As someone who has tried almost every self help strategy/angle out there, I have a fairly good understanding of most of them and have learned from personal experience what works and doesn’t work. Here is perhaps one of the simplest I’ve tried and it works for me every day. It is a to do list. Most people use to do lists in some way or another. I my approach to this was suggested to me in a book by Hung Pham, one of my favorite self help authors. Please check out his books if you have not already. Each day when I sit down at the computer, I create a short, 3 item list of things I want to get done that day. Instead of going in to a lot of detail and outlining my entire day step by step, I distil my goals in to 3 simple statements. To most of you, it would seem that I am setting the bar pretty low. Just 3 things? Why not try and get 10 done. Here is the logic. Creating a large list tends to result in negative feelings about your ability to reach your goals. Any interruption to your schedule and you fail to complete some of your items. Then these items get pushed to the next day and you end up with another un-doable list. The cycle repeats and repeats with you never reaching an end point or a time when you feel you have succeeded. This is not good in the way it makes you feel and results in lower productivity in the long run. The best strategy by far is to start with a notecard, post-it or as I do, Tomboy Notes in Linux. Write down 3 tasks that you know you can complete that day. Don’t be too general or specific. Try to stay somewhere in the middle. A good rule is to choose things that will take between 10 minutes and 2 hours each. Try to list things that are not every day tasks. Like for example, “go to work” on your list every day is not something for your list. These need to be things that you intend to accomplish in addition to what you normally do. Choose things that are critical to your well being and personal advancement. “Go to the dmv and register the car” is a good one. “Watch video on Backbone.js and try some examples” is also good. Keep your list handy so that you can easily refer to it all day. Regularly return to it as even with just 3 items it is easy to forget about it as you go through your day. When you complete items, draw a line through them or annotate on your computer with DONE. You will be surprised how keeping to this short list every single day will add to your over all productivity. I hope the 3 things list is as helpful to you as it has been to me. It is a good habit and good habits make successful people.
To balance out all my negatives, I figured I would start saying some good stuff about products that I actually like. The first one that came to mind today is something that I depend upon regularly and have since my sister suggested it maybe 10 years ago. If you have long hair it is likely you have split ends to some degree. I have a terrible time with them. Even using high end shampoo and conditioner, I can end up combing out a handful of hair after each shower. As a guy with long hair, this really bothers me as most of my friends are at some point of going bald. Even the thought terrifies me. This is probably the best defense I’ve found on the market. What you need to get is the It’s a 10 miracle spray on. They have other products and if I have any complaint with the company, its that they make it so easy to actually grab the wrong one. Right now I have both their shampoo and conditioner which I grabbed accidentally when rushing in to get more of this stuff. Spray it on after your shower. You can spray it all over as it doesn’t put out much per squeeze. Then, squish it through your hair. Let it dry for about 5 minutes (its never good to comb wet hair even though sometimes you have to if you have bad tangles) and then comb it out starting at the bottom and working up. You will notice an improvement in your hair immediately. It is easier to comb and frizz free all day. This is a great product and the company charges for it. I think the last bottle I got was over 40$. It lasts a long time though and if you have hair like mine, it is worth the cost. I would hate to go a day without it. Their other products are ok, however maybe not worth the cost. I usually use Redken shampoo and conditioner but always follow up with It’s a 10. Try it, it works. Make sure the bottle looks like the one below. You can get it at Hair Cuttery for about as cheap as I’ve found it. The type with keratin is a few bucks more. I get that usually, however, I really can’t say that I can tell a difference.
It’s a 10 miracle leave-in review
Finally after going to bed really early all week I woke up this morning at a decent hour without the alarm. For the past 6 days I’ve laid down by 9 each night. For the first few, I woke up a lot, only getting back to sleep with the help of a few programming books. Regardless of how early I crashed, I could not get myself up until around 9 each day. This night however, I slept through solidly until 7 am and awoke feeling ready to go. While not all of it was sleep, I seem to have wasted at least 12 hours a day all week trying. I am sure that I need more sleep than I used to but am hoping it will be no more than 6-7 hours a day as who wants to spend their life in bed? I shutter to think that I may have become one of those people who simply don’t function right without 10 hours unconscious a day. What a waste of time right? Regardless of what my personal, optimal sleep amount is I plan to shorten it with the help of naps. Tim Ferris discussed this in his book “the four hour body” where he had managed to reduce his required sleep to just 2 hours a day broken up into 6 evenly placed 20 minute naps spaced evenly 4 hours apart. Everything about this was critical, the amount and the spacing. While I do not have his flexibility or discipline, I believe I can still benefit from his research. I plan to take 2 naps a day ongoing. I estimate Tim was able to reduce his total required sleep approximately 75% with his new schedule. As you cannot go without sleep, I am assuming some sort of diminishing returns curve which crosses at a total sleep time line at some minimally optimal point, in his case 2 hours. Making a lot of assumptions about the shape of these curves, and assuming the worst about my required sleep (10 hours a night) I conservatively am planning to reduce my required sleep by 4 house total with 2 evenly spaced 1 hour naps a day. My schedule will be roughly as follows.
- Wake at 6am
- Nap from 1pm to 2pm
- Nap from 6pm to 7pm
- Sleep at 2am
I figure that lunch time will be probably my best shot at a nap during the work week and the evening nap is early enough to not interfere with band practice. As afternoons are my least productive time of day, the 1pm nap should get me back on track. I normally waste this time anyway so might as well be asleep. The 6pm nap should allow me to stay up till 2am so as to get in a productive evening push at the end of every day. As a sleep aid, I will continue to use programming textbooks. I am leaving an hour for each nap rather than the 20 minutes Tim slept as I just do not see myself falling asleep as quickly. If I do, I will try and shorten these as well. I will stick to the schedule and deprive myself of sleep if necessary until I adapt. In the end, I expect to be much more productive in the afternoon and evening than I am currently and will gain 4-6 hours of total time awake each day. With the increased productivity I expect a net gain of at least 10 hours of productivity a day as compared with my current, horribly inefficient schedule. I will have 3 “mornings” a day and morning has clearly become my best time for getting things done. Detailing it out roughly, this 10 hours will come from having an additional 3 hours of morning time, 4 hours regained in the afternoon that are normally wasted and 4 house in the evening programming before I go to bed which I’ve not been good about in the last year. I will still be spending 6 hours in bed total which for many people is standard. Realistically, this would be impossible for me if lumped in to say the 12-6am range every day. Broken in to 3 sections, however, it just may be enough. I am cautiously optimistic regarding both the sleep time and the productivity gains. The whole plan is open to adjustment of course. I may even find it possible to try 3 naps a day depending upon my schedule. Regardless, if this works even in part, it will be nothing short of life changing. For more information on Tim’s self experimentation and findings check these out:
Relax Like A Pro: 5 Steps to Hacking Your Sleep
The Secrets of a Fantastic Night’s Rest