than undefined tasks Do not change direction until the most important task is done or a 4-hour daily limit is encountered Dealing with distractions Don’t try to prevent distractions from happening — that would take an extraordinary amount of willpower Acknowledge distractions and use Things to send them away so you can intentionally revisit them later Review your list of distractions: CEO triages the list Review it every three days Group related tasks Remove the tasks that aren’t relevant anymore Keeping something in the list means you’re ruling every other possibility out, so don't hold back when trimming the list! The analogy of a donkey trapped between water and hay To keep the list from growing over time, separate the times when you have the idea, prioritize it, and do it Batching administrative tasks Admin tasks are anything that isn't part of your most important task Group tasks based on the nature of the work being done Buying things Tracking finances Contacting people Compiling statistics and metrics Research Reading long-form articles in digests Do all admin tasks on Saturday Bonus tips If you find Things to be expensive, try Fantastical Avoid introducing tools and tech into your process at first, they'll be distracting And a few more things for listeners to try 😉 Where to find Christian Christian Genco's personal website Fileinbox, Christian Genco's business Twitter: @cgenco Related links and apps Task Batching by Christian Genco 3 Hat Productivity blog ★ Support this podcast on Patreon ★
Introduction Will Gant is a co-host of the Complete Developer Podcast How Will and Leo met  Will's lightning talk at MicroConf What's in Will's journal Will's familial history of journaling Unknown stresses as the impetus to start journaling Will's original journal was a spreadsheet that covered anything happening during the day that bugged him, taking roughly 20 minutes per day to write Switching to monthly journaling helped Will focus on opportunities instead of the bad stuff and takes about 10 minutes to write Other ways Will's approach to journaling has changed over the years Journaling well after something happens helps separate the act from the emotional state Journaling is also a great way to track things that are tough to remember Will's is an advocate and regular user of float/sensory-deprivation tanks for meditation Bonus lifehack: Rethink your internal calendar to start each year on April 1st, after winter and taxes Keeping life organized with journaling How Will uses journaling and KanbanFlow to keep track of upcoming tasks Journaling can take many forms: a food diary, a workout journal, daily insights, monthly reflections, etc. Tips to start journaling Pick a time period (daily, weekly, etc.) Write only what you remember Make a note of the emotions that you remember as well Keep it simple and easy: use paper or a plain text file After writing a new entry, revisit a few past entries Keep each entry short Don't out-write your previous entry Write only for yourself, be blunt Effecting change with journaling Writing actions and (separately) your emotions is great for personal growth, especially for kids A food diary is an easy way to observe and adjust what's going in your body Write down repeating chores so you remember to do them and how to do them Keeping track of multi-step tasks is tough in simple journaling and to-do systems Nothing beats a text document when recording lots of details Recipes are some of the oldest types of journal entries Will Gant on the interwebs Complete Developer Podcast Twitter: @gantsoftsys Related links and apps Getting Started Journaling from the Complete Developer Podcast 9 Career Benefits of Journaling from the Complete Developer Podcast The 200th Episode of the Complete Developer Podcast Nozbe, an all-in-one to-do, project, and time management app KanbanFlow is a web-based lean project management tool Productivity in Tech blog by Jay Miller ★ Support this podcast on Patreon ★
Introduction A little about Jonathan Baillie Strong and how he met Leo Jonathan's best practices for attending a conference Jonathan's daily work Inbox management How Jonathan got interested in inbox management His general system for inbox management and how it relates to GTD How often Jonathan grooms his inbox The most obvious benefits to his inbox management approach Where does Jonathan put his ideas His system for keeping them organized How often you should revisit ideas and explore them more deeply How to consider which ideas are worth pursuing further, which should get tossed, and which need to sit for a while longer The One-Touch approach Basic concepts: Touch each email only once When you touch an email, do one of the following: Send it to your calendar Create a to-do task Make a note of the idea Put it in a Read It Later app Keeping email in your inbox is like looking at mail and putting it back in your mailbox How to decide where to send an idea Ideas to keep evolving your own idea management system Jonathan's app recommendations Things is a highly-streamlined, highly-recommended task manager Gestimer for daily reminders Numi is a beautiful calculator app Extensity is a Chrome extension for managing Chrome extensions Cisco Spark meeting notes, sadly discontinued on May 31, 2019 😭 Video speed controller is a Chrome extension for playing videos faster or slower Autohotkey is a great hotkey automation tool for Windows Keyboard Maestro is a hotkey automation tool for Macs Focusmate helps you focus by pairing you with virtual coworking partners FIP Radio for listening to chill French music