The good kind of procrastination

It’s a plan! One more article about how to be more productive and then I’ll really start the hard and important work.

By the time we count to nine (9) you will have a wide vision on the different – and many quite awkward – techniques that great people like elite violin players or Sherlock Holmes have discovered it keeps them ahead of the curve. Don’t rush to the finish of the article, keep a slow but steady pace of reading. It’s a scientifically proven way to embed the info into your long term memory.

Work smart, not hard

If you want to work hard and also be efficient, your will power is not enough. The science shows that most of us tend to postpone working on really important projects and choose to do the small and not important tasks instead. It is our brain that fears the commitment of long-term goals and our instinct of “abandoning the ship” when distress.

 

So, in order to be a master of productivity it’s important to start working and not procrastinate until the deadline. The more you postpone something, the more anxious you will be (Zeigarnik effect).

How elites work?

Thomas Edison slept three to four hours at night and he was thinking that sleeping is a waste of time. “People will not only do what they like to do — they over do it 100 per cent. Most people overeat 100 per cent, and oversleep 100 per cent, because they like it”, said Edison. Also Leonardo da Vinci was reputed to practice a polyphasic sleep schedule.

 

Bill Gates started using computer at 13 years and until he was 30 he had no time for personal life. “I never took a day off in my twenties. Not one. And I’m still fanatical, but now I’m a little less fanatical. I play tennis, I play bridge, I spend time with my family”, said Gates.

 

Steve Jobs used to get up at 6:oo AM in the morning and be in the office around 8 or 9 AM, even though he was a millionaire in his 20s.

 

“I worked really, really hard in my 20s too. Literally, you know, 7 days a week, a lot of hours every day. And it actually is a wonderful thing to do, because you can get a lot done. But you can’t do it forever, and you don’t want to do it forever, and you have to come up with ways of figuring out what the most important things are and working with other people even more.” Steve Jobs.

 

In real life it is hard to be productive and maintaining a high level of energy for a long period of time. Recent studies show that sleep actually boosts the production of brain support cells. Moreover, if you spend more than 4 hours per day sitting in the office, your chances of developing cancer, diabetes or heart problems increase. Nevertheless, if you work more that 60 hours per week, you’ll probably be depressed, so it’s better to be sleeping and creative than productive and over exhausted.

How to work efficient?

 

 

Malcolm Gladwell, in his book “Outliers: The Story of Success”, says in order to succeed you need at least 10.000 hours of work. Mozart needed 10 years of practice before producing popular work. So, if you want to achieve this kind of goal it is important to have a plan and stick to it and the discipline is the first rule to obey. The most elite violinists in the world generally follow a 90-minute work regime, with a 15-to 20-minute break afterwards. But before going on the work battlefield, write down your plan.

 

Create a habit and write things down, this way you will be able to achieve long time goals, just by doing the small steps first. Thomas Edison used to be obsessed with to do lists and also Leonardo Da Vinci and John Lennon. The secret is not to focus on the deadlines, on your rewards or punishments, but to work your way up step by step. You really can’t climb a mountain without taking a few steps.

 

On the other hand, if you hate writing a “do to list”, there might be an exit plan for you. Marc Andreessen, co-author of Mosaic and Netscape Communications Corporation, came up with the “Anti-Todo List”

 

“What you do is this: every time you do something — anything — useful during the day, write it down in your Anti-Todo List on the card (…) And then at the end of the day, … take a look at today’s card and its Anti-Todo list and marvel at all the things you actually got done that day.”

 

On the other hand, if you would ask Andreessen for an advice, as an young entrepreneur, take a look of this “to do list” (via Quora):

 

• Don’t keep a schedule

• Work on whatever is most important or most interesting

• Keep three and only three lists: a Todo List, a Watch List, and a Later List

• Each night before you go to bed, prepare a 3×5 index card with a short list of 3 to 5 things that you will do the next day

• Structured Procrastination

• Do email exactly twice a day

• Keep your email client shut and your email notifications turned off

• Don’t answer the phone

• Hide in an IPod

• Start the day with a real, sit-down breakfast

• Only agree to new commitments when both your head and your heart say yes

• Do something you love

 

Bonus tip: If writing does not work for you, try “the pomodoro technique” and use a timer to break down periods of work into 25-minute intervals.

