Walk down the stairs, towards the basement apartments, and into the front door of our home on Lincoln Street, and upon entering you’ll be sure to find a variety of notebooks littering our family room.
And they’re all mine.
I have old school black and white journals, neon-colored sticky notes, 5-Star Spirals, both white and yellow-papered legal pads, a black leather notebook, and loose strands of computer paper scribbled with notes regarding energy management, nutrition, and personal finance in the handwriting third grader.
It drives Kelsey crazy, but after a thorough discussion and presentation showing that all this madness has a method, she now accepts me for who I am.. sort of..
“This one is for to-do lists, that one for blog and product outlines, oh, and over here is my gratitude journal, and there is my “Baller Notebook” with all of my scholarly notes.”
“Uhhh, okay… Can you just not leave them all over the place then?”
It may sound like I’m taking crazy pills to you, but it’s something that has always worked for me. My notebooks help me remember things I would otherwise forget, and hash out the internal debate going on in my head.
It turns out that I was on to something. David Allen’s productivity classic, Getting Things Done talks about closing “open loops” in the mind. All your “coulds,” “shoulds,” and “woulds” are nothing but distractions keep your mind looping like a record player. Imagine having 17 record players playing all at once, all very loudly. You’d go crazy.
That’s what it’s like in our heads when we leave these loops open. Everything from remembering facts and to-do lists to remembering to call your grandmother on her birthday.
Lesson 1: Your Memory Sucks – Close The Loops: Write things down. It doesn’t matter if you keep it all on your iPhone, Evernote, or destroy your living space with thousands of notebooks. Writing things down lets your mind off the hook, and helps you focus on the task at hand.
Once you make your way through Notebook Mountain, walk through the claustrophobic hallway, and round the corner into our bedroom. There you will see my dresser. Welcome to my personal library.
You’ll probably first notice the stack of biographies: Jordan, FDR, Whitey Bulger & more.
Then there is a sloppier stack with titles like The Thin Green Line, Getting Things Done, and Think & Grow Rich all book marked about halfway through.
It’s hard for me to finish a book because I am reading so many at once. The only time I actually finish one cover to cover is when I make the decision that I am not going to read anything else until I either hate it or finish it.
Your mind is terrible at multitasking.
In his book Essentialism, Greg Mckown talks about this idea of “straddle strategy.” It’s where you try to invest in everything at once, and make little progress in any of those directions.
Lesson 2: Multitasking Is Bullshit: Pick ONE task to do at a time, and work strictly on that task until you complete it or quit.
Lastly, to close out the tour of our 800-square-foot palace, follow me into the kitchen. There are no drawers, which you surprisingly don’t realize how much you use until you no longer have them.
You’ll see a coffee pot that has a timer on it, a crockpot with a timer on it, a variety of protein bars, mixed nuts, and bananas, and our trash can that floats around the kitchen floor.
Being able to set up my coffee the night before, cook a huge crockpot dinner for the week, grab-and-go snacks, and floating trashcans make my life easier.
The coffee pot makes it easier to wake up in the morning. The crockpot keeps me away from the Chipotle two blocks from our house. The quick snacks are good to have between clients, and the trashcan helps me keep my jump shot in tact even though my high school basketball glory days are behind me (another one of my habits that drives Kelsey crazy – she says “there is a spot where the garbage can goes” who knew?).
This brings us to the third lesson. We need to shape our environment to help our goals, not hurt them. Don’t rely on your willpower to avoid the Cheetos in the cabinet. Don’t go get drinks with your cute coworker when you’re in a relationship. Make new friendships with people who support your dream of working from Starbucks and setting your own schedule.
Lesson 3: Willpower is Limited: Shape your environment to help you succeed.
Thanks for stopping by, please come again.
Now, it’s your turn. What productivity tool do you use that helps you stay on task and get more done? Let me know in the comments below.