Productivity for distracted people

Goals vs Habits

We are all distracted. Mostly through media that is engulfing every dimension of our existence. Timelines and feeds are everywhere and you can get a little hit of dopamine just by taping little squares on the screen of your cellphone.

In an interesting (perhaps even insidious) turn of events, we are distracted, mostly by those who aren’t. People that are producing content and sharing ideas. This means, that the people who can resist the distraction, are the ones reigning in those who cannot avoid it.

It follows, naturally, that the advice we see online was created by people who can find the space to reflect and describe what works for them. Productivity advice also falls into this category: it is mostly created by those who can resist the temptations of stimuli the best.

Meaning: productivity advice you find online works better if you are not the sort of person that looks for productivity advice online.

If you are a distracted person, you need advice that is different from what is usually found everywhere. This also means that you need to figure out things on your own.

A couple of things that I’ve found useful:

  • Time-blocking. The simplest thing is to assign slots of time to work on specific things. This works really well if you are good at doing things regardless of how you feel about them.
  • Pomodoro. Working in small time increments is great to just get started. Face the blank page and get on with it. Also requires a degree of self-cohersion, but by breaking things down in smaller time chunks, nothing seems as daunting.
  • Removing distraction. I’ve been experimenting with having a Dumb smart phone and it helped me immensely with taming my dopamine addiction. I thoroughly recommend it.
  • Sharing progress with others. Because we are social creatures, the opinion of others matters to us. Getting feedback, compliments or suggestions from others can be a big motivator to keep moving forward with a project.
  • Front-loading work. This is a bit of a hit-or-miss thing for me. But basically means that when you start something, you move fast at the beginning so that you have a lot of work done in the start and that builds a corpus that can be shared quickly. This is motivating and takes advantage of fluctuating motivation or energy levels.
  • Managing energy-levels instead of time. This is also something I’ve tried and come back to on occasion. It doesn’t always work, but the idea is that you work on things that require a certain energy level when you are at that energy level. For example, after lunch I tend to be a bit slow. This should matter more for the selection of things I’ll do after lunch than what I’ve pre-assigned for that time slot. So after lunch, is time for some email replying.