During my long studying experience and my short professionnal one, I could clearly sense than getting up too early, especially before sunrise, would just kill my productivity for the whole day.

I also observed that being involved with indoors sitting and brain-centered activities all day was nor pleasant neither productive over long time slots. I had the feeling that slicing those time slots with outdoors body-involving and standing work would help be more productive in both activities.

I have the feeling that scheduling activities in accordance with periods of the day, benefitting of fresh concentration in the morning, heat of the sun at the beginning of the afternoon, quietness of the early night, etc could be a powerful way to be me more productive and feel more at the right place at the right time when doing things. The same reasoning applies to weeks, moon revolutions, seasons, or even periods of life.

The scheduling of Doing Nothing is also very important.

Here are some more specific insights on this research.

Four Objectives a Day

Sometimes, when dealing with many short tasks to perform, I had the feeling of not being productive for several days in a row. Practically, I worked as much as other days, but many short tasks are not quite as rewarding as a long one.

In addition, these high-frequency short-term short tasks can block the way to low-frequency longer long-term tasks. I can, for instance, easily get stuck into e-mail for three hours, and never progress on reading some of the self-sufficiency books I need to read before designing my food-producing balcony.

To adress these two issues, I decided to establish a new morning ritual. While sipping my morning tea on FoAM's comfortable couch, I take out my notebook, and write down Four Objectives I absolutely have to achieve today. The phrase I use to define these is:

“I will be happy at the end of the day if I have…“

I try to balance these Four Objectives using the following criteria:

  • Short-Term Deadline vs. Long-Term Deadline
  • Short Activity versus Long Activity
  • Brain-Centered Activity versus Body-Involving Activity
  • Outdoor Activity versus Indoor Activity

I tried with three objectives, which were too little - and therefore encouraging procrastination with Unpleasant Objectives. I miss one objective almost everytime I try to schedule five of them. So four seems to be the right amount.

I tried this technique since the beginning of December, and felt globally much more productive since.

End-of-Day Lessons Learned

Answer the following questions:

  • Was this day comfortable ?
  • What made this day comfortable ?
  • Can I generalize this observation and incorporate it in some kind of daily routine ?
  • What made this day uncomfortable ?
  • How to avoid it ?
  • Can I generalize this observation and incorporate it in some kind of daily routine ?

At the beginning of few hours of work, I often have difficulties to pick-up the right order for activities, and often have the feeling, at the end of the period, of having been unproductive.

Here are a few planning patterns I experimented and found quite efficient.

Start with activities unpredictible in time

I observed that I often was late or stressed at the moment of departures. I noticed that I frequently underestimated the time needed to group all the necessary stuff for leaving, and ended up running everywhere in the studio to find, for instance, my shoes. On the contrary, I sometimes ended up being completely ready to go fifteen minutes early. Everything was packed up, and I did not know what to do before departure.

After a few of these two types of experiences, I decided to reverse the process. I would prepare my departure as much as possible very early - at the beginning of a half-day of work, for instance. Everything except what I needed for work was packed up early, and my remaining pre-departure activities (mostly packing up my computer) became predictibles and very short.

I therefore started to act as follow: starting with activities unpredictible in time, and continuing with those with predictible or adjustable duration. I had the sense of making much more of my time, and, more importantly being very relaxed. The unpredictibility of departure preparation duration and the perspective of stress often was no longer perturbing me during my work.

Perform immediately the small tasks you tend to forget

I noticed that I often was struck by the remembrance of an activity while performing another one. My reaction often was to add it up to some kind of (sometimes mental) checklist. This system showed up to be quite inefficient, as I often did not remember of the activities.

Now, rather than writing it down, I decided to stop whatever I was doing to perform this small task immediately.

Basically, I order the activities by likelihood of forgetting them. If the activity I am currently performing is more likely to be remembered than the one I just thought of, I stop everything and perform the latter.

I also decided to let me some time, before starting a long activity, to perform a few small urgent ones. I start with one randomly popping up in my mind, and some other almost always pop up in the process of doing the first one. Once I have finished with a few of them, and that no other pop up in my mind, I breathe deeply a few times, and start my main activity.

Keep online computer tasks for the end

I sense that the computer always has been a brain freezer for me. Once I start working on the computer, I stop thinking and almost forget about anything else in the outside world.

When starting my day by lighting up the computer, I often remember, at the end of the day, many small activities I intended to perform but did not, because I could not remember them while sitting in front of the computer.

My approach is now to take the time to perform all these activities before lighting up the computer.

Within computer tasks, I also start with offline activities, before going to online ones. The world wide web endless possibilities seem to be responsible for most of my memory bleaches, so I choose to reduce the risk of falling under the charm unless all urgent real-world matters are solved.

Move out of the web, once in a while

This experiment was inspired by a comment of Maja on the Transiency Diary.

Everytime I work on computer tasks, I kind of feel numb at some point. This is the right time, I observed, to refill my cup of tea, water the plants, wash the dishes, or perform any other kind of body-involving activity out of the screen.

The first step is the hardest, but then, I feel energy flowing again in my body & ideas, which is very pleasant.

I now willingly keep some housework to do when I start a computer activity, to make the first step very easy. My general well-being and sensation of productivity have greatly improved since then.