Life basics

  • A nuorishing diet is essential for a clear mind and motivation. Avoid any excess and avoid to hang-out when you have to work the next day, moderate consumption is always a choice (if you can control yourself).
  • Sport is perfect for reducing stress and depression, also increases your cognitive capacity and improves sleep. Short high-intensity workout activates your heart.
  • Sleep whatever you need to feel rested. Usually it’s about 7.8 hrs, but could be more or less. Avoid using an alarm. A short siesta (less than 25 min) is great for clearing the mind.
  • Willpower is an scarce resource and gets easily exhausted, don’t rely on willpower, instead use it to prepare the environment before you have to rely on willpower to the point of exhausting your resources. An environment change may also happen in the inside, when something ‘clicks’ in your mind (/heart), but don’t expect that willpower will give you that ‘click’.
  • Stress is the illness of this time, much of this document has to do with living a hopefully stress-free life. Fight or flight hinders your cognitive power, although it could help you to accomplish things at the beginning (if you choose to fight), it will leave you restless at some point. Healing comes when you are rested. Procastination increases stress. When you are stressed you aren’t able to see the big picture and get stuck on details. Stress increases with mis-takes, make better (more realistic) estimations and you’ll be less stressed out.

Habits

  • Develop 1 habit at a time. Develop 1 habit at a time (I’ve repeated it on purpose).
  • Mindful meditation helps to increase focus and clear the mind. It’s scientifically proven that increases overall happiness.
  • Visualization exercises allow you to access the bliss within yourself, so you don’t long for things outside. It helps you to increase your adaptation capacity (talking about mis-takes).
  • Deep breathing exercises help relieve stress. Watch out Wim Hof for a rather extreme deep breathing technique.
  • Read daily, even if it’s 15 minutes.

How to plan

Productivity is getting the right things done in the right timeframe in a successful and effective way.

  • An “important reason why” is essential for motivation. Define your goals based on passion and purpose, then write down the purpose for each goal. Without a purpose it’s easy to lose perspective.
  • For each goal generate a to-do list of every task - small or large - that will be needed to complete the project, even “ideal” tasks that aren’t critical.
  • Establish priority and effort (or time) needed to complete each task, you can do it with different techniques.
  • According to “the Eisenhower Matrix” all tasks can be sorted into four quadrants with axes of important (about consequences) and urgent (about time), so you can assign priorities: 1 for urgent and important tasks (which need to be addressed first), 2 for non-urgent but important tasks (which need to be scheduled), 3 for urgent but not important tasks (which can be delegated) and 4 for no-no (which shouldn’t be done, at least not soon). This reduces decision-making in the process, reducing cognitive load and stress.
  • According to Joel Spolsky (StackOverflow) no person should ever have more than 5 tasks in their to-do list: 2 working right now, 2 to work on next, 1 which other people expects you to work on, but you don’t plan on doing it.
  • There’s another idea that about 20% of your tasks are going to have 80% of the impact, you can let not impactful tasks fall by the wayside or delegate them. You can determine the impact of a task by wondering how many people will it affect.

Advice on following a plan

  • Having a plan is desirable, though following it should not be a burden. There are times of high and low productivity, make out the best of the good ones and forgive yourself when you’re not able to follow the plan, life is full of unexpected circumstances and uncertainty.
  • Don’t distract yourself by doing things that are not planned, take note of these and keep the schedule. Although the task might be productive, the feeling will be of guilt and dissatisfaction. This task might become a goal one day. Having clear goals and a purpose statement will help with lasting focus and motivation.
  • Improve your methodology constantly, it will get better with time by increasing efficiency and will add novelty to the process, making the work feel fresh again.
  • Recognize that achieving your goals often requires collaboration. Know your strengths and weakness, then delegate.
  • Falling short constantly demotivates in a hard to get out chain of events.

How to work

  • Start warming up with Pomodoros, that is 25 min of continued work followed by 5 minutes of rest, if you are focused after a 25 min cycle don’t stop, but if you aren’t able to gain focus on your task after the 4th round, stop. Come back later and repeat. Ultradian rythm is made of 90 to 120 minutes of good performance followed by 20 minutes of dumbness, so don’t worry if you lose your focus after 1:30 hours of work with no reason (but don’t stop if you are inspired!). Rest around 20-30 min and continue your tasks starting with Pomodoros again.
  • After 4-5 hours of work on cognitive tasks you’ll notice that you are not performing that good, or you feel discomfort, that means it’s time to stop. Forget about the work, go out to enjoy your life. You’ll be able to come back for another round after a couple hours.
  • You should at least perform 25 hours of highly-cognitive activities during a week in order to increase your performance. Over 35 hours/week the performance decline is noticeable. You might believe that you are performing great, but if you measure it you’ll notice you don’t. Don’t defy your cognitive capacity - unless it’s a real exception during a limited period of time, like 1 week max - or you’ll burnout and not be able to gain focus again for a rather long period of time. If you’re not planning going on vacations soon, it’s not a good idea.
  • Group repetitive, regular tasks into concentrated work sessions, turning many tasks into a sigle one. E.g. emailing, filling forms, paperwork, schedulng, etc. This is called “batching”.
  • When talking about performance, less is more. Often multitaskers feel that they accomplish more, but science massively says they don’t. The reason is that our brains work with temporary quick-access memory just as computers work with RAM. When you start working on a task it takes about 20 minutes to gain focus and perform the best on that task, when you do constant context switching is like having many programs open in the computer.
  • A messy workspace is hazardous for productivity in many ways. When it comes to order and cleanness in your workspace there’s no excuse for delaying it.
  • Working right after waking up (up to 3 hrs later) is to take advantage of the best cognitive state of the mind. Doing other things (specially consuming multimedia) will reduce the performance.

Advice on software development

  • Working software is the primary measure of progress. Shouldn’t stop working until you’ve got at least one working functionality. This will increase performance and avoid frustration.
  • Documentation is the main difference between great and mediocre collaborative projects.
  • The work to do after a release is technical debt. Technical debt almost never gets paid (ignore the almost). A chance to pay it is having a fixed time in the week to work on it.

Learning

  • Learn through deep embodiment, that is multiple sensory streams. Learn through doing.
  • Learn from the specification whenever reasonable.
  • Studying close to sleeping will consolidate that information better in long-term memory.

TODO: Add sources (read note on technical debt).

Felix Freeman < sir heregoesthemailseparator hacktivista.com >.

Released under CC0.