92 SAVED IDEAS
Productivity became popular in the early 20th century as a way of optimising work in agriculture and manufacturing. A knowledge worker in the 21st century has very little in common with agricultural or manufacturing work.
Productivity made sense as a measurement metric when inputs and outputs were known, and the task was to optimise the relationship between them. However, knowledge work is about solving problems and being creative. To-do lists can't really improve the impact of our work.
Intentional attention = focus x time
This means that if you maximise your time spent focusing, you will maximise your intentional attention. Doing that will maximise the success of your knowledge work.
Instead of optimising an unhealthy and outdated method, we should replace it with a more appropriate system.
Unlike productivity, focus isn't something you can squeeze into a timeframe. It is something you nurture and protect.
Cognitive research on how our brains work shows that time is not our only limitation. Our brains have limited mental calories to spend per day. That means that if we want to optimise focus, we should make effective use of cognitive calories, then structure time around that.
Cal Newport states that we really only have four hours of focused work per day. It is up to you to take control of that time and your energy expenditure. Focusing deeply on something requires confidence and self-assuredness to put that piece of work first and shut everything else out.
Patterns that lead to distraction:
Patterns that lead to focus:
There are many techniques aimed at providing a system to help determine what deserves your attention, such as Action-based Priorities or The Eisenhower Matrix.
We're facing the problem that we are primed to take on more information, projects, and communications that make it impossible to align them all with our priorities. We are exhausted from all the information and terrified of building a new way of gaining fulfilment that doesn't require putting out fires and getting dopamine hits.
We are not only complex human beings but have divergent goals and desires. We are also increasingly impacted by external pressures. We are often pursuing what we believe is our top goal when it has been shaped by someone else. For example, you work on a project that you think will get you a promotion in a company you dislike.
The first step to guide your focus is to consider what is expendable and then focus on the remaining true priority.
The digital work environment can become toxic. The new normal involves hundreds of daily emails and notifications, our browsers have dozens of open tabs, and we can't find the files we need. To date, there is no realistic and effective solution.
We should consider how much we need to be plugged in. Reflect on your current project and see what you really need. Files, applications, links, emails, slack channels, or anything else. Most people are surprised to know how little they really need.
One has to constantly prioritize their tasks and ask basic questions that filter out any ‘fluff’ work, seemingly urgent tasks which are not important and help us accomplish what is truly important.
Asking oneself the best investment of the limited time towards accomplishing something, and what high-impact task to leverage the best use of the time is crucial. One has to constantly evaluate the meaningfulness of the assignments.
Boredom is not characterised by the absence of desire. It involves desperately wanting to do something, but not finding anything that can satisfy that restlessness.
When you're bored, whatever you are busy with now seems unfulfilling in some way. You may be unfulfilled by the daily repetitive work that never changes. Boredom is prodding you to explore better options for becoming engaged.
When you experience boredom, it is telling you that you've become superfluous and pointless and that you need to reclaim the authorship of your life.
Psychologists call this a crisis of agency. You've become passive and let life happen to you instead of being engaged with the world on your terms, using your skills and talents in a purposeful way.
Proneness to boredom is the result of difficulties with self-regulation. Those who are inclined to boredom may feel that boredom is a prison.
Instead of using boredom as a passage to something new, they get stuck and struggle to move on, leading to depression and anxiety, problems with drug and alcohol use, and gambling.
Many of us want circumstances that are the perfect fit. Just like Goldilocks, we don't want it too hot or too cold. We want it just right.
It's hard to engage fully with tasks that are either too much or too little; too challenging or too simple. The mismatch can leave you bored. However, when you find yourself in the middle of the Goldilocks Zone, you get to a state of flow, where you are perfectly challenged and growing.
The message of boredom is that you need to reclaim your agency. No one else can do it for you. It is up to you.
Boredom makes you restless and agitated. To overcome this agitation, start with a few deep breaths. You can also redirect that restless feeling by doing physical exercise, such as going for a walk.
Try to accept boredom as an uncomfortable, but necessary emotion to point you back to a well-lived life.
Regain perspective by spending time in nature or talking with friends. Alternatively, meditation might be useful.
After calming down, try to focus on the possible rewards of the things you could be doing. It will give you enthusiasm for the possibilities.
To get started, it is useful to set aside time for self-reflection; to regroup and address key questions about your life. Who are you? What do you value in life?
Take note that passive entertainment, such as social media, news feeds, games, and streaming services, can make you a passive consumer and prevent you from actively pursuing the goals that matter to you.
If you are unsure what matters to you, it might help to make a list of personal values. Attach realistic and actionable goals that further your personal values. Baking, fixing a bicycle, or reading a book are good boredom remedies if they give expression to your goals.
People that feel bored often suffer from 'paralysis analysis': The desire to do the right thing the right way can prevent them from getting started. They easily lose sight of their goal.
To avoid this, once you have some goals in mind, try to just do it**. Once you get started, the boredom should fade.**
For example, try to imagine yourself as a fly on the wall and explore your boredom from an outsiders perspective.
Another way is to turn your boring situation into an engaging one. If you have to do repetitive work, you could try to beat your personal best time. Or if it is a school project on a dull topic, imagine yourself as a detective working a case.
To find a state of flow, your goals need to push you to the limits of your skillset.
When your skills are well-matched to the task at hand, it feels deeply rewarding.
We have 168 hours per week. If we remove the weekends, the time we sleep, eat, shower, and other basic needs, we have a maximum of 100 hours per week to play with.
We have so little time, yet we waste a lot of energy on low leverage tasks that leave us tired and unfulfilled. We should know how to focus our time and energy on high leverage activities.
"Moving the needle" is used by organisations to describe work with a noticeable impact. However, it can be exhaustive and counterproductive for an individual person to follow such a strategy.
A person should, instead of moving the needle, operate the most efficient levers. Moving the needle may imply hard work, whereas using a lever means using your input to amplify your output.
Everyone's levers will be different. But when used, they can turn a relatively small amount of time and energy into significant results.
Examples of high-leverage activities:
Procrastination is something you do, not someone you are. When you stop making procrastination part of your identity, you free yourself up to change.
Don't judge yourself for how you feel. Instead, analyze the problem and see how you can move forward.
Figure out why you avoid taking action. Find out all the reasons that prevent you from moving forward.
You don’t have a clear block of time to work on the task.
You need a quiet workspace.
You expect your work to be perfect—and fear it won’t be.
You don’t have a deadline.
Once you understand the reasons for procrastination, address those specific issues.
Keep on dealing with the issues one by one. This will build momentum and move you toward completing your projects.
When you struggle with procrastinating on a specific task, you may never get into a state of flow. Make rules for yourself, such as spending 20 minutes on the activity or reporting to someone by a specific time.
Just keep going. In time you will be able to accomplish a lot.