online Snagit for better screenshots (bonus trivia: it's made in OK Productive's neighborhood!) for finding podcasts is a great, free podcast app More apps and related links Tropical MBA Podcast and in particular, this post about Standard Operating Procedures Work the System (Book) Process Street is great for managing workflows on a team ProcessKit has tons of business automation tools and makes it easy to create your own for mass-unsubscribing from email lists IFTTT to make apps talk to each other automatically and speed up mundane tasks Zapier to make apps talk to each other automatically and speed up mundane tasks Instapaper to save anything so you can read it offline How to Be More Productive with a Daily System for High Output by Nat Eliason The PARA Method: A Universal System for Organizing Digital Information by Tiago Forte One-Touch to Inbox Zero by Tiago Forte Where to find Jonathan Baillie Strong On Twitter: @jonbstrong At ComDev Media ★ Support this podcast on Patreon ★
020. Multitasking

020. Multitasking


First, some revelations: Apparently, Leo doesn't like cupcakes 🧁 12 habits that destroy your focus and productivity, by Jari Roomer Multitasking, defined Multitasking is trying to accomplish two or more tasks by quickly switching back and forth between them Multitasking is like juggling: you keep lots of things in motion for as long as possible, it looks like lots of work, but you’re not actually accomplishing anything except moving things around. You can get better at juggling, but you’re still just getting better at moving things around. Another analogy: texting while driving. This is the bad form of multitasking where you shift your attention rapidly between two tasks, each distracting from the other with potentially bad consequences. The good form of multitasking when driving: listening to an audiobook or music. We often conflate getting a lot done and doing lots of things at once. Queueing one background task while doing another is GOOD. Being distracted is BAD. Context switching, defined Context switching is the time, effort, process, etc. required to switch from one task to another. For people, this typically involves finding an acceptable stopping point for the current task, performing some steps to actually switch to the next task, and reframing one’s mind to think about the new task. It’s a computing term that is commonly applied to people trying to actively change from doing one thing to doing another. Also called “shifting gears.” It may seem like you're saving time, but you’re not. Those context switches aren’t accomplishing tasks, they’re taking up little bits (hopefully) of time that add up over the hours you work on two or more things. Multitasking and context switching train yourself to be busy. “Oh, let me just do this one quick thing” over and over again encourages taking on more work and doing things in an order that probably doesn’t match your priorities. Common triggers of multitasking Lots of open tabs encourage you to click links, read, or look for deprioritized work Leaving your email or calendar open are easy ways to distract oneself Notifications on your desktop or phone are just an older form of click bait Natural pauses or "downtime" create opportunities to switch to something else Any small distraction. Even a conversation nearby can completely pull your attention away from your work Staying focused is hard and takes practice, especially in this day and age of constant information overdose. Know your trigger and declare an alternative response Write down your triggers when they happen Write down what you want to do instead of multitasking Pin them to your work area to make them visible Some positive alternatives to multitasking: Take a drink of water Do some in-place stretches Look up from the computer and focus on something far away Take some slow, deep breaths Put on headphones Avoid these at all cost! DO NOT switch to another program or tab DO NOT pick up your phone or another device DO NOT talk to other people around you while you're focused on work DO NOT eavesdrop on other convos ★ Support this podcast on Patreon ★
One way to be ok at productivity is to avoid the premature optimization trap. Premature optimization is when you try to improve a process before knowing how to measure the results of the change. An idea to improve your productivity can sound really appealing and make you want to do it right away, but without knowing how effective the change will be, the impact could be minuscule and use up more (decision-making) effort than is worthwhile. Making lots of small or arbitrary, immeasurable changes to your productivity is not the same as making a few changes that have a big, measurable impact. How does one avoid the optimization trap? Recommendation #1: simplify! Reduce the number of changes you are actively trying to make. You probably have some semblance of a routine. Pick one thing to change and try it for a few weeks before assessing how well it worked. Recommendation #2: be scientific — in the simplest way possible! The scientific method is one of Erik's favorite systems humans have devised. Here's our simplified scientific method: collect data analyze it make a prediction test it repeat We reordered the steps to prioritize measuring results. Presented this way, the scientific method can be seen in lots of other processes, like in agile software development, experience design, and other human-centered, creative processes. This order also allows you to practically know when scientific optimization is worth pursuing:Measure first to see how