As many of you know, just over four weeks ago I started a six week challenge. My challenge came about when I found that my productivity had dramatically dropped and I wanted to try cutting out the distractions from my life. Those ‘distractions’ ended up being Instant Messaging, Facebook, Alcohol, Television and Internet gaming.
Although I’m still on the challenge, I feel that I’m far enough along to have learned some lessons about myself and I’ve been through enough to see if this type of challenge is going to help me in the future. To cut a long story short, I don’t recommend this challenge to anyone (even if you’re trying to be productive).
Cutting out some of the individual things, like TV, has been fantastic. I’m not longer faced with tons of marketing messages each day and political interruptions to try to get me to sway to certain ideas. Instead, I’m only faced with the news and marketing I want to find, online.
I will do a post on how cutting out each one has affected me individually in the future, but today I want to sort of take a birds eye view of the whole project and share my thoughts.
1. Focus On What You Want, Rather Than What You Don’t
The more I told myself that I couldn’t watch television, the more I wanted to watch it. If people tell us not to do things (even if we tell ourselves) we automatically tend to be rebellious about it and want to do it. For example, if I tell you not to click this link (don’t click it — but it will make you smile) there’s a good chance you at least hovered over it to see the URL in your status bar.
Instead of thinking about the things I couldn’t do or couldn’t have, I found this project a lot easier by focusing on what I wanted to achieve. By thinking about what I could get done in one day and how much I could achieve in a week, I naturally focused on projects that mattered to me and just got started. I would get so immersed in things that I wouldn’t even have time to watch TV, never mind think about missing it.
2. Focus on Each Day, Not Entire Timeframes / Tasks
I have written a whole blog post on this idea, but I still think it’s important enough to be included here. The premise around this is simple: instead of thinking about what I have to do for the 6 weeks, just focus on what I have to do for today. It can be difficult to think that I have to go over a month without Facebook or chatting to friends on IM, but it’s easy to do it just for today.
And, of course, it’s always today. It’s always now. If I just focus on cutting things out right now (which is easy) then I can cut things out for 6 weeks with no problems. Any goal becomes 100% easier when you focus on what you have to do today, rather than for the life of the project.
3. Don’t Cut Out All of the ‘Fun’
I noticed that for my challenge, I cut out things that I enjoyed. This wasn’t intentional, but if something is distracting from your ‘working’ life then there’s a good chance it’s because you enjoy it. Drinking alcohol, watching television, gaming and socialising are all things I enjoy doing. Essentially I made my days boring just to get things done.
Of course, I love what I do and get to work on projects that interest me each day. However, there’s only so many hours I can dedicate to writing a blog post or answering emails before I feel both physically and mentally drained. I like Albert’s of urbanmonk.net’s idea of working hard for 48 minutes, spend time doing something you love for 12, then continuing that pattern throughout the day.
That is probably something I’ll implement once the challenge is over.
4. Things Get Far Easier in Time
The first week of this challenge was difficult. Very difficult. I found myself with far too much time that I simply did not know what to do with. My hobbies include building successful websites so I was already implementing into each day what I love to do. I did find myself reading books a lot more though and it’s nice to have that source of information and knowledge back into my life.
The last two weeks of this challenge have been far easier than the first two. I’m just used to not turning on the TV and not going over to Facebook to see what people are up to. Funnily, when I had to check the site for an event in London, I noticed I had 64 pending friend requests. Hopefully people aren’t too annoyed I haven’t accepted them .
If you do implement big changes in your life then they might seem tough at first but if you can get through that initial resistance, it should be easy sailing after that.
5. You Still Have to Work
No matter how many productivity systems you try to put in place, you still have to work. I’m pretty sure that most people use productivity systems as a way to procrastinate. Constantly looking to streamline their process so that they don’t actually have to get things done.
You can shuffle as many things in your routine as you like, but the computer screen (or whatever you work with) will still be waiting for you to do what you need to do. Make sure that you’re not looking for shortcuts and more time management tips simply because you don’t want to take action. For example, don’t pursue a degree online only to avoid doing the work that it would take to earn a traditional degree. Online degree programs can help you advance your career in many ways and you should earnestly work to earn your degree, if nothing else to gain that most valuable sense of accomplishment.
On that note, the timetable idea I have implemented has been absolutely fantastic. It says I still have 26 minutes to finish this article which should be enough for me to tidy things up and read through it a few times. The ‘system’ is very simple, but it certainly works for me.
Now then, what about you guys? I know many of you tried a similar challenge, so how did things work out for you?