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Theodore H.

@theodorexh235

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Hard tasks require a task set

The brain needs ready access to the information, plans, and procedures it will be using to solve complex problems. This collective task knowledge is known as a task set. But the task set is not always immediately available.

Returning to a hard task comes with a 'restart' cost where we first have to spend time and mental effort getting back into our task before making progress. It is then essential to create time and space for hard tasks.

@theodorexh235

Tips from neuroscience to keep you focused on hard tasks

nature.com

  • Set aside large blocks of time for complex work. We will need a long gap for intense work as well as time to re-establish our task set. Continually switching tasks interferes with the quality of work.
  • Be consistent. Try to reserve a consistent time and place for our hard work and be protective of it. Working on the task repeatedly in the same context can aid in faster retrieval.

When we multitask, the tasks use shared cognitive resources, such as working memory, It makes the tasks compete for the shared resource and interfere with one another.

  • Remove cues to other tasks. Put away e-mail and social media and their associated alerts.
  • Beware the power of attraction of easy tasks. While you may feel productive, they prevent you from doing the tasks you need to do.
  • Stay with it. Keep on trying, even if you don't make progress every day.
  • Be open to reconceptualising problem structure. If the system we invented leads to dead ends, be open to looking for a new way to address it.
  • Take breaks. It will help keep mental costs low.
  • Interact with people with diverse backgrounds, perspectives and viewpoints. It can help us conceptualise a problem in new ways.

It means deciding not to do things you'd really like to do. It also means deciding what's the most important task even when everything on your list feels crucial.

But if you can prioritize until you have only one thing to focus on right now, you can't help but get to work.

How to Ruthlessly Prioritize Tasks to Get More Done

zapier.com

Consolidate All of Your Tasks Into a Single Source

To-dos arrive from a variety of sources. Your boss sends you an email, you get a Slack message from IT, a bill arrives in the mail, or a coworker asks for a favor in the hallway.

In order to prioritize your task list efficiently, you need a master to-do list that contains all of the tasks you need to prioritize and complete from all of those sources.

 Analyze Your Task List

Go through your list, review each task, and decide what you want to do with it. You have 4 options:

  • Do: complete the task now
  • Defer: complete it later
  • Delegate: assign it to someone else
  • Delete: remove it from your list
Use a priority matrix

Take all of your tasks and assign each a priority.

This tool is particularly helpful for those times when you're drowning under a million things to do, as it helps you visualize what's really important and what can wait.

Whatever you do, avoid the busy work and time wasters that land in the not urgent and not important quadrant as much as you can.

Use relative prioritization

Assign each task a priority number, to weigh each task against the others in order to determine where to start first.

In these cases, it's also helpful to break your tasks down into smaller tasks to better assign relative prioritizations.

Focus on your Most Important Tasks (MITs)

Choose a few (usually 3) tasks to get done each day; those become your MITs.

When using MITs, your to-do list would have 1-3 of these, and anything else listed would become bonus, "nice to do if you have the time" tasks. You only work on bonus tasks if all your MITs are done—and if all you get through are your MITs, you've still had a successful day.

When you're really struggling to get anything done, you should try this method, even if temporarily.

When you look at your task list, pick a single thing to focus on that day. It could be one big task you really want to get done, or it could be a theme that relates to several of your tasks. Choosing a single task or idea to focus on can be a good way to remind yourself to stay on track whenever you find yourself getting distracted.

The Pareto principle states: You tend to get 80% of your results from 20% of your work.

What's really tricky is working out what that 20% is that brings in the results. But once you do, you can apply the ultimate ruthless prioritization to your workday: Make that 20% work your priority—and your benchmark for a productive day.

It's where your brain specifically seeks the hit of dopamine you get from crossing off small tasks and ignores working on larger, more complex ones.

5 Ways to Track Your Progress (And Why it's so Important) - RescueTime

blog.rescuetime.com

Out of all the things that can boost our mood and motivation, the single most important is making progress on meaningful work.

Just like we love crossing small tasks off our to-do list, being able to see that we’re even one step closer to a big goal is a huge motivator. The problem is that these “small wins” are hard to measure.

t of us make advances small and large every single day, but we fail to notice them because we lack a method for acknowledging our progress. This is a huge l
Why we feel busier than ever

... but feel like nothing gets done:

  • Our days are filled with meaningless, busy-work (like answering emails).
  • We’ve lost the ability to set meaningful, effective goals.
  • We don’t set in place methods for tracking progress.
  • We’ve lost the ability to handle uncertainty.

It keeps you motivated and productive.