much room there is for improvement before you try something! Example: Alarmy. The app first asks simple questions to identify an effective way to wake you up. By collecting this data first, the app can either turn on extra features or suggest that you don't need the app and are perhaps fixing the wrong problem. Example: Screen Time. This Apple app gathers social media and other app usages for a week and then provides a report of its analysis. The results are a quick and easy way to determine if you should avoid your phone and which apps consume most of your phone time. Recommendation #3: Take breaks. Resting and recharging are not wasted time! They help power you up to take on your next task with maximum effort and energy. Here are some simple ways to practice recharging: Take the scenic route home. Go for a short walk. Close your eyes and breathe (seriously, try this when stretching or exercising — be safe about it). Call it meditation if that helps you feel better about it. Our bodies need to recharge and they can’t do that if we treat downtime as lost productivity. Warning signs that you may have fallen in the optimization trap Beware of anything that saves you time so that you can work more Meal prep. services, delivered groceries, home cleaning or yard services, etc. If you use these services because you’re not hitting your work goals each day then you’re optimizing the wrong thing Improving productivity means producing more in less time, not producing more with more time Make sure the “optimization” you choose directly corresponds to producing more in less time Erik's example: uninstalling Facebook and using Buffer/News Feed Eradicator directly affected his productivity because he was getting sucked into reading his timeline at times when he was supposed to be producing social copy for work Start being sensitive to how you divide your attention while you’re working Avoid or schedule time-wasters at work (reading social media, commuting, texting/chatting, etc.) Focus on one thing at a time so you can also focus on being most productive at one thing at a time Practice making decisions quickly. Idling and deciding is also not the same as recharging. Some closing thoughts When it comes to productivity, avoid premature optimization. Know the potential impact of a change will be significant before you try it. Measure your productivity before you make changes to it. Otherwise, how do you know the change was even an improvement? Take Breaks. Your brain is a muscle and needs rest in order to grow. Optimize the systems you’re using to produce, not other parts of your life that will give you more time to produce. Mentioned in this episode MicroConf - a big conference for small, self-funded software companies Peers Conference - a conference where creative and technical professionals can share their experiences We’re Optimizing Ourselves to Death by Zander Nethercutt A Twitter thread where Christopher Hawkins offers ways Emma Wedekind might combat feeling like she has to always be "on" The Secret to Having Enough Time by Megan Holstein Related episodes Episode 10 - Dealing with Time Wasters Episode 5 - Making Quick Decisions ★ Support this podcast on Patreon ★
Motivation, Motion, and Action Be specific about your habits! From the book:People who make a specific plan for when and where they will perform a new habit are more likely to follow through. Too many people try to change their habits without these basic details.  Don't be a busy-body. Make sure your habits are moving you toward that ideal vision of yourself and your goals. Motivation and Environment In practice, being aware of your motivation at the times you need it is hard to do. It makes a lot more sense to identify your motivation and build a system around it so that you don’t have to remind yourself of your motivation. This is especially true when you are attempting to transform your identity to build better habits. We're fangs of the inversion of the steps to form a habit as ways to kick out bad habits. For example, the opposite of make it obvious is make it invisible. It’s worth using this approach to the extreme to break your worst habits: uninstall social media apps, hide the remote, throw away the sugary processed foods, and so on. Find, Fix, and Track Habits Yes, yes, yes: find alternative ways to reduce stress as opposed to trying to remove the stress. Align your approach with who you want to be to amplify the results of your habits. Remember that each step is small and leads to incremental change but over time they really add up. Erik really wants to go through the exercise of listing his habits and marking them bad, good, or neutral. It was hard not to do it while reading this book. Who’s with him? The Power of Sticking to a Habit When you are trying to form a habit, focus on making the habit easy to repeat instead of trying to be perfect at doing it. Repetition is more important than getting it right the first time. Preparation rarely reduces failure This reminds us of the melting ice example. You have to know that adding heat will eventually cause the ice to melt. You have to pick habits that eventually lead to results. Law of Least Effort Leo actually practices this example from the book:You are more likely to go to the gym if it is on your way to work because stopping doesn’t add much friction to your lifestyle. By comparison, if the gym is off the path of your normal commute—even by just a few blocks—now you’re going “out of your way” to get there. This works well for Erik in a lot of situations. The first that comes to mind is taking