Effortless personal productivity
I recently discovered a simple step-by-step process that significantly increased my personal productivity and made me happier along the way. It costs $0 and no, it’s not some note-taking or to-do list system. In short: Step 1: develop meta-awareness of your state of mind. Step 2: pattern-match to identify your mind’s most common modes. Step 3: learn to pick activities that match each mode. I know that sounds kind of weird but I promise it’ll make sense in a minute. Step 1 You need to learn to observe what’s going on in your mind almost like a third-person observer. This is difficult and requires a lot of practice. The goal is to have moments of clarity where you’re able to see “ah that’s what’s going on in my mind right now”. Step 2 If you’re able to have these moments of clarity regularly, you’ll be able to spot patterns and categorize them. For example, one typical pattern is that my mind starts looking for distractions. Another is that my mind is hyper-analytical and is looking at everything from ten different angles. Sometimes it’s in monkey mode and jumping like crazy from one idea to the next. Another mode that is typical for me is what I like to call robot mode. Basically, I’m catching myself going through the motions but not really accomplishing anything meaningful. And there’s low-filter mode which typically occurs when I’m a bit tired. Step 3 Now the key is to embrace these different states of mind instead of fighting against them. For example, when your mind is seeking distractions, a typical reaction is to get angry and to try to power through nevertheless. This is stupid and a recipe for burnout. In distraction mode, my mind is looking for new inputs. It usually occurs when I’m not 100% convinced that what I’m doing is what I really should be doing. My way of embracing it is to always have a (virtual) box of healthy intellectual “snacks” ready. This is important because otherwise, it’s easy to just doomscroll for hours and consume intellectual junk. With a list of high-quality essays, books, and videos always at hand, I can steer my desire for new inputs in healthy directions. When my mind enters robot mode it clearly needs a break. In a sense, it has already shut down but my fingers are still moving across the keyboard. The proper way to embrace it is to close the laptop and do something else. Meet friends, go outside for a walk or to the gym. I’ve also learned to love low-filter mode. It’s really great for any kind of writing. I’m writing all my tweets, essays, and emails when my mind has entered this state. In low-filter mode, these tasks are effortless while they’re hard work in any other mode. In contrast, tasks that require more brainpower like programming or any kind of math are better done when my mind is hyper-analytical. Trying to force yourself to do a task that is not a good fit for your current state of mind is not only a poor use of time but actually counter-productive. Back when I was still doing physics, I used to force myself to continue calculations even though I was tired. » Read More
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