Conquer Yourself, Lesson 1: Beginning Steps to a Fully Productive Life
Here’s session 1 of Conquer Yourself, a blogging series on productivity and self-discipline I originally published back in March of 2010. Enjoy…
So What IS Productivity Anyway???
Productivity is the act of accomplishing results. We want to be “more productive” whenever we want to change something or create something that wasn’t there before, and “productivity” is everything that contributes towards that change or creation.
Eventually, we all hit a point where we realize that we can’t just manifest things with our thought. After the inspiration from a great movie dies down, the motivation from a great speaker wears out or the enthusiasm from a great new idea trickles away, if you’re like most of people, you found yourself not knowing what to do next (or why you can’t get yourself to do anything at all).
You might have poor habits that interfere (or completely contradict) your productivity, or you might not be able to differentiate between what’s productive and what’s not. You might spend a lot of energy towards a goal but at the end of the day, when you’re drained and exhausted, still feel like you haven’t gotten any closer to your major goals.
Productivity is the skill-set (and MIND-set) that puts all of this to an end.
The First Thing to Keep in Mind
“Besides the noble art of getting things done, there is the noble art of leaving things undone. The wisdom of life consists in the elimination of nonessentials…”
That’s a quote from Yin Lutang, a Chinese writer and inventor. Lutang not only translated tons of classical Chinese texts into English to make them more accessible to us all (The Importance of Understanding, The Importance of Living, etc.), but he also invented the first feasible typewriter system for the Chinese language.
What Lin’s saying is obvious: we accomplish little primarily by bogging ourselves down with tasks that aren’t important, so if you want to accomplish things with yourself, you’ll have to first identify the specific tasks that bring you closer to that end and eliminate the B.S.
I also want to remind you of the importance of taking responsibility for creating results – of switching from someone who is just “doing” tasks involved into someone who’s steering an entire project.
Just like taking responsibility for your life gives you a greater sense of personal power (as I talked about in an older facebook note), taking responsibility for a particular project (the thing you want to be productive about) encourages you to come up with more effective and creative ways to bring it to completion. Whenever you feel confused about a particular task, relax, zoom out to the forest level, remember the end result you want to create, and work from there.
How This Series Began
Even though I’m naturally a pretty focused person, I don’t consider myself a productivity expert. This series actually began with me doing research on how I could be more productive myself: how I can get more writing done, develop the website more efficiently then I’ve been doing so far, etc. and in the process of doing this research, I found that good information is hard to find.
For instance, I remember watching this one video online called “The 2 Secrets to Greater Productivity“, or “The 2 Essential Keys to Self-Control” or something like that, and the guy giving the presentation just looked like somebody you couldn’t trust (cheap suit with the slick hairstyle, etc.).
He had these corny, hand drawn diagrams that he would hold up in front of the camera and he took forever to get to the two keys, which were:
1) congruence of word and action
2) buy my system
It’s really wan’t THAT bad, but it was mad funny lol :) – I just had to find it to show you:
So I’m like, “WTF??? C’mon man – you gotta be kidding me,” and decided to do the research myself, take the best parts and put something fresh together for people with the same concern to build on.
Also, the other day I came across this website where the blogger said:
“Y’know, one of the major keys to being productive is to just do what you need to do. For instance, a lot of people have programs they want to start and the main reason they don’t get it done or that not it’s successful is because they never sit themselves down to finish doing it…”
My first thought: “Look fam…if it was really that simple I probably wouldn’t be on your website looking for information in the first place.”
There’s definitely more to it then forcing yourself to the task, because not only is that difficult and unpleasant, it’s also impossible to maintain. You won’t maintain that for the long term simply because it’s difficult and unpleasant: it’ll feel unnatural, and you’ll actually end up subconsciously associating pain with the tasks you need to do to succeed.
One Last Thing
“You’re future can either be an extension of your past, or it can be something new that you create. Tomorrow can either be a replay of everything you’ve been doing up to now, or it can be the day where everything changes…” ~ Eben Pagan
So let’s get started…the first step is going to be the easiest of them all: just keep doing whatever you’ve been doing for a few more days, but keep a measurement of your activities.
Instead of trying to force yourself to make changes right away, just focus on getting a better understanding of productivity, procrastination and time-management FIRST (as these posts will help you to do), while using the form below to collecting a pool of objective, raw data for you to experiment with later on with that stronger framework.
The form is called “Clock Movements,” because that’s exactly what you’ll be doing, and you can download it either as an adobe acrobat PDF file or an excel template (if you need to make any adjustments, if you’d rather type it out then print it or whatever).
Later on, we’ll use a template that focuses strictly on procrastination habits themselves. More coming soon…