Productivity Journal

Related pages


Explanation

  • I have another page on my wiki called "Happiness Journal" where I log things that I notice seem to be making me feel happy or sad. The idea is that over time I'll gather enough observations that I'll be able to pick out patterns and get a good idea of what I should do in a given situation to make myself happier.
  • The idea with this page is to log my observations of what seems to make me more or less productive. Hopefully I'll gather enough good ideas that I'll be able to figure out how to improve my productivity.


Journal

  • "Keep a diary–a diary in which you ought to record your triumphs in the application of these principles. Be specific. Give names, dates, results. Keeping such a record will inspire you to greater efforts; and how fascinating these entries will be when you chance upon them some evening, years from now!" - 'How to Stop Worrying and Start Living' by Dale Carnegie
  • Important: The Productivity Journal is for all productivity-related thoughts / discoveries which do not involve conquering procrastination accompanied by anxiety. Fighting procrastination is such a large problem that I have a separate journal for it.


  • 2016.10.29 (Saturday)
    • 10:20am - I just woke up and I'm immediately jumping into coding for my WD project because I've noticed while working at my day-job that I find it much easier to do work as soon as I wake up, when I feel most-fresh. My thinking-power usually decreases after maybe 2 hours, and it gets especially screwed-up if I eat something bad, like if I buy a cookie for breakfast; my brain gets 'cloudy'. I think I've noticed the opposite if I eat healthy carbs, like tomatoes / carrots / spinach: my brain feels "clear"; I find it easier to think / I don't get the anxious/painful-feeling when thinking about something hard that usually leads to me switching to reading the NYT/etc.
      • When you think of a new task you need to do, add it as a TODO rather than interrupting what you're currently working on: I started to work and when I got to PythonAnywhere I thought to myself, "Oh, I should check to see how my auto-remoteOK script is doing". Normally I would have immediately checked, but I've realized that that habit leads to me getting side-tracked too often and never making progress on big projects. So what I did instead was add the task as a low-priority TODO to my daily notepad list of TODOS. I feel pretty optimistic that changing this behavior of mine will have a big impact on how productive I am.
  • 2016.10.31
    • I just played a few games of blitz and now I'm switching to programming, and I feel a level of adrenaline from being forced to make decisions quickly that I think might carry over to the programming. That got me thinking that it might help to do some kind of fun warm-up activity before you need to do some kind of work so that you're in the right frame of mind.
      • Examples:
        • Before we would do shows in the college acting club, everyone would gather around and do verbal warm-ups.
        • Before doing soccer drills we would warm up by jogging around the track a few times.
    • Another trick that just occurred to me: set some small, achievable goal for yourself for the day.
      • I just sent brief pitches on my finance-video-series idea to Investopedia and Seeking Alpha and posted one of the videos on Reddit/investing.
      • The example that sprang to mind was when I was reading the "Success Principles" and the guy mentioned how the way they got Chicken Soup to become popular was by contacting five people every day for like two years. They just kept at it. So just focus on doing those five reps every day, and just don't stop.
  • 2016.11.01
    • I was feeling really down / tired, and then I ate a big spinach salad I had bought at the store, and I soon felt much better. So I was probably suffering from low blood-sugar(?), and just needed some carbs.
    • I was able to go the entire day without reading news / etc. I think part of it was that:
      1. I turned off my phone and put it in my backpack, so I couldn't randomly go on the Internet while taking breaks.
      2. I set up Windows to block the websites I'd usually procrastinate with via my 'hosts' file. This definitely helped, as there were a few times where I was really tempted to go onto one of those websites, and having that small barrier was enough to overcome that urge.
        1. Update 2016.08.26 - Blocking websites with the hosts file is a huge help.
    • Another trick I discovered: when I go up to work on the second floor, I was previously sometimes working from a part of the floor where I could see some traffic in my peripheral vision. I think it was subtly distracting me, and so today I went and worked in a corner, facing the outside wall of the building (which had blinds down), so I didn't have anything moving around in my field of view.
  • 2016.11.03
    • Today I didn't use my usual relaxation technique (rolling my neck, etc.) and I actually felt much better; it was much easier to concentrate, I didn't feel pulled towards reading newspapers, etc.
    • I also took a nap at 5pm because I could tell that I felt tired and wasn't being as productive, and I think it was only 30 minutes but I felt fantastic afterwards. I also went and ate one of the Mediterranean paninis and two gelato popsicles which I feel bad about now. But my head feels clear; I don't feel exhausted. It's 6:13pm, so I should hopefully be productive the rest of the evening.
    • 10:40pm - Wow, this ended up being one of the most productive days I've had in a LONG time. I want to write down as much as possible about the circumstances of today so I can replicate it:
      • I've been making an effort to get more sleep recently, although I'm still not getting 9 hours. I think I got 8 hours, which is much more than I'd been getting in the previous weeks (5-7 hours).
      • I've been making an effort to eat healthy food, and I've noticed (and I think I noted it here) that my mind feels 'clearer' after I've eaten a big thing of spinach or had tomatoes.
