Hey all! The Beehive (Beeminder HQ) is going into a maniac week in 2 weeks, and I’m considering ways to make November epicly productive for both my own business and my work as Beeminder Minister of the Exterior.
I’ve been trying to think back on times in my life where I was “epicly productive” and what worked - the final weeks of finishing my thesis (clear deadline and community all working towards a goal), the final weeks of the year when I was a fundraiser (ambitious goal to meet in a deadline, constant update on progress), and interestingly, when I was living in a foreign country and had little to no commitments outside of an easy class load (ability to create my own structure, living alone, a long commute to think/read, creative friends).
I’d love to hear your experience. When were you at your most productive? What worked for you? Was exercise, diet, or abstinence from booze/caffeine part of it for you? Did you have a set schedule or did you work when you were inspired? Were you autonomous or part of a team? Did you have Beeminder or did you use other tools to help?
The month before each of our kids have been born has been, realistically,
about 3x as productive as any other month of my life.
It’s easy to say no to both new and old obligations, you cut and cull
without any shame, and there’s an almost overwhelming sense of focus.
The period where I was most epicly productive was probably roughly February through May of 2015 when I wrote most of Hypothesis but it’s a success that’s quite hard to replicate and probably not worth the cost. Still, I got an amazing amount done.
I can’t really say that I did anything right during that period except good results. I was drinking far too much caffeine and far too much alcohol. I wasn’t exercising enough (barely at all really). I did have beeminder but I wasn’t using it very heavily or for this. I was largely working on my own and not really talking to other people very much outside of my flatmates and cats and people on t’internet.
Instead it largely happened as a function of three things:
- I was going to move country in the next couple of months and didn’t really feel like looking for another job, so I was largely left to my own devices.
- I had just finished what was probably the most depressing 6 months of my life to date, during which essentially all of my creative output had been suppressed by external factors, and the relief of that being over gave me a lot of creative energy.
- I had a project I was really excited about
So, uh, this probably isn’t a very useful anecdote, sorry.
july-november 2015. learning python via writing tools to automate lots of tedious data processing / calculations at work.
- had a very clear goal and understanding of what i was building
- multiple benefits from succeeding at this task (not only did i not have to do the tedious excel stuff anymore, but also i was actually building useful things with code which i knew i wanted to do but had no idea how to do from academic experiences)
- immense confidence boost + feel-good feels from success made me want to take it further, do more, make it better
- had an awesome coworker mentoring/partnering/helping me. i cannot overstate how important this was, and how much i would like to find this sort of “relationship” (for lack of a better word) again. it was just a great pairing at a great time (from my point of view, anyway )
- other coworkers were excited because this could replace their tedious excel stuff and were willing to be guinea pigs for some borderline-unusable crap
- was working remotely. i am way more productive this way for reasons i could write a long time about
- put in a ton of hours, so many dang hours, but i loved every minute.
then i took all those rad skillz and got a new job.
There was a 5-day sprint (not counting the weekend it crossed) at my last job where I designed, ordered parts for, and assembled an electronics enclosure for a system I was working on. That was about as much productivity as I’m able to sustain in that realm of my life.
Things that made it successful:
Reasonable, achievable expectations - Nothing is more discouraging than trying to achieve something that can’t actually be done with the time and resources available.
- Very clear goal and deadline - The task had to be completed by a certain day, and I knew I’d be working however much was necessary to achieve it. We also had distinct goals for each day, so we knew what had to be achieved before we could go home (and that it was okay to stop then!)
- Working with an equally dedicated teammate
Removing outside distractions/being in a supportive environment - Once we had parts, we took everything we needed to a local maker space and did all of the assembly there. That meant we were around people who understood the level of focus our work required, and we were away from people who would inevitably demand we spend energy on other things.
- Being hyper-attentive to organization and double-checking each other’s work - It’s inevitable that with long hours, tight deadlines, and tired/stressed people, you’ll overlook things. So we were very careful to write everything down, double check it, and go over it again with the other person. After he’d wired up the enclosure (using a spreadsheet he’d created of every wire size, color, termination, and connection), we went over every single wire and I double-checked it.
Taking breaks and eating, including laying down on the floor and napping during downtime if necessary. This was related to being in a supportive environment - I didn’t have to worry about being judged as “wasting time” when I needed 15 minutes of break.
The last year or two of grade school. I would just get things done not just well ahead of the deadline, but in equally spaced portions, as soon as I got home. In other words that annoying person who didn’t need beeminder at all. Needless to say this is not me anymore.
It took me a decade to figure out what happened, then I realized: it was also the last time in my life I didn’t have an always on internet connection. I have considered turning it of, but at the same time it is just so amazingly useful, you know?
So my suggestion would be for you all to not have the internet available, or at least have it in a different computer, in a different room, so that it is annoying/difficult to use it. Alternatively, charge yourself two dollar a minute, just like the old days (modem sound optional, but recommended).
Like this? https://freedom.to/
I use Cold Turkey to do the same for PC www.getcoldturkey.com
And FocusOn for android since my phone isn’t rooted. It’s not in the app-store anymore, but you can find the APK on google pretty easily by just googling “Focuson apk”.
I’m guessing you either meant grad school or that “grade school” doesn’t always mean what Americans think it means.
For me the answer to the original question is the final stretch of writing my phd dissertation. My advisor’s productivity advice was “wake up thinking ‘what am I going to get done on my thesis today?’ and go to bed thinking ‘what did I get done on my thesis today?’”. And that’s when @bee and I came up with all sorts of productivity systems like hourly tocks, and first tried real commitment devices. This was strictly for the final stretch, like the last 6 months, when I finally had a hard deadline. The rest of my grad school career I was pretty much dragging it out as long as possible. Grad school was a ridiculously fun time.