Posts tagged ‘productivity’

April 22, 2015

#91) A kiss before email

We’ve all heard it before, or at least some version of it: “Don’t check your email the first thing in the morning.” Logically, we know we shouldn’t; that it sets us up for a day of distractions, but like eating in front of the TV, texting while driving, joining parenting debates on Facebook and watching “The Voice” it’s something that we do anyways. I’ve found that forcing myself to stay away from my phone is a cure that can be often as bad as the disease; what’s the point in vowing not to look until a certain hour if you spend the last few minutes before that hour watching the clock? (My poison isn’t so much email as  blog readership stats and stock photo downloads but the principle is the same.) Thus, I’ve made a deal with myself. Before I do any of the above I kiss my wife. It’s my way of acknowledging that while resisting the allure of information may be futile, I also happen to be married to a human being, not to a collection of photos, blogs or Instagram followers. That is my contribution to the debate about how early one should look at their phone.

Not everyone reading this, I realize, has a wife, a husband or a significant other. If this is you, find some ritual for yourself that takes priority over your phone. Do a Tai Chi form. Knock out a kakuro (but do it with pencil and paper, don’t cheat by using an app). Get the neighbor kid to change your pass code by promising him to pay him to change it back. Get really drunk the night before, hide your phone somewhere and try to find it in the morning. One could argue that even self-love is no less productive than sifting through a night’s worth of spam (wait, a former Army contractor discovered an abandoned metal trunk box at LAX holding an undisclosed sum of money that was supposed to be delivered to me and now he needs my name, phone number, email and mailing address? This changes everything!)

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January 16, 2012

#36) Putting the Pro in Procrastination

Everyone knows what the worst thing about procrastination is*, but could it be that this time-honored tradition actually has its benefits?  Lately I’ve been finding that it just might.

“Being busy is a form of mental laziness – lazy thinking and indiscriminate action.” –Tim Ferriss

When I first heard this idea, I wasn’t ready for it.  But looking back on that time of my life I now see I was keeping busy with small details that really didn’t matter, while missing the big picture.   I was focusing on procedures, not results; not unlike the characters of the film “Office Space.”  Procrastination can actually be a way of helping oneself distinguish between what’s really important and what just feels important.  It’s not that one should try to avoid activities that seem like chores; it’s that realizing that you see something as a chore is a signal to take a closer look at just how important it is.  Busy and productive aren’t always the same.

“If it wasn’t for the last minute, nothing would get done.”  –Attributed to Michael Taylor

Former baseball player Dick Allen once said that he liked to swing wildly at the first two pitches, just to see what he could do with one strike.  Some people are at their best when their backs are to the wall.  When people are asked what they would do if they only had one day left to live, they never say that they would spend it at the office dealing with paper work.  Procrastination might put you in a tight spot – but at the same time, it could bring out the best in you.  Urgency is tough to manufacture or force: are you really going to tell me that you have the same level of intensity and focus on the first day of the semester as you do during finals week?  Or that a team that has been eliminated from the playoffs has the same competitive drive as a team about to play the seventh game of the World Series?

“We plan ahead, that way we don’t do anything right now.”  –Val (Kevin Bacon), “Tremors”

Some people live by the rule, “never put off until tomorrow what can be done today”, but you could just as easily say, never force yourself to do today what can be done tomorrow.   Sometimes it’s better to wait; just ask those who practice the Tantra.  I remember forcing myself not to read too much of Bill Bryson’s “A Walk In The Woods” at a time because I wanted to enjoy it.  I used to have a rule that I could never listen to the same song more than twice in a day so I wouldn’t burn out on it.  People eating their food too quickly and not enjoying it has been cited as one of the reasons for the obesity epidemic.

So there you have it: procrastination isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  Sure, there are times when it’s best to avoid it, but everything has two sides, and paradoxically, there are times when procrastination can actually make you more productive.

*I’ll tell you tomorrow.