Stop chopping yourself to pieces

cartoon0315My personal experience, confirmed by numerous studies, is:

  1. It’s faster to process email in batches rather than checking in 30 times/day.
  2. Humans cannot multi-task, they just complete both tasks slower, and with lower quality. (Texting and driving, meetings and email)
  3. The best ideas, new ideas, come in a flash when you’re not working.
  4. You are most productive when you’re “in the zone,” a contiguous period of focus, without interruption by human or computer. (E.g. “I have to work from home today so I can actually get something done.”)
  5. You are happier and more productive (both!) when you’ve had enough sleep.
  6. You are happier and more productive (both!) when you get regular exercise.
  7. You are happier and more productive (both!) when you spend time in quiet contemplation (e.g. meditation).

Given that all of these are selfishly useful — concerning your happiness and productivity — it’s amazing how we persistently ignore these facts as we navigate our daily lives.

The conclusions are simple, and obvious.

One task at a time. Don’t allow arbitrary people on email and twitter dictate your attention or use of time, because they’ll demand it all. Be mindful of the present moment. Use regular downtime and rest to stay healthy and happy.

Does that paragraph describe your life?


Are you ok with that?

Can you face the fact that you get to decide how to spend your time, and you’re willfully hurting yourself?

Who are you fooling?

Stop it.

22 responses to “Stop chopping yourself to pieces”

  1. Amen….it’s a constant battle to get better at these things but ALL of them are part of my 2014 goals.

    • Hi Brian, are your goals S.M.A.R.T. i.e. Specific, Measurable, etc…? I’m in the process of trying to do a year end review, but I keep getting tears in my beers, so it makes it hard to figure out goals that have a chance of happening…

  2. A great new year’s resolution blog post, Jason. Right (or wrong) I throw all answered corrospondence, paid invoices, offers, samples etc in a single box and in chronological order rather than spending hours filing. I throw out the junk and file documents that I will refer back to regularly. This was a time saver tip I began with some trepidation, 30 yeas ago. It has worked perfectly.

  3. Yep…a timely reminder, Jason.

    “No” is still a complete sentence. For those uncomfortable with the starkness of this, there is the “graceful” No.

    These are reserved for something (and someone) you really would like to say “Yes!” to – but at another time, place, or situation. When and what that is…can accompany that “No” – especially when you state when to recontact you about the possibility.

  4. OK Jason. You got me on all counts! At the risk of being banally obvious (if that word exists as an adjective), identifying and focusing on those 4 or 5 must-do’s every day (and assessing and planning for them every morning) might make a good number 8 to your list.

  5. Do you have any tips on how to do a year end review? Especially if you have not taken the time to take notes as you went along, so you can’t really remember what went right or wrong way back in February of last year, you just know in your gut this past year was a mess? Do you just start with the problems that stick out in your current memory, and make strategies how to overcome those issues? And how do you continue after Jan 5th, when most new years resolutions fade away?

    • I would say: Just pick 1-3 clear things you can do, and make them *habits*. Don’t try to solve all the things.

      I think many things in that list can be made habits. Just don’t keep email or Twitter open — you can work on remembering to quit them after you’ve made a pass. Or meditate just 10 minutes a day — you clearly could do that every night before bed, for example.

      Many of the things on this short-list will help with lots of other things. “2013 was a mess” is a hard “problem” to tackle because as you say it’s not specific.

      But cleaning your mind helps with all other problems, as does being healthier or getting sleep or not being interrupted constantly. So those seem like good places to start.

      Another way to think about it — if these things are killing you already, you have little hope to control other, more complex parts of your life. So work on these basics first.

      • I was starting from the assumption that I needed a log to debug what was wrong with my actions. But since I don’t have a very detailed log, I’ll have to either do with what I have, or start anew and fix it as I notice it. Its water under the bridge at this point, & I can only take action in the current moment anyway.

        I have noticed in these past few days of thinking about it (meditating), that when I have an anger emotion about my current pointer compared to where I want to be, that anger emotion can provide the motivation to strive for goals. Whereas previously I would slack off after the initial anger pain became dull. So I’m going to try an experiment where I purposely use a daily routine to recall that pain in an attempt to stay motivated and moving forward, which seems to be a problem for me, perhaps I am undiagnosed add (too tired for the H). Happy year year to all!

  6. Great piece, Jason. 5-7 took me a really really long time to truly appreciate and even today it’s a battle to put it into practice.

  7. 100% agree, I came as well to all these conclusions, even though I am still struggling to apply them daily, because no matter how hard I do my best to follow these, there are some days with top mood and powerful flow, and some other days without. For meditation I’d suggest awareness meditation.

  8. A great article, thanks for sharing. At the office we encourage everybody to only have a few priorities at a time, and only a single number one priority. It’s a struggle to keep focused on a single task, with all the distractions of email and social media. So, we’ve made it a priority, and created an award for it –
    So far, so good…but there’s plenty of work left to be done.

    • A common tip is to form exactly one habit. Pick the easiest thing you could actually do, e.g. do 10 pushups every morning. “Making habits” itself is something that you have to work at being able to do. I have a hard time with it myself. Starting with something easy gives you a “baby step” and then you can try forming a harder habit, etc..

      • Cool holiday read Jason and after we put in our LiveStrong Elliptical for the office a few years back it has been godsend as I use it daily to energize myself 10-15 mins between calls or email attacks:)


  9. Awesome article Jason.

    Everything you pointed in this article is very important. No matter what people saying, it’s not so hard to switch to that kind of daily routine. First rule, be consequent.

    We all know it’s a long way to create new habits. Especially because we have January, the beginning of new year, and lot of us have many new resolutions. New Year Resolutions it’s bullshit.

    For me the mechanism is simple. Focus on one thing, make it until it’s a habit. Only one thing at the moment. After that, pick another one. For me it’s the best way to organise your life, work.

    Thanks Jason for your article. I’m saving it in my Evernote.


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