care of his body: home gym, body weight exercises, and stretching have been a lot easier to stick with than going to a gym or yoga studio. There are examples that don't fit the Law of Least Effort very well, like studying. Free time can be severely limited during the day and the times where studying may require the least effort may not be the best time to learn or dedicate time to the habit of studying. Sometimes if something is important, it’s worth extra effort. Not to mention that the effort can be reduced and simplified with environment design. In other words, this "Law" is not a hard and fast rule and the book does offer strategies for approaching exceptional situations. Using Extrinsic Motivation Hint: make the good stuff feel great right away and make the bad stuff feel bad. Linking extrinsic motivation (immediate reward) of a habit to the intrinsic motivation (your goal) makes a lot of sense! Love this quote from the book:It’s possible to train yourself to delay gratification but you have to work with the grain of human nature, not against it. Erik connects with identity-based habits so much in this book. He loves the idea of making avoidance habits visible and looking holistically at your identity to find the right ways to immediately reward yourself so that they don’t conflict with your other habits (e.g. choosing a massage instead of a big bowl of ice cream to align with your healthy lifestyle). An important lesson from this portion of the book: tracking habits is good, but it’s important to measure the right thing and apply all of the habit rules to measuring (make it obvious, easy, etc). Beware of vanity metrics and if a measure plateaus, pick a different one to keep you from stalling out on your habit. Drawbacks of Good Habits This part of the book is very humbling! Developing good habits won’t get you to mastery of a skill, it will only get you good enough (OK Productive approves this message). To keep getting better and to reach mastery you need dedicated practice and regular revising of your habits. Reflection and review make sure your habits continue to help you grow. Don’t cling to your identity and reframe your identity in ways that can be changed, because it can and will. Closing Thoughts Always be working at your habits! Track your habits over multiple time ranges. Track the day-to-day, aggregate and average them over time, too. We want all “self help” books to be like Atomic Habits: short, well-organized, easy to summarize, with cheat sheets, templates, and lots of actionable information, and loads of supplemental material that continues to release after your purchase and is given in formats that will always be yours. Erik reserves 5/5-star ratings for books with lasting sticking power. It's only a little while after reading, but Atomic Habits is one of those books that will be coming up time and time again in the future. Let's start using the concepts in the book and run some experiments in habit making and breaking! Related Episodes 001 - A Sleepy Episode: Erik’s approach to getting a good night’s rest and a great start to the day is a good example of habit stacking 003 - Goals and Actions: One point we make is to pursue goals in small, actionable ways 004 - Power of Habit Review: We read and review The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg 005 - Making Quick Decisions: The 5-Second Rule is strikingly similar to the 2-Minute Rule outlined in Atomic Habits 009 - Working On Your Own: Environment design is very important to getting the most out of your work day when you’re a freelancer/solopreneur 010 - Time Wasters: Another exercise in environment design focused on removing bad habits that waste your time 011 - Year in Review: Habits aren’t enough, you also have to stop occasionally and consciously look at and re-evaluate what you’re doing 014 - Project Breakdown: Our process of breaking a big project down into actionable and measurable pieces is really similar to breaking a big goal or identity shift into atomic habits 015 - The One Big Thing: Leo and Erik both use habit tracking, writing things down, and environment design as the biggest boosts to their productivity Related Links Streaks by Crunchy Bagel is a todo list that helps you build habitsMusic by Max Sergeev from Fugue ★ Support this podcast on Patreon ★
Overall Review Leo's take:I have read many self-help books. I have never found a book so condensed with information. This is a book I found with many takeaways and lessons. I can tell this is a book James had been working on as a series of blog posts, but had successfully made those blog posts into an actual book which each piece connected much better than the other.I compare this to Derek Sivers book on which felt much more disconnected. (It had great elements but there was as much cohesion as this book). This book is filled with so many lessons - many I practice without thinking (and I have talked about on the podcast) but this book explains them so clearly.Erik's take:This book is phenomenal and I agree with Leo: it’s very nutrient dense. The information is organized in a hierarchical way that makes the high-level process easy to remember and serve as reminders for all of the little details as well. I also greatly appreciate the vast amount of short, practical analogies and examples. The examples weren’t all relatable, but they were short enough that I didn’t feel alienated by them.The supplemental material offered with the book purchase is great, too. Cheat sheets, templates, Q&A, bonus chapters... I’ve never read a nonfiction book that got me so