Productivity by Elimination

productivity by eliminationPhoto by Bill & Mavis

True productivity is not about doing more in less time. It’s about doing less in less time. It’s about defining what is truly worth doing and sticking to that alone.

Bloggers often tell me that there’s not enough time available to do everything they truly want to do: to start that dream project, to write that value-packed post, to guest-post on a popular blog.

If I said to them: “You can have that, but you need to stop reading feeds and outsource comment moderation,” most people would respond: “It’s not that simple.”

But it is. If you can eliminate three hours of the inessential from your week, and doing your dream takes three hours a week, you can have it.

I’m not suggesting that you do all the below, but I’d like you to ask yourself each question and consider the pros and cons of your answer.

How much time would you save? What’s the trade-off?

A mental exercise rather than a prescriptive list, I want you to start thinking about where elimination fits in your blogging routine.

What if you stopped moderating comments?

Here’s an experiment to conduct for a week: note down the number of comments you moderate over a week, then write down the number of comments you had to mark as spam or delete.

If the number of offending comments is very small, you could consider turning off comment moderation. You’ll probably be reading the comments on posts anyway, and can delete any spam you see at that point.

What if you paid someone to moderate comments for you?

If you assume moderating comments once a day is about 40 minutes work each week (at most), you could probably hire a cheap virtual assistant willing to do this for 10 dollars or so — maybe a little less or a little more, depending on who you hire.

What if you stopped reading feeds?

The likely result: you would save hours each week but your posts would be light on links. You might also miss some good posts. But maybe that’s not the end of the world?

If you do an analysis, you’ll probably find that most of the posts you find truly helpful come from just a handful of blogs. If you’re not fond of complete withdrawal, you could prune all your feeds except five or so.

What if you mastered the art of short, polite and to the point email?

A little exercise you can do is to look back on your last 5 sent emails and think: “Could I tick all the same boxes in half the words?”

If you can say the same thing in half the time, you’ll cut down the time you spend responding to email by 50%.

What if you checked email less?

I used to check email as soon as I hopped online, but now I wait until I’ve completed the most important tasks for the day (to avoid wasting hours on email and then not having enough time left to do what’s really important).

I also find that, for what I do, I don’t receive any emails that can’t wait longer than 24 hours. I would check my emails once every three days if I could, but there are some people I correspond with who require a faster response.

What if you sorted email by importance?

If the fear of keeping people waiting prevents you from batching emails, you can set up a separate account to check daily and forward all mail from your most important correspondents to that address.

As soon as you get an email from a VIP it gets forwarded to your ‘important/daily’ account, so you won’t miss anything (but you should only get a couple of emails to deal with on a daily basis). You can then check your original account once every three days, or if you’re confident, once a week.

What if you only checked stats once a week?

Checking statistics is something most bloggers do often, but it’s not something we can directly affect. Sort of like reading the news, it’s interesting, but there’s not much we can do about it.

If we look over our stats once a week (on a certain day, maybe) we can detect patterns and conduct a more holistic analysis. If it takes 10 minutes in one sitting as opposed to five minutes every day, you’re saving time and reducing interruptions.

What if you posted less?

Unless you’re only posting two times a week, experiment with posting less for seven days. If you used to post every day, try posting three times.

If you posted three times, try posting twice. Try to make the posts more value-packed than usual. At the end of the week, analyze your subscribers and traffic.

If the stats were significantly worse than usual, go back to your old posting rhythm. If you find there’s not much change, or things have improved, you may just have discovered a way to save several hours each week. It’s an exercise worth doing.

What if you stopped using social media?

From being active on StumbleUpon to being not so active, I haven’t noticed a change in the amount of votes my content gets. I enjoy StumbleUpon, but I haven’t had the time to use it lately.

If you’re using social media for the perceived traffic benefit alone, then your efforts are better focused on saving the time and creating value-packed content.

What could you eliminate from your blogging routine?

