Thursday, April 9, 2009

11 Minutes to Productive

I'm a single guy who lives alone.
That declaration should tell you all you need to know about the condition of my apartment.

I have over 30 uncompleted projects (household, computer, personal work) lurking.

But, in the last few weeks, I've made more progress on my personal projects than in the previous three years combined.

It started when I attempted to power-watch all of Battlestar Galactica so that I could watch the finale the same weekend it aired.
A couple episodes each weeknight meant I would still have over 12 hours per day of BSG on the weekends.

So the strategy I developed for TV-watching marathon:

Step 0:
I wrote up massive list of tasks to be completed.
I did NOT prioritize the list.

Step 1:
Watch TV!

Step 2:
After each show ended, I set a timer for 11 minutes.
I would then spend that 11 minutes working on a task with no expectation of completing it.

Step 3:
When the timer goes off, grab a drink, hit the head, fix a snack, or whatever non-productive thing I need to do.

Step 4:
Watch more TV. Repeat.

By the end of the week, I had seen years worth of BSG, and finished some projects that had been floating since before BSG started.
I even had a guest over during this time. I just explained what I was doing. They made phone calls and such during my 11 minute breaks.

But why was the experiment so successful?
Between Battlestar and a few other shows, I watched about 96 episodes of various TV shows.
Multiply by 11 minutes and you get 17.6 hours.
That's a lot of time, but certainly not orders of magnitude more than I would spend otherwise.
But every single minute of this time was focused and efficient. No sitting around. No planning. No breaks. Just executing.

By flipping the work/break ratio I got a ton more done.
I plan to try this a few more weekends and see if the pattern continues.
I suspect the rate of actual project "completions" will slow, but it will be exciting if it doesn't.

Starting this weekend, I'll be adding workout tasks to the list.
But that implies a priority, since at least one will have to happen every day.

I believe NOT prioritizing has been a big part of the success so far, but perhaps I've already made whatever mental adjustment was needed and this will continue to work.

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