I recently listened to the audiobook Hyperfocus by Chris Bailey it was an interesting read. One I’d recommend if you’re interested in minimising distractions and focusing entirely on single tasks.
The book talks a lot about minimising distractions. Muting mobile phone notifications, only checking email periodically and all the other stuff you’d expect in a book about productivity.
What I liked though was the discussion around intention for attention. By sitting down and defining what we intend then we can single task on that and ensure it’s delivered. Giving 100% of our attention to whatever we’re intending to focus on. If that’s watching a television programme with a loved one then do that, if it’s reading a book then do that. It’s only be defining the intention of our attention that we’ll ensure we’re effective in what we’re doing. Obviously this isn’t as easy as it sounds and Chris Bailey gives lots of suggestions of how to achieve this.
The other thing he focuses on is scattered attention. Hyperfocus is ideal for when we are mono-tasking on a particular task, but he discusses the benefits of letting out mind wander to capture random thoughts (he calls these unclosed loops, a phrase coined from Getting Things Done I believe) and to find to solutions to problems. Bailey argues that it’s only by creating space for our mind to wander and capturning those wanderings we can unlock the power of scatter focus.
Overall the book was a really interesting lesson, probably not up there in my top 3 productivity books of all time but a few interesting ideas and worth a read if you’re into that kind of thing.
Have you read Hyperfocus? What did you think of it?
Over the last year I’ve invested time in trialing and adopting apps which help my productivity. In this post I’m going to share them and explain why I believe they’re invaluable.
Todoist is an easy to use and intuitive TODO list application which supports projects, due dates, reminders, tags, and filters. It’s easy to use and syncs effortlessly across devices. I use it for everything from management work projects to keeping track of shopping lists and birthday presents.
The premium version unlocks additional features and it is well worth the money.
However, be aware downloading Todoist is enough to organise yourself. No tool can do that if you don’t have a system in place. I strongly recommend having a look at
Forest is an app which encourages you to put down your phone. I’ve written about it before and continue to use it. You can set how much time you’d like to “lock” your phone for and if you pick up before then your tree will die. Planning trees leads to gold which you can use to purchase more tree designs in the store or even plant trees in real life!
I started using this app this week and I’m really impressed. The premise is incredibly simple, the app records a quick message and then emails the text to the email address of your choice. Install on your watch and configure to the email of your Todoist inbox for a really effective way to record notes wherever you are and drop them right into your digital in tray!
Again, Audible shouldn’t be a surpise to anyone who’s read some of my recent blog posts. Listen to audiobooks while you’re driving or doing housework for a really effective way to consume books you wouldn’t ordinary have time to read. Especially if you practice building up your speed until you can listen in hamster mode!
And A Setting for Luck
Chances are your phone has a time limiter built in already, configure this to limit access to those time sync apps to 30 minutes each day. Being asked if you really want to spend your fourth hour on Facebook (or social network of choice) really is a great way to get you off your phone!
What are your favourite productivity apps? Do you use any which aren’t on my list?
I was recently facing a bit of a conundrum. I was trying to work out why I was reading far more using Audible than I was out of paper or even kindle books. The obvious answer was because because I was listening to 45 minutes of audiobooks at double speed every morning but I was only getting half an hour every other night with my real book (currently Waltzing with Bears). The former I was fairly sleepy at the start of the day, the latter as I’m trying to keep my eyes opening in the evening.
The obvious answer I came up was because I was spending less time with my mind on the physical book. But also most likely because I could listen further than I could read.
However, as I pondered the question a little further I also realised that I was trying to do several things in that precious 30 minutes in an evening. I journal every day, I am reading a book on my kindle as well as the paper book and I enjoy painting my Warhammer and Game of Thrones minatures to undwind. In other words I had too much WIP in my evening routine!
We all know that WIP is very bad news and kills all productivity, what I had uncovered in my own routine was a bottleneck where I was trying to push several projects through the same 30 minute space in my day.
Wondering where else these existed I began thinking about my working day and carved my time into three categories. These are Hands Free, which are tasks I can complete while my hands and eyes are occupied on something else like driving or housework. Computer, which I spend a lot of time at so I created two parts. Hands On, which are times when I can complete a task with my hands. For example reading a paper book or painting my toy soliders.
I decided to call these Personal Swimlanes, you can now clearly see why I was having so much trouble delivering on the last one. I was thrashing between the various projects with no focus on any of them.
So, what’s the solution?
Well – you’re looking at it. By indentifying which work falls into each categories I can properly throttle WIP coming through and prioritising. Right now I’m focusing all my “Hands On” time on finishing Waltzing with Bears. When I finish that (in 70 odd pages) I’ll look at what the next project to move onto is. At the moment it’s looking like that unit of Ultramarines I picked up the other day!
What Swimlanes do you have in your day? Am I missing any? How do you focus your precious hands on time to make sure you focus on one project before moving onto the next?
Atomic Habits is a different book, more granular and if you’re interested in personal productivity then it’s a good read.
In the book James first sells the value of habits, discussing how small incremental changes each day are vital to achieving major results. Then he moves on to deconstruct the various parts of a habit including Cue, Crave, Response, Satisfaction. In other words something triggers our habit, then we develop a craving for something, we act in a pre-trained way to satisfy that craving, and gain satisfaction.
In a positive habit this may look like:
Every morning when I get up
I want to clear my head
So I meditate
And feel better afterwards
However, in a negative habit this could be:
When I’m bored
I crave entertainment
So I open social media
Which entertains me
James then talks about how to hack these habits by eliminating cues, changing rewards, and building commitments so the habits you do want to form stick and the ones you don’t are broken. It’s good, sensible stuff.
As I mentioned above there’s a LOT of crossover with Routine Machine, however Atomic Habits goes far more into the techniques for forming and breaking daily habits. In his book Mark Lamberton focuses on how to point these in the direction to achieve big things. I see the two books as a very valuable pairing because, if I was to raise a criticism with Atomic Habits there’s not enough pagespace dedicated to creating structure so habits point you towards your longer term goals (although the idea of reinforcing identity is a very good one – see “Habit 2” of 7 Habits of Highly Effective People).
I listed my 2021 goals in an earlier post and I think there’s lots that can help me here. Specifically I want to work on the cues and immediate satisfaction of my reading, writing, and blogging. Perhaps putting together a calendar so it’s very obvious which days/weeks I’ve missed.
Have you read Atomic Habits? What did you think of it and have you encorporated any of it’s advice into your daily routines?