How Not to Sell-Out

how not to sell outPhoto by makelessnoise

Here’s the most inspiring blog post I’ve read in a really long time: Merlin Mann reflecting on 4 years of 43folders.

It really is worth reading all of it, but if you’re too busy now, the general gist is that the productivity niche has largely sold-out, and so have bloggers in many other niches.

The general malaise: bloggers writing what they think people want to read in order to get traffic and cash in on it, resulting in a whole lot of unoriginal and shallow content, and even more wasted talent.

When something good happens as the result of an action, we’re inclined to repeat that action. We write a list of ’50 Firefox Extensions to Help You Do ________’ and get a burst of traffic from StumbleUpon.

We assume that kind of content is working for us and that we should bring that formula to our blogs/websites in other ways.

Think about this for a second though: if you use any kind of social media, have you ever voted for content without fully reading it because it seemed like something ‘other people with more time would enjoy’, or ‘something that would do well on social media’, or something that you ‘appreciated the idea of’ but didn’t make the time to fully read, watch, or listen to?

My next question is: do you think you’re the only one? You’re bringing traffic to the blog and probably revenue, but you’re not bringing it your full attention and understanding. Thousands of other people are doing exactly the same thing.

If bloggers are being boxed in by all the strategies and formulas placed in front of them, blog readers are also being heavily influenced by the culture around social media and blogging.

A blog post title looks like something you’d see on the front page of Digg, and thus we assume it belongs there.

Other people with similar interests love a particular blogger, so we read them too, even though they don’t truthfully resonate with us. I want to suggest that blog readers are not just reading and interacting with blogs, but constructing an identity as they do so, and behaving in ways they feel are consistent with that identity, even if the behaviors aren’t 100% authentic.

Sometimes your blog, and that social media vote they just gave you, is only a means to an end for them. Extrapolating that, your most popular post–traffic-spike wise–may have done the least of all your posts to grow your blog long-term.

Consider again the ’50 Firefox Extensions to Help You _______’ post. You might need to alter the number and the wording slightly, but the premise is the same.

I’ve written this post at least three times in my blogging career. Maybe you’ve written it once or twice too?

Yet, we have to truthfully admit that the post does what could be achieved with a few minutes of Googling, either for individual Firefox extensions or for one of many other (already written posts) on the same topic.

Is the reader who just voted for the latest list of Firefox extensions for writers oblivious to this?

Certainly not–at least on some level. But the culture around social media and blogging tells us that this kind of content has value.

We’ve seen its type before on big-name, popular blogs, and climbing the charts on social media. In truth, though, such a post would have only had real value in the early days of Firefox, when extensions were unfamiliar to most.

At that point they went viral because people needed and wanted them. It was at that point the perception of value was created, and the lifespan of that perception tends to outlast the actual value of such content.

We see a post like that and to this day assume it’s a great post with a solid chance on social media. We forget to notice that we only read the introduction before hitting ‘Thumbs Up’ and browsing somewhere else.

It probably sounds like I’m talking about list-posts specifically, but I’m not–I’m talking about any type of content that has been done before, and done to death.

If I wrote a post about ’10 Fast Ways to Boost Your RSS Subscribers’ I’m certain it would be a hit on StumbleUpon, yet it would say nothing that couldn’t be found with a quick Google search bringing up twenty brilliant articles on the same topic.

I’m also certain that the people who thumbed it up, on some level, know that. But we’re human beings, and our judgments of value are rarely uninfluenced by their context.

One scenario I want to raise is the possibility of writing exactly what we most want to say even if it meant traffic stopped climbing (temporarily), or slowed to a crawl.

I want to suggest that this might actually be the route to the highest echelons of reach and influence as a blogger.

For many bloggers, our content is shaped over time by the peaks in our analytics program of choice. “Oh wow, I got 20,000 visitors when I wrote that controversial post on Apple’s launch of MobileMe…

I should be more controversial” or “Top 10 posts always give me a spike–I should keep doing those.”

