Tuesday, July 20, 2010

We Ditched the TV and Rely on the Web for Entertainment

...in April. You might remember. It's been three months, and here's our update.

So far, so good. We barely notice that we don't have TV except for all the Red Sox games we've missed. Well, maybe I'll speak for myself and let CW speak for himself.

I haven't, unfortunately, dramatically cut back on how much time I spend staring at the big screen in our living room, but it's nice that I'm not bombarded with advertising during those three or four hours on the couch. So that's a plus. Also, we're watching more of exactly what we want (like Weeds, South Park, LOST, 24, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer) and less crap in between (like Family Guy). Also I'v become a huge fan of documentaries, nature (especially those featuring David Attenborough) or otherwise. So, in a way, I'm learning from my TV instead of just consuming it. Maybe.

I have also realized just how deeply in love I am with Netflix. Really - it knows no bounds. Did you know you can watch James and the Giant Peach on there? Seriously, go watch it right now. Although sometimes Netflix occasionally disappoints, it more than makes up for the movies it doesnt have with the gems that it does.

Monday, July 19, 2010

How to take on day at a time

It never fails: I post or talk about productivity and, immediately after, experience my least productive day in a long while. Why? Discipline.

I've read before, but I can't find the source now, that discipline is like any muscle in your body. That idea became one of those quick-hits that resonated with me immediately. Of course it is - there isn't necessarily something innately wrong with me or anyone else you has little self-discipline, me or that other person simply hasn't made exercising self-discipline a priority.

I'm Gen Y, guys, I get what I want when I want it, remember?

But how do you strengthen your discipline muscle? Here's what I'm trying.

I'm starting small. During one of my many attempts to Go to the Gym Every Day for Real, You Guys, I'd spend more than an hour working out and loving it. I was totally feeling and loving that burn, you know? Doing circuits after circuits, rocking out, being a gym hero. The gym I went to was totally going to hire me a spokesperson after that day.

Then I'd spend 30 mins at the gym the next day. Then I'd skip the next day. And then next. Then it was Friday and I had plans for the weekend. I'd fizzle out and spend a month ignoring the fact I wasn't going before feeling guilty enough to start all over again.

Not any more. New goal for getting in shape? Just getting up at the same time every morning and going to the gym. I don't even care if I walk on the treadmill and watch infomercials for 30 minutes while I'm half asleep. I aim to just show up and do something.

Same with my other personal goal: eat healthier. The number one thing I'd like to do better in that realm is just eat my goddamn breakfast. I don't even care if its a single piece of toast - the point is I can't say I'm going to go from eating nothing to making a traditional Irish breakfast feast every morning and expect it actually happen.

My other personal improvement goal is to read more. I used to read books like no one's business. Then a little thing called College came in and made reading about speed and counting pages. Lame! I have my list of books and I'm going to start carrying around the first one on that list everywhere I go. And I'm going to read for 10 or 20 minutes every day while I eat lunch. I'd like to get to read a book a week (all the Smart People on the Internet do that, you guys) but if it takes me two months to get through that first book, so be it. I'm establishing a habit through consistent behaviors.

When I won't want to go to the gym or read, it'll be easier to do it because the bar is low. Once it's easy to meet that bar, I raise it a little. But my self-discipline muscle will be all warmed up by then, so it won't see quite so hard.

Or so I think. We'll see how it goes.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

How I Am Productive

The bottom line is I'm not: I live and breathe by OMGTHEDEADLINEISTOMORROW. But these are the things I'm trying to keep in mind to be more productive.

1) Penelope Trunk's succinct explanation of all productivity tips: Do one thing at a time. Do the most important thing first. Start Now.

It's the starting now part that I have the most trouble with. Coffee helps. It also helps to...

2) Break tasks into small pieces and know, realistically, how long each piece will take.

And reward yourself when you finish each piece. Checking my Google Reader index, Facebook, or IsItFunnyToday.com are some of my rewards. I'm also breaking my day into smaller pieces, divided up by 15-min walks around the campus where I work and snacks. Take a look:
  • I get to work at 8:00am ish and start working at 8:30.
  • Take a break at 10:30
  • Work from 10:45 to 12:30, then have lunch.
  • Work from 1:30 to 3:30, then take another break.
  • Work from 3:45 to 5:15 ish, then you're done!
3) Aim to complete just three tasks every day. This keeps me from writing huge, all-encompassing to-do lists that are just overwhelming. Three, small tasks are manageable.

4) Assign tasks to specific times of the day when you know you are most productive. For example, I write better in the morning than the afternoon, so I always try to finish writing an article before 11am. I schedule interviews after this time so I don't have that distraction. It's also good to have one, small task to do immediately after lunch, like an interview, so I get back into a rythym of work.