You become more purposeful about the work you do. And that can create the kind of meaning that so many of us search for in our daily work. You also have more insight into the value you’re creating.

Break out large tasks

...  into smaller pieces and visualize them.

When you’re facing a large project, your first step should be to break it out into smaller goals. Then, break those goals down into smaller tasks. The more chances you have to feel like you “finished” part of it, the more motivation you’ll get from your progress.

... and start every day at zero.

Rather than simply looking at your overall progress on a project, set smaller daily quotas.

If your goal is especially complex, a quota can be easier to hit than a goal. 

Track your metrics on a calendar

Pick a metric (or two) that makes sense for you and then track how many days you hit it.

Your calendar becomes a large, visual reminder of your progress (and also brings in the power of streaks).

Write in a diary

... for 5 minutes a day.

At the end of each day, take a few minutes to write about what you worked on. Make sure to note both your “small wins” and any setbacks.

At the end of the month, flip back through your notes and see how far you’ve come. It’s amazing the clarity you get from seeing the progress you made over a longer period

more frequently people experience that sense of progress, the more likely they are to be creatively productive in the long run. Whether they are trying to solve a major scientific mystery or simply produce a high-quality product or serv
James Clear
“If you want to summarize the habits of successful people into one phrase, it’s this: successful people start before they feel ready.”
Be Proactive

Reactive people believe the world is happening to them. They focus on things that are in their circle of concern, but not in their circle of influence.

Proactive people recognize that they are able to choose how they will respond to a given situation. They focus on the things they can do something about. 

7 Habits of Highly Effective People [Summary & Takeaways]

blog.hubspot.com

Start with a clear destination to determine your steps. Identify your values and live by them.

  • Visualize in detail your own funeral. What are they saying about how you lived your life, and your relationships? What do you want them to say? Change your priorities accordingly.
  • Break down different roles in your life - whether professional, personal or in a community. List 3-5 goals you want to achieve for each. 
  • Define what scares you and write down exactly how you'll handle it.

Prioritize your day-to-day actions based on what is most important, not what is most urgent.

Be disciplined to follow these actions regardless of how you feel at any given moment. Maintain a primary focus on relationships and results, and a secondary focus on time.

Think Win-Win

In order to establish effective interdependent relationships, create a win-win situation that is mutually beneficial and satisfying to each party.

To achieve Win-Win, keep the focus on results, not methods; on problems, not people.

... then to be understood.

We need to learn to listen first and try to understand the other person's needs and concerns. When you are able to do that, you increase the credibility of your ideas.

Synergize

Understanding and valuing the differences in other people will allow you as a group to uncover new possibilities. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

To be effective, we must spend time renewing ourselves spiritually, physically, mentally and socially. This must be done regularly and in balanced ways. 

Seek also to inspire others, by listening to them empathically and encouraging them to be proactive.

Context Switching

Most of us like to multitask thinking that it is keeping us working efficiently, however, many studies are believing the contrary.

Context switching is a factor that keeps us from performing at our best. When given multiple projects, staying in the zone is harder than one thinks. If you're always switching you'll always miss a lot of effortless productivity.

Why Context Switching Is Killing Your Productivity Dan Silvestre

dansilvestre.com

  • Assign a context or a theme for every day of the week so that you can add variety to your weekdays.
  • Create a list of the tasks that you have to perform and group them into different days that fits your needs.
  • Keeping your workdays deep together is not a problem at all as long as it works for you.
  • The statement "I just don't have enough time" is an explicable untruth.
  • Time-blocking can help with handling your time in an efficient manner.
  • This will aid you in being more specific and focused on your workload while needing less time to achieve the same results.

Spending too much time on planning and editing is not an ideal way to work. As much as possible we want to be efficient with our time so that we won't lose the momentum of focus.

Here's how:

  • Gather enough information to initiate the project and work until you finish about half of the project.
  • Ask for feedback based off on the 50% finished draft.
  • Work on the revisions based on the feedback that has been provided.
  • Write down in a list all the tasks you can think of that's been provided to you
  • Group the tasks together and sort them out from most urgent down to the ones with a flexible deadline
  • For the tasks that are not-so-important, either you delegate them to someone else or you postpone them
  • Delete distractions and make it a priority to delete them
  • Afterwards, finish the task that takes the least amount of time to do and move forward from there.

