Tag Archive: Links


Time Power

A while ago, I read Charles Hobb’s book Time Power.

Warning: This book is out of print.

It was suggested to me by a friend/supervisor because I was having trouble meeting deadlines.  It was a book that he loved, and he had a lot of success by adopting the book’s system into his daily life.

The book includes a lot of content.  The author has some really interesting ideas about living a life that is congruent with your self-image and your long-term goals.  He does a very good job talking about high-level ideals and then helping you break it down into more day-to-day tasks.  Reading the book really helped me think about how I can get my life under control.

At the same time, the book includes all the “how-to” instructions for a solid Time Management system.  The system is very pencil & paper (rather than digitally-based) could either be seen as out of date, or as a purposeful choice.

One awesome nugget of wisdom that Hobb’s advocates is to separate priority from urgency.  This concept really changed how I think about different tasks that I need to do.  So you can classify your tasks according to how important they are as well as how quickly they need to be done.  A couple examples:

  • Paying bills would be high priority (very important) and also very urgent (as the deadline approaches).
  • Watching a new episode of a favorite reality TV show would be low priority (not important to your life goals) but very urgent (it’s on when it’s on!)
  • Investing money would be a high priority, but also low urgency (because there is no external deadline).

I found that the writing style in this book was also good.  Hobbs writes very clearly, and his tone is non-judgemental and he never condescends.

Overall it’s a very good book.

But in the end, this book didn’t change my life.  More recently, I’ve realized that my problem is with procrastination not with Time Management.  Although these two things are related, they are not the same thing (at least in my experience)… I’m awesome at coming up with plans.  I can divide a task into smaller tasks, and I can set deadlines for them.  I can even set-up Time Management systems like the one described in the book.  However, I’m sh*te at following through with these plans, and meeting the deadlines that I’ve created for myself.

So I really found this book interesting, and I highly recommend it to other people.  But it doesn’t deal with procrastination.

RescueTime

I found RescueTime a while ago, and signed up for the free account.  More recently I upgraded to the Pro solo account, which costs 6 USD a month.

What it does for free
Tracks your computer usage, including websites and programs.  The productivity levels of all your computer use is then scored on a scale from -2 to 2.  It then displays a bunch of different charts on a page called your “dashboard” to summarize your activities in a variety of different ways.

What I payed money for
The best feature of the Pro account, in my opinion, is the RescueTime blocker.  I can set my account to “Focus Time” and the website will block all of my “Very Distracting” sites (scored as -2 on their productivity scale).
Other paid for features include being able to track specific documents, and being able to log time that was spent away from the computer.

Complexity as a Double-Edged Sword
RescueTime is endlessly customizable.  These are a few of the ways you can personalize your account:

  • Set the productivity levels for each activity, or use the default values.
  • Group activities into categories, including categories that you create.
  • Designate blocks of time (or activities) that were spent on certain projects.
  • Change which charts show up on your dashboard.
  • Look at different timescales: current year/month/week/day
  • Set goals.
  • Change the hours of when this program is on (to match your workday perhaps?)
  • etc etc etc

This is all great, making the program more relevant to the user – but they also require your time to sort through different activities and adjust the various settings.  Also, the dashboard can be a bit overwhelming, it slices and dices your data in so many different ways!  It takes a bit of time to explore the charts and figure out what they are really telling you, and what you really want to know.  Overall, the complexity is a good thing, but the program isn’t very intuitive, I really think that the user interface could be much improved.

Does it improve productivity?
Sure. but…  …only if you use it in a way that works for you.

For me, the rescuetime blocker is worth it  – but first I have to honestly list my distractions as -2 productivity, and then I have to actually turn on the blocker.  (Currently I’m bribing myself to turn it on every day.)

The rest of the site is interesting too.  I think it’s helpful to see exactly where I waste my time, and how much time was wasted – but I then have to interpret that data and use it for my goal setting or other planning activities.

 

Final Word
RescueTime starts off as free, so I recommend that everyone try it out.
As for the Pro account, I recommend that you think before buying, as it’s probably not for everyone.
For me, I’m glad I bought into it.

Part of the inspiration for this blog was my results from the procrastinus.com survey; which called me a “master procrastinator”.

I have since gone out, and bought The Procrastination Equation book, by Piers Steel.   And this is my very-quick review.

Overview
The first half of the book talks about procrastination from many different approaches.  It’s talked about in relation to economics, history, our environment, technology, workplaces / institutions, etc etc etc.  The second half of the book introduces the equation itself and introduces strategies to combat procrastination.  The strategies are all backed up with scientific references, and are targeted to different parts of the procrastination equation.

The Good
The content of this book is fantastic.  Specifically the second half, where all the anti-procrastination strategies are discussed.  The author does an excellent job explaining the strategies and giving examples.  The best part is how it can be personalized; it’s easy to select the strategies that best apply to me as an individual.  This personalization comes from the structure of the book – by relating the strategies to each part of the procrastination equation, you can see how they would fit together to create a multifaceted anti-procrastination plan.

