I have been thinking a great deal recently about time management, lifestyle design, and productivity. My last post dealt with how I periodize work/rest
time on a minute by minute and year by year basis. I’ve had some experiences recently that have allowed me to go deeper and really examine the texture and feeling of how I am spending time.
Some weeks I feel blissfully relaxed, others I’m frantic, other weeks are high-octane exciting. We all need a mix in our lives – here is a shot at how I like to spend my time (and what to avoid).
Getting Things Done
To borrow a phrase from David Allen
– I love GTDing. Not the system
(although I like that too) – it’s the feeling of moving forward. I just ended a week where I made real progress. Moved Zeo forward in a substantial ways, reconnected with old friends, had kick-ass interactions with people I love in the consumer health space, hit my key workouts, skied powder, read some spiritual-ish texts. GTD for me means that I moved forward on bringing the right things into my life
For me getting things done requires the right environment:
- I need to be ‘home’ – ie. in a place I feel comfortable, grounded, and settled – doesn’t actually have to be my house in Boston – for instance right now ‘home’ is a cabin in Wyoming for the winter. But I feel really comfortable here.
- Balance is key – I need to periodizing work and play so I don’t feel harried, burned out, or over-stimulated.
- I need calm and quiet – at least most of the time. No huge parties, circus-like meetings, financing falling apart, etc.
- A routine is key, combined with good health practices (food, sleep, exercise, etc.)
Spend a month Getting Things Done and tell me how you feel. Accomplished, relaxed … and likely bored. Life requires more zest than methodologically plodding along and making things happen according to plan. It’s good to go off plan. Way off plan. Explore!
I just had a couple of Explore! weeks. They were awesome. I can’t stand them all the time – since I’d never get anything done – but a good mix is essential.
I spent the week between Christmas and New Years traveling. Jackson -> Boston -> Colorado -> drive to Jackson. Every day a different bed, new people, new activities. I learned to ice climb, skied Wolf Creek and Red Mountain Pass, was in the Zeo office for a packed day of meetings, went drinking with old buddies, opened Christmas presents and had Christmas dinner with my family. Time seemed to slow down. All of the new stimuli being processed made a week seem like a month. Exciting. By the end I was exhausted.
A key for Explore! periods: Don’t try to Get Stuff Done. I basically dropped my workout regime, daily email practice, todo lists, cheated more on diet, etc. Trying to both Explore! and GTD leaves you feeling like you have accomplished neither. When you are exploring – just HAVE THE EXPERIENCE and let that be enough. You will GTD plenty later.
I strongly suspect that in addition to GTD and Explore, Relax is a key way to spend time. I almost never do this – so take my description of this mythical time with a grain of salt. I’d like to get here.
Find a beach and curl up with a good book. Mind-wipe. The kind that leaves you feeling relax and rejuvenated. No Exploring. No GTDing. Just let go. The closest I get to this is mountaineering and hiking. I am in the wilderness with nothing to do but move my body, experience nature, and allow my thoughts to still ever so slightly.
I haven’t played much with this yet – but I generally like to really get into a swing with GTD, but not so much I get bored (2-4 weeks), then Explore for at least a week but not more than three or I start feeling unsettled. Then ideally I’d Relax for a week before starting again (someone tell me how to do this!).
Thinking about these awesome ways to spend time has also brought to mind the shit-time that we should all avoid.
Most type-A folks appear to live here. Super-busy, constantly interrupting oneself, unfocused, unproductive. Sometimes this feels like time well spent – and it certainly feels ‘normal’ and even heroic to be so god-damn busy. This leads to stress, shit doesn’t get done, relationships get ignored, etc. Don’t fall prey.
Ever stare at your laptop trying to work on something but end up procrastinating non-stop? Twitter, email, web surfing, meaningless water-cooler chat – all are suggestive that you are existing in a brain-dead state.
I’m pretty sure that for years I lived in a cycle of Frantic -> crash -> Brain-Dead – rally -> Frantic. An exhausting and un-fulfilling way to live. I’m not firing at 100% yet – but I feel like I’ve got a pretty good cycle of Get Shit Done -> Explore -> Get Stuff Done now – with some occasional Frantic and Brain-Dead periods thrown in just to make sure I don’t get too cocky