We assume that the peaks in traffic mean the snowball is getting bigger, so we start ‘chasing peaks’: a method of blogging whereby we create posts in the hope of simultaneously creating peaks in our stats, rather than to say what we’re most burning to say.

We sell-out. There’s also a reason why ‘sell-out’ and ‘burn-out’ sound so similar.

The opposite form, and what I want you to think about, is what I’ll call ‘Creative blogging’. We write what we’re most burning to say and what we truly believe will help people the most, or what will have the most positive impact on them, whether by making them laugh, learn or think.

A lot of the time there will be no way to give these posts any kind of all-powerful title, or irresistible hook to pull people in. Some of them will be incompatible with bullet-points and take away quotes. Most of them will not lead to any kind of spike in your statistics.

Yet, what’s invisible in your statistics app (unless you take a long-term view) is the slow snowball that is building behind the scenes. Because you’re saying something new and unprecedented, something with substance and maybe a little dynamism, you’re beginning to stand out from the other blogs in your niche.

People will begin to tweet about you, send a post in an email to a friend, or link to you from their blog and expand upon your thoughts.

You don’t have a chance on Digg, and perhaps not on StumbleUpon either, but grassroots, person to person word of mouth is all-together more powerful than those.

The key thing that makes it so often overlooked is that it builds slowly but surely. Because you’re not following a formula people have already been conditioned to respond to, it’s going to take time for the value of what you’re doing to spread.

But it will do so inexorably. And when it does, your slow rising star will overtake those of other bloggers who have been chasing peaks without building something never seen before.

If you think about the bloggers and thought-leaders currently making waves at the moment–the people everyone is currently talking about–you’ll notice that they are unashamedly individual and unashamedly confident.

You have to be. Believing that people will listen to and find value in what you really want to say requires that. As Merlin Mann says in his fantastic rant, all the best posts on his 121k subscriber blog started out as a letter to himself.

growth of blog

Lately I’ve developed a tendency to try to tackle huge issues in altogether too few words, so if any of this doesn’t make sense or is unclear, please call me up on it in the comments and I’ll see if I can answer your question more clearly.

I’m not quite sure if my comments about the way blog readers construct an identity through their interactions with content make sense to anyone but myself, for example!

***
Glen Allsop asked me to link to his post called ‘4,439 Words on Driving Traffic to Your Blog‘. Since he is a bona fide social media expert I’m happy to oblige!

5 Hard Questions You Should Answer Before Starting a New Project

starting a new projectPhoto by striatic (CC

license).

When it comes to new projects (for me, a new blog or a website), you could say that I’m commitment phobic.

For a long time I was more interested in the ideas behind a new project than the execution, leading to a long trail of half-finished projects — and some that never made it out of my notebook.

I found my mind wandering as I was trying to sleep a few days ago and hit upon a project idea that excited me. I could run it alongside this blog.

It would only be a hobby thing — nothing serious. My neurons started firing as I began to plan what I’d do when I woke up (ensuring it would be another hour or so before I finally drifted off).

One moderating influence I’m grateful for — in hindsight — was being unable to get online the next day.

When I finally sat down to think about this new project, I noticed that something had changed since I started working with this blog.

Instead of leaping into the process of choosing a domain name and making the project a reality, I started to ask myself some hard questions.

They’re not fun to answer — particularly when you’re feeling inspired and excited — but they have the potential to save you a lot of time and, potentially, a lot of money.

(A note: I’m deliberately avoiding specifics about my idea so you might be better able to see yourself in the process. My apologies to the curious!)

1. What are my end goals with the project?

If you don’t know where you want the journey to end, you can’t do anything except wander around in circles.

The first step in starting any new project is to work out where you want to end up. You can then start to reverse-engineer everything else from that point.