Procrastinating is frustrating. To lessen this try this method and see if it works out for you:

  • List down all the things you have to do (just like in brain dumping except you expand on the tiny tasks)
  • Group the tasks together in the same place, platform, or pattern
  • Schedule your time. How much time is there left before you should submit it? Keep in mind that the longer it takes you to finish your tasks, the more work you will be accumulating
  • Time-block and get the job done in one sitting.
  • Detailed checklists are especially helpful when tackling complex projects. Here you can be as meticulous as you can be.
  • It's a system that gets things done without thinking too much and this system works even if you delegate it to someone else, you'll be able to receive the same results in the most likely manner.
  • Think of it as an exceptionally detailed flow chart.
  • Having a checklist allows you to save and load the context you want in less time while also preventing procrastination.
Being purposeful with your day

Time management is about taking control of the time you do have available and using it optimally for productivity while creating balance.

Time management for students: strategies and tips to build your focus

blog.rescuetime.com

Much advice about time management is about creating a to-do list, reminding you what you want to do. However, it's more important to use a schedule, which tells you when you're going to do it.

  • Create "bookends" for each day. Consider your morning and evening routines, then "block" in time for your most important tasks. For example, a 2-hour writing-block every morning after breakfast.
  • Set aside time for your most important projects. The object is to be purposeful about what and when you're going to do something.
  • Schedule in breaks. A schedule has to be realistic. That means including time for breaks, food, exercise, social time, and other "non-school" tasks that keep you happy.

To build a better time management system, you need to know what you currently spend your time on. You need to know where you're losing time to the wrong things.

To track your time, spend a few days writing a "time log" to track how you spend your day.

Goals work great to get you motivated to do your work, but they don't tell you how you're going to achieve your goals.

Ask yourself what you can do every day that will help you achieve your ultimate goal. If you need to write a 4,000 word essay by the end of the month, set a daily goal of writing 500 words. If you can make consistent progress, you'll hit your goal sooner.

Decide what the smallest, most doable next step is. Then list all the next steps with a deadline for each.

It's easy to procrastinate when a project feels overwhelming. Part of proper goal-setting is to be able to break larger goals down into daily tasks. Focus on making progress, not just on the end result.

When you start to schedule your tasks, you may be too optimistic about how much you can get done. You may take on too much work or get stressed when tasks take longer than you expected.

To counteract the Planning Fallacy:

  • Work in a buffer into your schedule.
  • If the task is familiar, give yourself 1 - 1.5 times you think it will take.
  • If it is new, give yourself double the time you think it will take.

This means that you should do your most important work when you have the most energy and scheduling passive activities when you're more naturally low.

We all have moments in the day where we feel naturally more alert and energetic and other times where we lack energy. It is known as the Circadian Rhythm - a 24-hour internal clock that cycles between alertness and sleepiness. Every person's rhythm is slightly different, but the majority follow a similar pattern.

When you start to feel this way, take a break.

  • Disconnect from what you're working on.
  • Give your eyes a break. After every 20-minutes of work, stare at something at least 20 feet away from you for 20 seconds.
  • Get outdoors if you can. The natural light and fresh air will give you energy.
  • Refuel with food high in protein to boost your energy.

The best way to maintain productivity is to take regular breaks. Our minds naturally crave breaks after every 90 minutes of intense work. Your body may signal it needs a break by becoming hungry, sleepy, fidgeting, or losing focus.

To get over those initial feelings related to procrastination:

  • Follow the 5-minute rule. Tell yourself you're only going to do 5-minutes of work on a project. This is usually enough to get you motivated.
  • Block distracting websites when you start working or at specific times of the day, so you don't get side-tracked.

When you have a crammed schedule, it's tempting to think you can multitask. But studies find that focusing on a single task can be 500% more productive.

If you find it hard to focus on just one thing:

  • Remove distractions, including your phone.
  • Start small and set a timer.
  • Take a break between each session.

A night routine is the things you do immediately prior to going to bed.

Three benefits of having a decent night routine:

  • You’ll have a more restful and higher-quality sleep.
  • You’ll be able to tackle the morning in a smoother and more productive way.
  • Your brain will be sharper throughout the next day.

The Ultimate Night Routine Guide: Sleep Better and Wake Up Productive

lifehack.org

Before You Head Home…
  • Get rid of caffeine after 4:00 pm. Caffeine stays in your system for up to six hours.
  • Stay hydrated. Dehydration can make you feel sluggish and tired when you want to be awake.

  • Decide when the workday ends. Establish a cut off time for work-related emails and phone calls as well.

Immediately After Work…
  • Avoid alcohol. Alcohol may make you drowsy, but the sleep you get won’t be restful. Stop consuming it at least two hours before bed.
  • Have a healthy dinner. 

    When you need a snack closer to bedtime, reach for something light and healthy.

