How I'm So Productive
Head's up: This is a draft post. The first part is done, but the later parts are still just scratch notes.
I'm wary of authors who tell you they do X in order to be great at Y and all you have to do is the same thing to be great at it as well.
I'm also wary of the word "just" which gets used in those contexts a lot. Especailly with hyperbole thrown in. For example, I could have titled this post "Just Do These Three Things In Order To Be A Productivity Superstar". But, that's disingenuous at best. All I can really do is offer to tell you what works for me. Some of it might work for you too.
Getting Things Out Of The Way
First off, I don't have a job or kids. So, the time I have available to work on stuff is considerable.
But, I'd argue that I was still productive prior to leaving my gig. For example, my site has about 2,000 posts on it. Almost all of which were written when I still had a job.
As for the kids thing, I've seen how much time that can take and it's no joke. We'll get to that in a minute, but first I need to talk about words.
The Language In My Head
I'm a huge fan of language. Some folks argue it's what defines our reality. I don't know about that, but I know it's incredictly powerfull. Especially the langauge we use in our heads when thinking about stuff. I've spent a lot of time thinking about that self-talk and looking for ways to tweak it to help to do more of what I want to do.
My favorite example of that is "nervous" and "excited". The physical feeling in our bodies of nervousness and excitement is virtually the same. Depending on the context we label it one thing or the other. What's wild is that if you find yourself in a situation where your nervous but say to yourself, "I'm not nervious, I'm excited" that will start to become true. It takes some time and a bunch of tries to convince yourself, but after a while you'll default to thinking "I'm excited" instead of "I'm nervous".
And, an important point is that you're not convincing yourself of a lie. It's making it the truth.
It's tough to say how much this has meant to me, but it feels like a goddamn super power. Even better, once we know about it, it's a super-power we can practice to get better at.
Notice I don't call it "Free Time". I find free time a loaded term. I don't remember the last time I heard someone say that had much free time. I prefer "available time". I can "make time available" to work on stuff instead of "looking for free time" to do it. Looking for free time is waiting for the world to give you something. Making time avaialble is me taking charge.
So, I make it a point to make time for the things I want to work on.
Shitty First Drafts
I've got some other stuff I want to get into tonight so I'm going to take a few more notes, but not worry about finalizing stuff. This is inline with Anne Lamott's idea of Shitty First Drafts. The link to that is below.
The below stuff are notes to add into the post in the next draft.
practice - the subtle super-power
stephen king - on writing
growth mindset - using "I haven't been able to" instead of "I can't"
My Grimoire - Notes and notes and notes - not having to search, fast to make new ones. keeping
Notes - Keeping in the flow
Music - The barrier between my work and the world - looping a single song on repeat for hours. Seems weird, but I'm not concerned with what other folks think about my approach to work and what works for me
Bi-polar disorder - possible that I had practie doing things a lot and now that I'm medicated I still benefit from that practice. Put this in Getting it out of the way section at the top.
Language: It's not that "I don't care what people think" because that's not true. What I practice saying is "I'm not concerned with what others think" subtle, but it helps add a little padding between me and external criticism (real or imagined)
Answering "Why" with "I don't know, Why Not?" or "I don't know, I wanted to see what would happen." Any time a stranger has asked me "why are you doing that?" it's felt like an attack. When I recognized that I started using those terms to judo out of the way of it (even if they didn't explicity mean it as an attack)
Reducing Friction - The littlist thing can take me out of flow. I've spent a bunch of time reducing friction in the things I do to prevent that. Because it's not just kicking me out of a state of flow. Little frictions can prevent me from event stating something.
One example of this that comes to mind is putting my gym cloths in the car the night before I was going to work out the next day. When I was doing it in the morning, it was just one more thing to think about and sometimes I'd forget and there was always a little pressure about getting to the office. Putting them in the car the night before made all that go away.
Talk about the grimoire and how quickly you can make a note and post it.
Text files - not sure if this one will make the cut but I write all must stuff in plain-text files. Might roll this into the reducing friction
I don't spend time on productity sites, but I did and I picked up a lot of this stuff there. At one point I noticed I was spending more time looking at productivity stuff than doing much. I started to ween myself off them then. I realized no of those ideas mattered if I didn't _do__ anything. This is another version of "prefect is the enemy of the good".
Not knowing how much any of these things matter. But, they are the collection of mental and physical tools I use. I learned about them over time and experimented with them and others. Over time, I found a good set that's been working for me, but I'm always on the lookout for other ideas. I don't spend time on productivity sites any more, but I hear ideas ambiently.
Touch typing - The most impactful course I had in all my years of school was typing. I spent the majority of my time at a keyboard and being able to
VSCode/Neovim/Emacs/SublimeText - Not sure if it's worth getting into this but it may make a good platform to talk about how which tool you use dosn't matter at all compared to mastering the one you do use.
Scripting and Automation - getting the computer to do things is a super-power. Talk about quick scripts, making a collection of tools, and working on the command line.
Ship before you're ready - this helps me with some mental defence as well. If someone says "hey, that's busted", I'm like, "yeah, I haven't gotten to that yet". Still hurts a little, but with practice i've gotten better at it
I've heard about the power of changing the language in your head several times including from my therapist. I expect there are studies out there about it, but the best I can tell you is that it's had a huge impact on my life.
Sure there are sometimes when you're going to be legit nervous and not excited. But the change in language isn't about working at the extremes. It's about chaning the way we feel most of the time we encounter something that provokes the feeling
This was a great read for me in terms of helping me get started with things. Leaning into the idea that the first time I do a thing is gonna be crap makes it easier to start. It short-circuits my desire to make everything I do perfect.
It's also great because it helps setup a defence in my head against people criticising what I do. "Wow, that looks like shit, Alan" Me: "Yeah! Right! It's so bad. Gave me a bunch of ideas for the next one though"