I decided that my goals for the project — the point where I’d be satisfied with it — were to build an active niche forum with a blog off-shoot. I would be catering to a really small niche, so grand aspirations didn’t figure into it.

This question is probably the easiest of the five, because it allows you to stay firmly in that comfortable realm where you’re thinking about the end product in ignorance of the ‘How‘ question.

What’s involved in getting there?

The Honeymoon didn’t last for long!

2. What will I have to do to reach those goals?

Like any strong structure, worthy goals tend to have more than one foundation.

I split my goals into two:

  • Build a thriving forum to serve a very small niche.
  • Create a blog offshoot to convert blog readers into forum members (and vice versa).

As I considered both these necessary steps, some difficulties began to spring up immediately.

  1. I don’t know how to promote a forum — though I could probably learn.
  2. The niche I’m targeting is already partially served by a few different forums. How could I move them to leave — or participate in more than one forum?
  3. There’s little opportunity for off-blog promotion because there are very few active sites in the niche. In other words, there’s nowhere to guest post or comment *gulp*.
  4. I’ll have to create blog content on a topic I’m not an expert on.
  5. I’ll have to moderate the forums, or get others to do so. In my previous experiences being a forum admin, this hasn’t been fun!

While none of these challenges are insurmountable, they did start to cause me some worry.

Which was a good thing. It meant that I was starting to take the ‘How’ question into account.

At this stage, it’s important to break up your goals into the separate chunks required to achieve them.

Then comes the difficult task of identifying the necessary steps you’ll need to take — and the potential problems with each step.

3. Do I have enough ideas and inspiration?

Ideas are the fuel behind any new project. While two or three good ideas can be enough to get you excited, a successful project requires a lot of good ideas over an extended period of time.

I’ve started many projects only to find that I ran out of steam after a month or so. I wasn’t inspired and the content started to bore me.

The finished product I had in mind seemed far removed from the regular drudge of creating the content required to get there.

It’s not quite enough to be passionate about something. You also need to be passionate about writing about it. That’s an ugly sentence, but it’s the truth.

There are a lot of topics I’m passionate about — topics I thought would make the perfect subject of a blog or website — only to find that my passion didn’t extend quite so far as to enjoy writing about it semi-daily.

The process for answering this question is simple, but it’s a step many of us (myself included) have been reluctant to take.

Essentially, you need to start before you start.

  1. You should be able to brainstorm 20-30 ideas for content. If you can’t make it, that’s a warning sign.
  2. You should aim to write five or so content items for the project before you start thinking about a name. If you can’t make it, that’s a warning sign. If you make it but didn’t enjoy it, that’s another sign you might be running into trouble.

4. Do I have enough time?

This is one question which seems to be a recurring theme in most of our lives.

The short of it is this: if you’re not juggling any other projects, you can make enough time. You may just have to pace yourself. If your goals are attached to a time-frame, then you run into a problem.

If you’re adding the new project on top of an existing one, this question becomes even more important. If you’re dedicating all your available web time to your existing blog or website, thenyou’re either going to have to make more time or redistribute the time between the two sites.

Between this blog and freelancing, I simply couldn’t make more time without stealing it from one of my other projects. At the moment, I’m not willing to do that.

5. Will it impact on my other projects?

An offshoot of the previous question, and the final one you need to consider. A new project often requires you to sacrifice some part of your old project — unless you take time from elsewhere.

Unless you spend large swathes of time doing absolutely nothing, something will have to be sacrificed. This is another oft-overlooked factor in the ‘Eureka!’ moment behind a new project idea.

You need to be sure the project will be worth the sacrifice, whether it’s less time with the Playstation or less time working on your magnum opus.

Wrapping up loose ends

I hope this list of hard questions will be useful to those of you flirting with the idea of starting a new project or running two (or more) projects at the same time.

It might also be a resource you return to if the desire strikes in future.

It’ll also be interesting to see whether any of you feel this list could be applied to projects in other fields — from a new business venture to a new novel.