        • Today I ate: two small packets of Pocky (bad, I know), a pound of Oscar Mayer oven roasted turkey, I've been making a point of drinking a lot of water in the morning so I did that as well, and then I had my two Fage plain yogurts, my carrots. After my nap I went to the coffee place and got the mediterranean panini and two gelato sticks, then a while later I ate the big thing of spinach.
      • I was wearing two pairs of socks: the casual black socks underneath, and the more-dressy brown (thin) socks over them. I've been doing that so I can use the dressy socks multiple times. So my feet were comfortably warm even though it can get cold in the library.
      • I think the nap was a big part of why I felt great; IIRC it was only maybe 30-45 minutes. I should start doing that every day at ~4:30-5pm, whenever I'm starting to feel burned out.
      • did waste time in the morning, and I felt really bad about it. I just need to block more websites.
      • Another big change I made today was to get out of the library basement and instead go to the second floor. I did this for two reasons: 1) the library basement gets cold, to the point where it's distracting. 2) When I'm in the basement no one can see my screen, and so I don't feel any peer pressure to be doing work. I can be browsing the NYT or YouTube and no one can see. So today I went to the second floor and sat at a table where other people were working, and I purposely faced towards the outside wall, so my screen was visible to anyone walking by or in the nearby study rooms.
      • And I didn't spend any time relaxing today, which is very unusual for me. That may have been a contributing factor as well.
      • Another factor was that I didn't feel blocked. In the past I would hit problems where I didn't know how to fix them and so I would feel really anxious because I wasn't making progress. Today I hit a few potentially-serious blockers, but they were similar-enough to problems I'd seen previously that I was able to get through them. (Ex: I hit a bunch of git / merging issues, where once I merged in someone else's code my repo wasn't working, but I'd actually seen the error message before.)
  • 2016.11.08 - I fritted away the afternoon and only was able to start working at ~12-1am. I've noticed that I often feel anxious until I get very tired, at which point the anxious feeling that makes me want to procrastinate goes away. It may be worth experimenting again with alcohol to see if I can get rid of that anxious feeling during the day instead of it only going away at night. As it is now, I'm not going to get very much sleep tonight, which is just bad for my happiness tomorrow.
  • 2016.11.10 - I've been noticing over the past few weeks that one of the hardest parts of working for me is getting started. It'll often take me an hour or more to get started. I should come up with some kind of routine that helps ease me into the work.
  • 2016.11.11 - Ok, I think I may have figure something out: If I'm trying to start working but I can't stop thinking about other things, putting on a Magic Tape may help me drown out my thoughts.
    • Also, I think I prefer to not pick up a Magic Tape in the middle if I stopped in the middle of one the previous evening. I think I like it better to start a new MT instead.
  • 2016.11.20 - Yesterday (Saturday) I had a schedule that worked great, I felt great all day and got a lot done: I spent ~2 hrs programming when I woke up, then got food and went to the Stanford cafeteria, where I did work until 6pm. At 6pm I went to the gym (which closes at 8pm), shaved, and did an intense one-hour workout where I only did two supersets, but I didn't take any breaks, and so I felt totally killed by the end of it. It was my normal all-leg workout, which uses ~6 different machines / pieces of equipment, going for ~10-20 reps per set.
  • 2016.11.28
    • A good example of not looking for a quicker way around a problem: I needed to log into the web app for my local codebase and it prompted me to run the authenticator on my phone, which was off. So I had to turn on my phone to run the authenticator, which took a few minutes to start. I could have realized that I knew the login and password to the website from memory, so I could have just ignored LastPass and just typed in the information from memory. It was probably a good idea to run the authenticator anyway, but I wanted to write this down as an example of a situation where I didn't have a process for evaluating quicker ways around a problem I was facing. I didn't ask, "Is there some way for me to avoid using the Authenticator altogether?"
    • 6:46pm - Today I tried a different way of arranging my schedule: I tried working for 4-5 hours, then I went to the gym at ~3:30pm, was there until ~5:30, then went back to the GSB library and started working again. So far I'm finding it way easier for me to concentrate on work / get stuff done than before I left for the gym. So this might be something to try again in the future.
  • 2016.11.29
    • I'm measuring my time in 10-minute increments and already see what's causing me to slow down: I get pulled into daydreaming about other things, like the way I wish my life was instead of the way it is now.
  • 2016.12.02
    • I noticed something today, that there's a distinct difference between 1) deciding to do something, and 2) then doing it. And once you've decided to do something, your productivity is determined by how quickly you knock it out and the quality of the resulting work. So, for example, I'll find myself coding, and I'll need to do some small subtask, and it'll occur to me while doing the subtask that, "You know, I could probably do this much faster and it wouldn't matter to the final result." And that motivates me to knock it out faster. This is just a slightly new way for me to think, so I thought it was worth writing down. One of my lessons from studying for the LSAT is that a lot of changing your behavior to become more successful is about having the right thoughts pop into your head at the right time; so, for example, when doing a particular type of LSAT question, you want to have the right "hint" pop into your head, so that it leads you down the right path. And now with this productivity work I'm doing, I'm finding a new kind of thought pop into my head, one where I'm asking myself about whether the task I'm doing could be done more quickly. Another analogous example is my writing: when I'm writing and I think I'm done, I'll have the thought pop into my head, "Oh, I should reread this to make sure there aren't any errors." And that leads me (IMO) to have better-quality writing than people who don't have that thought pop into their heads.