geeked to apply the lessons and use the extra tools. And while some of the concepts from the book tend to come more easily to me than what I see of some of my peers, I’m still eager to try the approach to both break a habit and adopt a new (good) one.Introduction Content warning: the introduction starts with a graphic description of bodily harm. If you may find this unsettling, skip the intro. It merely serves as a source of credibility and using the lessons described in the other chapters to overcome adversity.James captures you right off the bat (no pun intended) with a great anecdote about a serious injury and how he slowly recovered from it through habits.The Analogy of the Ice Cube  The overall thesis of the book is that small changes can compound themselves and how with time those small changes can lead to big outcomes. This idea is best illustrated through the financial concept of compound interest. The book also compares persistent atomic habits to melting ice: A one-degree shift, seemingly no different from the temperature increases before it, has unlocked a huge change. Complaining about not achieving success despite working hard is like complaining about an ice cube not melting when you heated it from twenty-five to thirty-one degrees. We like the analogy of melting ice. Sometimes change takes a long time. Sometimes change requires persistent effort. In both cases you either must trust that results will start to happen (i.e. don’t arbitrarily give up) or know at what point the scales will tip in your favor. Reshaping Your Identity  This chapter is where the book really hooked Erik. He looooooves the notion of Identity-based Habits, which is the idea of using your identity or reframing your identity to acquire better habits. For example, think “I am vegetarian” instead of “I want to eat less meat” to lock those habits in your mindset and transition to the person you really want to be. Something we wish was covered a bit more is that other people project their images of our identity onto us (a.k.a. peer pressure). It can be difficult to reframe something such as “I am a confident person” after years of nourishing an identity that we are anxious, shakeable, and easily give into peer pressure (as an example). The overall point here is to communicate to yourself and others that you are changing. Declare who you are and let the people who care about you know it too so they can better support your new habits. The Habit Loop  The stages of a habit, from the book: cue, craving,  response, reward The steps to develop a good habit, from the book:  make it obvious,  make it attractive,  make it easy,  make it satisfying Simple does not mean easy, and that’s where the book's templates, strategies, and examples become really useful. We like the big-picture thinking here: use habits to make your behavior automatic so you get lots of small rewards to keep you going and then you get the big, long-term intrinsically motivated pay-offs as well. Are Habits Boring?  Habits do not make life dull. They eliminate (or at least diminish) the arduous process of doing things we don't want to do. They also free our minds from thinking about things we don't want to do. In the long term, we learn to enjoy those things when they become automatic and we continue to reap the benefits of the habits. Comparing to Power of Habit Atomic Habits contains many personal short examples, analogies, and stories whereas The Power of Habit contains longer stories about newsworthy examples of habits at scale. We found Atomic Habits' stories much more relatable and reproducible. The stages of a habit in Atomic Habits involves four steps: cue, craving, response, reward. This is a longer list than the habit loop from The Power of Habit (cue, routine, reward), but we find Atomic Habits' list easier to remember, perhaps because of the double alliteration and parallels it draws with both making new habits and breaking bad habits. The Atomic Habits process of making new habits and breaking new habits seems much more concrete to us than those from The Power of Habit. The steps to form a good habit and the inversion of that same process to break a bad habit also seems much more simple! Related Episodes 001 - A Sleepy Episode: Erik’s approach to getting a good night’s rest and a great start to the day is a good example of habit stacking 003 - Goals and Actions: One point we make is to pursue goals in small, actionable ways 004 - Power of Habit Review: We read and review The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg 005 - Making Quick Decisions: The 5-Second Rule is strikingly similar to the 2-Minute Rule outlined in Atomic Habits 009 - Working On Your Own: Environment design is very important to getting the most out of your work day when you’re a freelancer/solopreneur 010 - Time Wasters: Another exercise in environment design focused on removing bad habits that waste your time 011 - Year in Review: Habits aren’t enough, you also have to stop occasionally and consciously look at and re-evaluate what you’re doing 014 - Project Breakdown: Our process of breaking a big project down into actionable and measurable pieces is really similar to breaking a big goal or identity shift into atomic habits 015 - The One Big Thing: Leo and Erik both use habit tracking, writing things down, and environment design as the biggest boosts to their productivity Related Links Streaks by Crunchy Bagel is a todo list that helps you build habitsMusic by Max Sergeev from Fugue ★ Support this podcast on Patreon ★
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