  • Take time to tidy. Waking up in an orderly space will work wonders for your mood.

  • Prepare for tomorrow. 

    When you don’t have a million things to do upon waking, it’s easier to fall asleep.
  • Take time for yourself. Perhaps you watch an episode of your favorite show or play video games.
One Hour Before Bed…
  • Step away from the screens. The blue light from electronics interferes with the production of melatonin, a hormone necessary for restful sleep.
  • Read a book. Six minutes of reading can ease the tension of stress in the human body and calm your nerves.
  • Reflect on your day. Consider what worked and didn’t work today. Write lingering thoughts or reflections in your journal.
  • Plot out tomorrow’s schedule. Write top priorities for tomorrow in a planner or notebook.
  • Give some gratitude. Write down at least one thing you’re thankful for each day.
Right Before Going to Sleep…
  • Take care of hygiene rituals. Besides brushing your teeth and washing your face, take a warm bath, or hot shower, before bed.
  • Practice bedtime yoga. Bedtime yoga activates your parasympathetic nervous system, which triggers relaxation.
  • Go to sleep at the same time every night.
Have a Clear Plan

Think about what you want to include in your night routine, and then write it downMake it as clear and simple as possible, so you’ll have the best chance of following it. 

Once you’ve followed your night routine long enough, you’ll no longer need to refer to your plan – as it will have become a habit.

When you first start to implement your night routine, it would be foolish to rely 100% on your mind and willpower. Instead, use digital alarms to remind you of things like when to go to bed.

After a month or so, you probably won’t need the alarms, as your night routine will have become a positive habit.

Choose smaller, easier to complete goals that will give you a sense of achievement.

It maybe easier for you to implement your desired changes over a few days or weeks. For example, the first change to your night routine could be started straight away – by having a glass of water just before you go to bed. Other changes you could phase into your routine.

However, try to make sure your night routine is fully in place within 30 days.

The "Make Time" Framework

Make Time is a framework that can help you create more time for the things you find important, in 4 steps, repeated every day:

  1. Highlight: Pick a single activity to prioritize in your schedule.
  2. Laser: Use certain tactics to stay laser-focused on your priority.
  3. Energize: Charge your battery with exercise, food, sleep and quiet time.
  4. Reflect: Adjust and improve your system.
https://books.google.com/books/content?id=nV9EDwAAQBAJ&printsec=frontcover&img=1&zoom=1&edge=curl&source=gbs_api

Make Time

by Jake Knapp, John Zeratsky

Take control of your time by choosing where you direct your attention. And your daily Highlight is the target of that attention.
Principles for picking your Highlight:

  1. Urgency. Think about the most pressing thing you have to do today.
  2. Satisfaction. Ask yourself which Highlight will give you the most satisfaction.
  3. Joy. Ask yourself: When I reflect on today, what will bring me the most joy?
  • Write down your highlight of the day. Put it in a visible place, to create a visual reminder.
  • Trust your gut to decide whether an urgent, joyful, or satisfying Highlight is best for today.
  • Repeat to build momentum and create a habit.
  • Choose the same Highlight for several days in a row.
  • Schedule your Highlight in your the calendar and block time for it.
  • Highlights should take 60-90 minutes.

Laser mode happens when your attention is truly focused on the present: you’re in the flow, meaning you are fully engaged, and immersed in the moment.

The key to getting into Laser mode and focusing on your Highlight is to defeat distraction. To do that, make distraction hard to access. When distractions are not accessible, you don’t have to worry about willpower.

  • No notifications; leave only the really critical and useful ones enabled.
  • Log out when you're done with an app, and keep a clean Homescreen.
  • Stay out of Infinity Pools: don’t reach for your phone first thing in the morning, read the news weekly, not daily, put a timer on your internet use, and remind yourself what are your real priorities.
  • Deal with email at the end of the day or have a designated time in your day just for that; answer messages in batch.

When you don’t take care of your body, your brain can’t do its job.

  • Exercise every day: Go small and go every day.
  • Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.
  • Optimize your caffeine intake.
  • Take breaks without screens and go outside.
  • Be present in the moment (eat without watching TV, for example).
  • Remove all electronic devices to transform your bedroom into a true sanctuary for sleep.
  1. Observe what’s going on.
  2. Guess why things are happening the way they are.
  3. Experiment to test your hypothesis.
  4. Measure the results and decide whether you were right.

Take time for daily reflection: did you made time for your Highlight? How well you were able to focus on it? If you fail at first, don’t be hard on yourself when you fail. Use your notes to Give it time and use the notes improve your process.