I’ve spent most of the last 9 years as a software engineer–a computer programmer. Sometimes we speak of bloat-ware and scope creep. Bloat-ware is all of the junk that comes on your computer that you really didn’t want. Things you click on and then you’re invited to activate and pay for it. Scope creep is the fact that while working on a project everyone is learning and new ideas and functionality is added to the original scope. Before we know it we’ve added a little feature here (creep) and a little one there (creep) and it continues. Each one doesn’t amount to much on their own but we’re often blind to each one and add it in. Then we wonder why we’re missing the deadline or the budget for the project.
This happens in “real life” as well. I sat down this morning with a crisp list of items to do. Wow, just as I finished that sentence another distracting item popped into my head and I almost left to do it. Hold on—-I wrote it down. Thanks and sorry for the distraction. That went pretty well but the 1:15 before I started this article didn’t go quite as well. Here’s my list starting out this morning:
- Drink 2 glasses of water and eat some fruit.
- Read my email daily devotionals: My Daily Bread and Days of Praise.
- Do my reading plan in the Bible App.
- Read Job 21.
- Pray & Journal.
- Download the website for a partner prospect.
- Write this post.
I started off well. I got my fruit and drank my water and began reading my devotionals when I realized item number 6 would take quite a while. No problem, I initiated the download and returned to my stuff. I did my reading, did my writing, did my prayer and boom. Derailed! I dropped into my inbox to quickly delete stuff. Signed up for a webinar. Sent some emails to prospective partners for projects. Watched a short video about a software solution that might help me. Found another webinar that would be good. Rearranged some goals and entered some new ones into my goal keeper. And now I only have a little time left for my personal stuff before my commitment goes to my family for the day.
The almighty inbox was my downfall. I am detail oriented and have found it easy (after years of practice) to not read or answer the text or email right away just because they have the natural ability to seem urgent. That is key. Email is not important. People are.
Recently I began using the Pomodoro Technique (but not this morning). It is outstanding for productivity and for maintaining willpower and focus on outcomes. I work for 25 minutes, completely focused on the task at hand (usually coding or writing) and don’t look at do or respond to anything else. It can be important to have the correct environment set up for this like we discussed in habit formation and modification, we need to control the cues and triggers to stay on task. Then I get up and walk, talk, drink, use the restroom, maybe some short light exercise for 5 minutes. I repeat 4 sessions of this then take a longer 15-30 minute break. That is what I call my Pomodoro block: four working sessions and four breaks take about 2 hours. On a full day I’ll do two blocks then take an even longer lunch break followed by two or three blocks. I use Pomodone App to handle my timing and Todoist to handle my PRIORITIZED list. Both of those are great tools in the free version.
During my Pomodoro blocks I don’t check email or anything. I’ve even turned off the notifications for email. I am in control of my life. After one of the longer breaks but usually only at lunch time I’ll check my email and other distracting stuff–with a 15 minute timer set. When I get into the inbox, I use two principles: Inbox Zero and OHIO (only handle it once).Todoist plugs into gmail. I can quickly click a button in gmail and add the task to Todoist then dump it in my archive of emails and when I get to it in Todoist it easily opens the archived email and I can respond to it when it is the right time. Same with the browser plugins. I can easily add a page I’m looking at to come back to it later. This gives me an inbox size of zero and allows me to proiritize my efforts. I tried other listing programs in the past but none of them had the power of Todoist. I just love it. In fact they call me a Todoist Karma Expert I have 8485 karma points:
With Todoist Premium I get a few nice features (I get no commission if you decide to sign up–its just a good tool). The one i use the most is email to list. I can write an email and send it easily to one of my lists in the app. It also uses short codes to set deadlines and reminder information.
All this explanation and example of how easily I get distracted is intended to encourage you to evaluate your processes and see where you get lost. The biggest waste that I observe in my goals and goal setting is the “T” in the W.A.Y. S.M.A.R.T. Goal. Time bound. When I set a time bound goal that is more of a process goal, a step along the way type of goal, the task doesn’t get done until the time bound deadline arrives. I get so much done before my MasterMind group meeting each week because things were time bound to that date and time. I procrastinate all week and allow and accept distraction because I know they’ll get done. BUT WHY? I decided when I set the goals that they were the most important things. How do I let other things get ahead of the tasks I decided were #1?
This week I started grabbing those goals first and getting them done. In fact, I didn’t write this entire post on Sunday morning. I spread it out over a couple of days. The ultimate test will be if I start writing next weeks post tomorrow or even better later today. Before that I need to wrap up last Thursday’s MasterMind group goals immediately. You know what is going to happen next? GOALMENTUM! Yes, doing those goals now will start the momentum for the week. It will open up opportunities of time for more growth towards my biggest WHY and spending time with my family. So go ahead and tighten up the “T” on your goals and set a short timeline. You can do it! You’ll get it done! You’ll amaze yourself!
I just finished reading Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown (use the link if you’re interested in ordering something and it’ll help me out a bit). It filled my head with lots of ideas about simplifying life to the essentials: I need to go through my closet and get rid of a bunch of clothes that haven’t moved. The clothing thing is one of his ongoing examples because we can all identify with it. He takes that example and connects it to other areas of our lives and it makes it easier to see essentialism and its power in our lives. He explains what I’m trying to teach our children right now and what I could learn a little more deeply today: that saying “yes” is saying “no” to a bunch of other things. A bright and understandable clarification of opportunity cost from days gone by.
Here’s Your Challenge. . .should you decide to accept
- What activities, triggers, or cues derail your efforts to be productive?
- What is your biggest time suck?
- What W.A.Y. S.M.A.R.T. Goal are you working on now that you could shorten the “T” on?
- What is your biggest WHY? Your one thing?