How to be productive and creative?

 

Thomas Edison said that “genius is one percent inspiration, ninety-nine percent perspiration”. But is not all about perspiration. If you want to be productive and also creative at work, follow Steve Jobs’ advice and try to enrich your personal experiences.

 

“Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things. And the reason they were able to do that was that they’ve had more experiences or they have thought more about their experiences than other people. Unfortunately, that’s too rare a commodity. A lot of people in our industry haven’t had very diverse experiences. So they don’t have enough dots to connect, and they end up with very linear solutions without a broad perspective on the problem. The broader one’s understanding of the human experience, the better design we will have.”

 

Create rituals and follow them! Seth Godin, entrepreneurship guru, says that creative rituals are the one who straighten the creativity on the long run.

 

“Tactics are idiosyncratic. But strategies are universal, and there are a lot of talented folks who are not succeeding the way they want to because their strategies are broken. The strategy is simple, I think. The strategy is to have a practice, and what it means to have a practice is to regularly and reliably do the work in a habitual way. There are many ways you can signify to yourself that you are doing your practice. For example, some people wear a white lab coat or a particular pair of glasses, or always work in a specific place — in doing these things, they are professionalizing their art”, said Seth Godin.

 

Also train your brain, your memory and creativity by taking notes. You’ll have the memory of an elephant.

 

“They say an elephant never forgets. Well, you are not an elephant. Take notes, constantly. Save interesting thoughts, quotations, films, technologies…the medium doesn’t matter, so long as it inspires you. When you’re stumped, go to your notes like a wizard to his spellbook. Mash those thoughts together. Extend them in every direction until they meet.” Aaron Koblin, head of the Data Arts Team in Google’s Creative Lab.

 

Studies show that working deliberate, with strict deadlines will help you perform far better than if you work chaotic and play multi tasking. Think like Sherlock Holmes and be: selective, objective, inclusive, and engaged. “A man’s brain originally is like a little empty attic, and you have to stock it with such furniture as you choose.”

Motivation: Do not work for money!

 

If you work in a start-up and you love what you do, don’t dream of becoming millionaire. Change the world without thinking of money because that is not why you work to fulfill your dream.

 

“You should never start a company with the goal of getting rich. Your goal should be making something you believe in and making a company that will last.” was saying Steve Jobs, the one who worthed 100 million when he was only 25 years old.

 

Moreover, Mark Zuckerberg the world’s youngest billionaire said “We don’t build services to make money; we make money to build better services”, in February 2012 before Facebook went public.

 

Running a start-up in 2014? Not easy!

 

Bobby Voicu, co-fonder of MavenHut, a social gaming start-up, says he keeps on working 10-12 hours per day, except weekends “I came to office one or two hours before my colleagues. It’s the best time of the day to focuses on things. I also don’t respond to emails during these working hours”. Moreover, he added that before working for his own start-up he never used to wake up before 10.00, now 8 is the latest hour he wake up.

If you’re an young entrepreneur, take his advice “It is important to know your limit and to understand that is possible you will have to change your program (…) Pay attention to what your body is saying to you. If you go to the office 12 hours and work on maximum capacity only 4, the effort is misleading”

3 things you can do right away to boost your program

 

• Eat three meals per day. This seems to be working for all the humans since decades. Don’t take long breaks between meals because you’ll eat more and watch out your plate when eating, not your computer.

• Exercises! No matter how busy you think you are, reward yourself with few hours of active exercise per week. Tim Cook, the Apple CEO gets up at 4:30 AM in order to be in the gym at 5:00 AM. If he can do it, you can do it!

• Work from home. Recent research by Brown University (.pdf) shows that work performance increases by 13%.

In conclusion, master a work schedule, plan how you waste your energy and do one thing at the time. You will be more productive and able to maintain a high working memory, science says.

 

And…

That’s it! You’re done. End of the article. Wouldn’t be nice this would happen more often in life?

 

Design of numbers by Tata&Friends

Animation by Cuadra Post

 

 

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