My problem with productivity is that I refuse to have a rigid schedule. 30 minute time chunks? Way too much work. Task lists for everything (not work)? Do not want! It works all right for little things, but big things (like learning Japanese)… you’re just never going to get there without a system. Fortunately, this video (it’s good, you should watch it) introduced me to the rule of 3 (17:50, or here). It’s simple: 3 goals a day, week, month, and year.
- Built in support for breaking down large tasks into small ones
- Easy to remember
- Adapts effortlessly to change
- Takes less than 5 minutes a day
The important part is to remember this isn’t a task list, it’s a goal list. You haven’t failed if you don’t do something on it, what’s important is to stop and reflect on the day, what you accomplished, why you didn’t get to something, and how you can improve. No stress.
A month into this, it might be the best change I’ve made this year. I’ve been talking about learning Japanese for 6 months, but now I know the kana and I’m building vocab flashcards. I’ve fixed a hundred little things around the apartment and on my computer, finished books I need to read, worked out regularly, and I still find myself with more free time than before!
“This is the fun-vee. The hum-drum-vee is back there.”
It reduces stress, but I also think John Cleese would agree it boosts creativity (the relationship isn’t obvious, but it’s not a relevant argument either).
Rigidity aside, you have to make the darn list, and then if something unexpected comes up (and it will!) you either have to shuffle everything around and remake the list or be ruthless about the schedule (and how much fun is that?).
When what you’re doing is a list of tasks, it does make sense to make a task list…
Design for Hackers and Coders at Work. But seriously, Pragmatic Programmer first. Every time I pick it up I’ve somehow forgotten how awesome it is!
Tony Stark in Ironman