  • 2016.12.23 - I got a fair amount of sleep last night but was sitting at my laptop in the morning and feeling tired and not feeling able to start working, and I realized, "This is a great example of a situation in which I'd end up wasting a lot of time. I wonder if there's anything I can do to get past this tired feeling and get productive more quickly...Hmm...well, normally people drink coffee...maybe I can try listening to music at a louder-than-usual volume and see if that wakes me up." And it seems to be working! The lights are also off in the room where I was working, with just cloud-hidden sunlight coming in through the windows, so that was probably also making me take longer to feel awake.
  • 2017.01.12 - Yesterday at the gym I had something of an epiphany, which was that the mental process I think highly-productive guys are going through is, when they're faced with an objective X or an intermediate task Y, they have this voice popping into their head that asks, "Could I get away with not doing Y to achieve X?" or "What would happen if I didn't do Y?" or "What's the bare minimum I could do to achieve X?", instead of asking, "What's the proper way to get Y done?" or "How would a proper job of doing Y look like?" I often find myself asking the lattermost question.
    • So while I was showering before my workout, I practiced running through this thought process for everything I was doing, and I found it very interesting: I was about to wash my legs and I asked myself, "What would happen if I didn't wash my legs before I went to work out? Would anyone notice?" Normally I would just do it without thinking about it.
    • Parker Conrad definitely has this voice going on in his head. It was a big part of the culture at Zenefits. They would praise employees for passing a necessary government exam by the smallest possible margin.
  • 2017.01.13 - I suspect it may help me be more productive if the room is just a tiny bit cooler than would make me feel totally comfortable. I'm not sure what the temperature is right now but I feel like it's in the 60s, maybe between 65 and 68?
    • On the other hand, I've worked in buildings where I was cold, and that wasn't any good. I think the ideal situation is for people to be able to adjust the temperature themselves.
  • 2017.02.03 - I'm finding myself being productive today much earlier than I had been in previous days. I think it's attributable to a few things:
    1. I stayed in bed a while longer today, only getting up when I felt good, and so when I got to the GSB library I felt great and eager to start working.
    2. I left off my work yesterday at a point where I was 'in the zone', where I knew exactly what I needed to be doing, and I wasn't anxious about what to do next. So when I got started today I was able to quickly pick up that work and start to feel productive and get 'into the zone' again.
    3. I felt kind of 'stale' sitting in the same place I'd been sitting in for months, so I decided to sit in a new area, and I think the change of scenery was refreshing and livened me up.
  • 2017.02.14 - I was talking to dad today and he said that Carlos once told him that he found that it takes about three weeks of sustained effort when working on some new project before you start to really get into the groove and become productive. I thought that was very interesting.
  • 2017.02.15
    • One trick I just noticed was this: I spent ~30 minutes working on a bunch of different minor things, and then at the end of that 30 minutes I switched to my Notepad and wrote up the different things that I had accomplished. This allows me to feel the warm feeling of accomplishment at looking at this list of things done, but it also allows me to work on these minor things without interrupting myself every few minutes to switch to the notepad. It reminds me a lot of when I was taking the LSAT and I would go through a 35-minute section without pulling over my answer sheet, and then at the end of that 35 minutes I would pull over the answer sheet and bubble all of the answers at once.
    • Don't look up at the mountain you've got to climb: Another thing I did differently today was that I didn't have a tab open for the Delighted website (the website I'm trying to create a clone of). I think in the past two weeks having that page open has been discouraging in the same way that looking up a mountain is discouraging when you're still at the bottom.
  • 2017.08.31 - Today I tried a new work schedule that seems to be working really well: I went to work in the restaurant as usual, from ~10/11-6pm, then came back, but instead of going to sit in bed after finishing my 'normal' work routin, I sat outside at a table that I'd used before and really enjoyed working at, and since it was cooler (since it was the evening), I had a really pleasant (and very different from the previous 6-8 hours) work experience.
  • 2017.10.24 - I've been spending an hour a day watching as John goes through online JavaScript tutorials and I think it has really helped me to stay focused on coding myself. I think especially if you started the day by mentoring another person it could be a great easy way to start the day on the right foot (instead of starting the day by checking news websites / twitter, for example).
  • 2018.01.20 - It's amazing how much more time there seems to be in the day if you don't check any news, social media, games, or YouTube at all. You have lots of little moments of boredom.