Monday, January 05, 2009

Post Vacation Mondays are Rough

We're all dragging a little around here, having spent the last two weeks staying up late and sleeping in. For whatever reason, Mr. Geeky bounded out of bed and has been dealing with most of the usual morning routine for which I am extremely grateful.

Toward the end of the break, I started thinking about how I wanted to approach the new year in terms of "productivity." I had read this article in Wired where Chris Hardwick tries three different productivity systems. I had only read GTD (of course), but had toyed with buying the other two, so I was grateful to Hardwick for having read them for me. I gleaned a few good tidbits from his experience.

1. Don't check email in the morning. I had already decided not to check email in the morning. I used to check it, oh, about now, before I'd even finished coffee. This is a bad idea. Email contains stuff other people want you to do and when you're working for yourself, you should put your own work first. Yes, some of it will be responses to your own queries and from people you really want to hear from, but it will all still be there a couple of hours from now. I managed to not check email at all over the last week. This was hard at first, but got really easy later on.

2. Take breaks completely away from your work. Go for a walk in the park. Knit. For god's sake, get away from the computer! Hardwick actually did go for a walk and found it really did clear his head. I'm not sure he'll keep up with it, but it's something I definitely want to do. It will go nicely with my resolution to get outside more.

3. Think in terms of next actions. This is something I got from David Allen, of course, but Hardwick took this message to heart too. It is the one thing that I think is really useful in breaking down tasks. For example, one of my resolutions is to remodel a room in the house. Mr. Geeky and I would both like to work on the bathroom. The first thing we need to do is find potential contractors. So, I put on my list "Search Angie's List for Contractor for Bathroom." Simple. When I'm done with that, I'll put, "Call so-and-so for bathroom consult and estimate."

Although this didn't come from Hardwick, another approach I'm taking is to only focus on three things in any given day. I'm also going to constantly review my tasks and goals to make sure things are balanced. I think in the past I've always put too much on my plate because that's what most of these productivity plans encourage. Even the 4-day workweek book is about starting businesses and making enough money to hire people to do everything for you. The work may be frontloaded, but it's still a lot of work. Now I have an eye to keep my days as open as possible instead of trying to be "productive."