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My Journey

Posts tagged Productivity
I Deleted Facebook From My Phone (Again!)

I’m a huge proponent and enforcer of working in a distraction-free environment, so in any conversation about the biggest distractions in today’s world, mentioning Facebook is inevitable.

I once deleted Facebook in an effort to escape the gravitational pull of social media, which I'd liken to the event horizon of a black hole. I also did other things like setting my phone to a 24-hour Do Not Disturb mode and cast it aside while working. This enormously boosted my attention span and productivity.

Lured into a position of complacency, I figured I had a lid on things and decided to loosen the reins a little bit. The ensuing decline in productivity went by unnoticed and unchecked. Do Not Disturb was out the door, though I’d keep my phone on silent, and various social applications made their way back onto my phone—including Facebook.

Of all the social applications I use, I’ve found Facebook to have the unique ability to consume attention unlike anything I’ve ever encountered. There was a time when I’d sit idly scrolling myself into oblivion. I was able to force it into remission and now it’s back. Other phenomena, that seem unrelated but have been illustrated to have some correlation even if not causation, such as anxiety and lack of focus, have also returned.

And so, this morning, I decided it was once again time for Facebook to go.

My shoulders already feel lighter. This time the calm is here to stay.

Productivity Hack: Turn Off All Notifications

I have become an avid listener of the Young Entrepreneur Lifestyle podcast.

Working my way through the episodes, a huge productivity recommendation by host Peter Voogd is to turn off all notifications on your phone.

On first hearing this, it sounds outlandish but, as is often said, “Don’t knock it ’til you try it,” so that I have done. If you’re anything like me, you’re probably thinking the following:

“But what about if XXX calls or texts me?"

“I need to know when my favorite blog (this blog for you reading) makes a new post.”

“What about my important emails?"

"And notifications from my favorite apps?”

I’ll go beyond hypotheticals to give some real-world examples:

  • I love watching broadcasts on Periscope about entrepreneurship, fitness, travel and anything else I might find interesting. I’d probably get at least 20 notifications an hour because there is no way (yet) to selectively opt-in to notifications for when specific people I’m following start to broadcast.
  • I get notifications from the Human activity tracking app to alert me when I’ve been inactive for too long and when I’ve reached activity goals throughout the day.
  • I’ve set up Twitter to notify me when certain accounts I’m following send out tweets. 9to5mac.com is one such example.
  • Reminders from the coach.me app.
  • Countless WhatsApp notifications from group conversations and other one-on-one chats.
  • Add to those email notifications for work and personal accounts.

The list is quite extensive but I think you’re seeing my point by now. We get all these notifications throughout the day, and the tendency is to give them our immediate attention, often in the fear of missing out on new information.

In work environments, where it might be frowned upon to use mobile devices during working hours, this may not be a problem, but when you’re working alone out of your home office, or working with a small team where you essentially make the rules, it’s necessary to mentally equip yourself with the right productivity framework.

The Hypothesis

In Episode #26 of the Young Entrepreneur Lifestyle podcast, Peter mentions resistance to distractions as his first productivity tip. He goes on to explain, very simply, what makes us desire and encourage these distractions: our addiction to new information.

New information is a good thing when it aids our personal growth; however, the majority of the information we are subjected to does not. The problem is that our brains are wired to crave new information and, when we get it, it feels good.

Exceptions

As you might expect, there must be some exceptions to the rule. Peter Voogd doesn’t mention this but I will because I think it’s more a realistic view.

For iPhone users, such as myself, there is the very convenient option of allowing incoming calls from particular groups of contacts when Do Not Disturb is enabled. Of course, adding all your contacts to your Favorites defeats the purpose, so only immediate family members and very, very close friends, who already know not to call me unless it’s really important, are included in in this group for me.

All other apps will obey the Do Not Disturb setting, however, so their notifications will be silenced without discrimination.

It is possible to selectively disable apps from delivering notifications in the "Notifications" section of the Settings app; however, I prefer the all-or-nothing approach of Do Not Disturb.

Results

Having run the experiment for a week so far, I think the hypothesis is correct. The results have been amazing in fact.