The Bad
Personally, I found that the writing style was a little bit simplified.  In particular, I rolled my eyes a little bit when the author was talking about the three example people that he’d created.  The content was still there, and very clear, I just would have preferred to have more of the science-y info.  (I guess I’ll have to look up some of the book’s references if I want to go deeper in to the content!)

The Ugly
This book hit very close to home.
As I was reading it, I could see the consequences of procrastination in my own life.  I could see how my procrastination behaviour relates to my personality and to my work.  This is all a good thing, because it means the book is a good one for me to read, but at the same time – it can be hard to face your flaws.

 

Bottom Line: If you are suffering from procrastination, then this book is a worthwhile read.

Remember the Milk

Lists are my friend.

I create lists for everything, because they’re fun.  I usually have a number of lists on the go: ideas for Christmas presents, gym workouts, creative ideas, movies I want to see, movies I think I should see, housekeeping chores, etc etc etc (the list goes on).

One thing that I did in the New Year, as part of my last attempt to get my procrastination under control, was to sign-up for a free digital list-making app: www.rememberthemilk.com.  There are a bunch of different to-do list websites out there, and I looked at a few of them, eventually selecting remember the milk (RTM) because it’s free and because it’s simple.

I highly recommend it to anyone who is looking for a digital to-do list.  You can start with the most basic features, creating a to-do list.  It’s really easy to use.  But the beauty is that it has many complex features that are entirely optional, and you can explore them as you please, some of the features include:

  • making multiple lists (as many as you want)
  • creating deadlines for your tasks
  • making tasks repeat on any interval you’d like
  • tagging your tasks for easier searching or sorting (there is a tag cloud built into the site too)
  • prioritizing your tasks
  • creating “smart lists” that show a collection of tasks based on the search criteria you set up
  • sharing your lists with other users

The best thing about this site is that the developers seem to be focused on keeping it simple.  For example, you can only prioritize your tasks at three levels (or no priority at all).  This is great, because I don’t want a complicated system – I just want to know when things are high priority (red) or low priority (light blue).   Because their software is simple, it forces me to keep things simple.

As far as my success in using this.  It helped me a bit.  It’s been great for keeping me on track with financial payments.  I used to procrastinate paying bills simply because it is unpleasant, which meant that I would often pay my credit card bill after the due date.  I KNOW that this is stupid, and that it kills my credit rating.  But I would still do it.  But this small reminder on my RTM account is keeping me more honest, and I’ve been paying my bills on time as a result.

But I’ve also had trouble with it.  If I have a lot of overdue tasks (they turn bold and underlined) then I’m more likely to avoid checking my account.  It gets a bit overwhelming.  I just need to be better at using it.  RTM is just a tool, I’m the one who decides what to do with that tool.

Final words: Remember the Milk is a great little piece of software.  And it’s free!

First Post: Possibly Ironic

So I suspect that this blog may itself be a tool for my procrastination…

My story is simple: I procrastinate.  A lot.  To the point where I think it has destroyed my life.  Currently I’m unemployed and I spend a large quantity of time watching tv online, and even more time feeling stressed about the work I should be doing.

Yesterday I stumbled across a test for procrastination (part of Piers Steel’s research on procrastination, and found here), and I scored 100 out of 100.  The results told me that I was a “master procrastinator”.  Which is something that I already knew.

So today I am turning over a new leaf…  And part of that will be to talk about my efforts in this blog.  Why?  Because it’s cheaper than therapy.

Establishing a routine was suggested to me as part of my survey results from  procrastinus.com.  It makes sense – I’ve tried to establish a routine for other things, like exercising, but I’ve been resistant to it for getting work done.

If I’m honest with myself, the reason I’ve been resistant to setting a routine is that it will stand in the way of my favorite procrastination activities, like tv and facebook and surfing my favorite sites.

The reason it would stand in my way is that I would never prioritize these activities, so I would never include them in my routine.  Which scares me.

So I’m going to keep these fears in mind, because I want to be successful.  And I think that I will set myself up for failure if I come up with an “ideal” routine that I couldn’t stick to.  I need to recognize where I’m at, if I want to improve.

Once upon a time I couldn’t do a push-up.  And the way I got better wasn’t by trying to do oodles of push-ups.  It was by starting small, and increasing my challenge in nice achievable steps.  I’m going to apply those lessons to this, and start with a small routine that I can expand on later.

Step 1: A smidgeon of a routine

The equivalent of a wall push-up, something that I can definitely do, I just need to commit to doing it.

Every morning, at 10am.  I will do something productive: I will open Word and work on one of the three projects that I have outstanding.  It doesn’t matter how long I work on it, but I can’t just “fake it” by opening it and then going back to procrastinating.  I need to actually do some work.