Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Don't Fight Your Mind

Almost everyone wishes at one point or another that they could get more done, or feels that there is not enough time in the day. Perhaps this is more of a sentiment in the Northeast part of the US or closer to major cities, but I think that it is still a topic worthy of consideration.

Write It Down

One of the major items that I have started doing over the past year is not procrastinating about developing my ideas. In some ways, I often find that my brain is somewhat of a wanderer. That is, when I am trying to work on a particular project, my brain will often consider other ideas. It is this "creative" energy and thought that is often the inspiration for most of my great work.

The problem, for me at least, is that my left brain wants to stay on task. So, instead of taking that energy and capturing it and the ideas with it, I often lost it by staying focused on the task at hand.

Focus on What's Interesting

Since my mind was clearly more interested in the creative idea I was having, I stopped fighting it. I encourage it. When I have these thoughts, even if it is something as mundane as needing to do laundry, I write it down. If I don't have a pad and pen handy, I will type it into a simple notepad file.

This technique forces me to purge all of the ideas and interest in the topic from my mind. This causes me to focus on the topic for as long as it is interesting to me. Usually this is a longer time in the beginning of practicing this technique, but I have gotten much better at it and it now only takes a few minutes until I am back on track.

Reaping the Benefits

At the end of a typical day, week, or whenever I have downtime, I review the notes on this pad of paper. In my mind, I think of this as my "money pad". The ideas I think up are often ways to improve a process, get more done, make money or do some other improvement. These inevitably will result in money or some other benefit. Even if it is not profit or money, it may be experience and learning.

Separate the Wheat from the Chaff

Sometimes, the idea turns out to be a dud or not interesting once I've written about it and considered it in my head a day or two later. However, the process is important; not just because I am getting these ideas written down, but because it keeps me on task better than any other technique I've been able to figure out. And getting back on task quickly is a key to productivity. It is this type of mental wandering or phasing out, along with socializing, that removes more than 2 hours of productivity from the average 8 hour work day.

Using Your Ipod

Music and soothing sounds I find are actually quite helpful for me in terms of this process. And it means that I love listening to different music on my Ipod. When I hear fast music or no music at all, I find that I get through monotonous, mindless tasks faster. The bottom line is, that your brain works best when considering only one idea or perhaps two at a time. It can dedicate all of its energy and synapses toward that single issue. When you daydream and are creative, you are sapping energy away from the other things you might be doing.

Driving Your Productivity

Listening to music in the car can be a huge help also. However, you may or may not be able to safely drive and write any notes down while in the car. So, for me, I find that memorizing short phrases in the car when I think of an idea is the best method. Another option you might try is a cheap, but reliable voice-activated recorder. Just speak into the voice-activated microphone while driving and your idea is recorded for future use. These devices are quite cheap now at most chain electronics stores.

Getting Results

There are tons of other productivity tips that I've learned as well, but this one seems somewhat basic, but also quite unique. This concept really takes the To-Do list to the next level, because each item is not necessarily 'actionable' the way each todo is. But, in the end, some of the ideas may really improve your life either by enriching your time or generating or saving money. And who doesn't want that? As with any technique, the key is to practice.

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