During that time, I’ve received only 2 phone calls—both of which were from my mother. I’ve communicated with my friends through all the various social channels—Whatsapp, Facebook, Twitter, etc.—but on my own time and certainly not during earmarked productive time.

I have to strongly agree this is the way it should be and I’m sorry it took so long to commit to it.

I’ve earned a real appreciation for detachment from constant pings and vibrations of distractions and the difference it makes to productivity.

Are you ready to squawk 7600?

Better Sleep, Better Mind, Better Body
Source: Harvard

Source: Harvard

For the 25 years of my life, I have prided myself on my “night-owlish” capabilities.

I loved the all-nighters, going to bed at 6AM, waking at 2 PM and doing it all over again. I was convinced my daily routine was optimized and scoffed at anyone who’d suggest otherwise.

The next part, I can’t quite explain but I’ll do my best and hope you understand.

A day comes in life when you open your eyes and, all of a sudden, the career, the relationship, the routine, the dream, or whatever it is that you had been so sure was right for you, is either no longer there or no longer good enough.

This is exactly what happened to me. One day I woke up and every fiber in my body said something needed to change, and that change is the way I sleep.

From that very night, I made the resolution to shut down anything I’m doing—work, TV, chatting—at 12:00 AM for bedtime. The only exception is if I’m out with friends, then I’ll spend the night out, but these late nights aren’t a regular occurrence.

Since then, my day looks like this:
- Wake up between 7AM-8AM
- Breakfast
- 2-3 hours work
- Afternoon workout (typically a 2 hour break which includes time to freshen up afterward)*
- Lunch*
- 3-4 hours work
- Dinner
- More work and/or leisure; usually involves reading, learning a new language, improving my coding skills or 1-2 hours TV time
- Bed at 12 AM

There isn't any scientific reasoning behind my choice to go to bed at 12 AM. In fact, the only reason I have is that, for me, I think it's a good cut-off point as it signifies the end of one day and the beginning of another. I relate this to life's opportunities. Each day is an opportunity, and anything I set out to do in that period should be done during that time. I use the beginning of each new day to reflect, then improve on any inefficiency and ineffectiveness of the previous one.

I never did fancy myself as a morning person and, oddly enough, I still don’t. I’m acutely aware of the paradox, but I'm more than satisfied with the results so far.

By having a consistent routine and by limiting activities to a particular timeframe within a day, rather than allowing my days to spill over into each other, I find it easier to manage tasks, stay on top of my schedule and, most importantly, get a better night’s rest.

Not only do I sleep better, I’m more alert and energized throughout the day. I’m more focused on my tasks and I’ve realized improved performance in my physical training and generally in my health.

If you’re struggling to stay on top of things in your life, the most important step could be as simple as getting better quality sleep. Don’t knock it ’till you try it.

If you do, I encourage you to share your results.

Until next time!

Productivity Hacking: "Is It Worth My Time?"

Maintaining focus can be tough.

I especially struggle to maintain focus when I work on my computer.

I’ve made attempts, where possible, to move to pen and paper, but as a developer, it's impossible to entirely shift away.

Very often I get distracted by my own thoughts, news articles, notifications, phone calls and all other imaginable intrusions when I'm in work mode. I'm also willing to admit that I delude myself with the idea that these things are really important and are worth my attention. When I eventually do get back to what I’m doing, I have to restart the entire process of getting back into a workflow.

I've searched for all kinds of tips online but they haven't quite worked for me (or I've applied them ineffectively).

This became my solution...

One day I got an idea to create an omnipresent reminder of where I need to direct my energy because, every so often, I find myself blankly staring at my screen. I went to canva.com to create the custom wallpaper you see above and I set it as my desktop background.

It was a quick and dirty job that achieved what I needed. This image encapsulates why I do what I do and why I need to keep it front and center of my attention.

Is the thing I’m doing or thinking about so important that I should be willing to dedicate time to it that distracts from my goals?

Rarely is the answer to this question yes, so I kick myself back into what I’m supposed to be doing. The more I’ve been doing this, the longer I’ve been staying in flow, and the less I’ve found myself being distracted.

This has worked for me and you’re welcome to try it. Better yet, find what works best for you. Take a moment to think about it.

If you have any suggestions for myself, or other readers, you’re more than welcome to pitch in through the comments section.