To wrap up my personal story, the new project I’ve been thinking about is on hold indefinitely. (Much like Lynne Spears’ parenting book).

Before I start, I need to figure out how to make it work without taking time away from the things that are most important to me.

With Leo Babauta, J. D. Roth and Maki (who each work harder than me already) all starting new projects alongside their existing ones, I can only think: if they can do it, I have no excuse not to try.

But first, I need to take the time to think before acting on impulse.

It’s taken me seven years to develop the ability to do that. If you find it hard, you’re not alone.

Spinning Plates: How to Succeed With Multiple Projects

managing multiple tasksPhoto by Aidan Jones

In this post, I want to share everything I’ve learned about successfully managing multiple projects (for you, this might be running more than one blog, more than one business, or more than one freelance project), from the planning to the execution stage.

I’ll talk about time-splitting, leveraging, batching focus and my new favorite word, elimination.

 

Time-splitting

When adding additional projects to your plate, the first question to consider is time and how you’re going to allocate it.

You have three choices in total:

  • Split your available time evenly between projects.
  • Subtract time from project #1 and dedicate more time to project #2.
  • Put the same amount of time into project #1, and allocate additional time for project #2.

Option one will involve reducing the time you spend on project #1 to 50% of its previous total, because previously you were allocating all your time to this project.

Only choose this option if you have reason to believe that the time you spend on project #2 will yield greater rewards than the time you previously spent on project #1.

Option two is commonly selected when the individual becomes disenchanted with project #1 and is willing to sacrifice a big chunk of its success in the hopes that project #2 will thrive.

The riskiest option, I’d only recommend it if you feel drained by project #1 or have supreme confidence in the success of project #2.

Option three is the time-splitting model I’ve chosen for NorthxEast. While it requires making more time available, it allows you to fuel multiple projects without forcing any one of them to ‘draw the short straw’.

That being said, not everyone will be able to find the extra time required.

Coming up with a workable answer to the time-splitting question is a necessary step in successfully managing multiple blogs or projects.

Leveraging

Here’s a set of two scenarios:

  1. A blogger maintains a blog on extreme sports and decides to start another on poetry writing.
  2. A blogger maintains a blog on extreme sports and decides to start another on adventure travel.

You can probably guess which combination would co-exist most easily. When creating multiple projects you can make less work for yourself by using one project to prop up another related project.

That being said, the blogger would be wise to leverage the extreme sports blog in both examples. Some extreme sports fans are likely to be interested in writing poetry — just not as many as would be interested in adventure travel.

You can almost always leverage one project to benefit another, even if they’re highly unrelated, by trading on your name and previous track record.

Batching focus

Batching, batching, batching — we hear the word a lot these days, but what does it mean?

The way I’ve understood it is: doing lots of one type of task at once (answering emails at once, writing posts at once, and so on).

The virtues of batching are as follows:

  • It gives you the time to develop focus.
  • It removes distractions.
  • It prevents you wasting time on re-engaging with tasks (for example, you read an email and don’t respond, then later you have to read the email once again when you do decide to respond.)

As I spin many plates, I’ve found batching both projects and tasks to be incredibly useful. I allocate one day a week to write posts for my own blog, which allows me to keep consistent with my native writing style and let the blogs run on autopilot for the rest of the week.

I allocate one day a week for fulfilling my freelance commitments, which means that I can enter a writing flow-state (and not have to worry about those commitments for the rest of the week).

Other tasks I’ve begun to batch are emails, moderation and feed reading. I feel much less fragmented and much more productive as a result.

If you’re constantly flipping and changing between projects, your attention will be fragmented and you won’t be able to do your best and fastest work.

If you’re keeping multiple balls in the air, focus on one at a time, rather than all of them at once. The secret to any great juggler’s skill is the ability to focus only on the single item entering and exiting one hand, regardless of the five or ten items currently suspended in the air.

Manage your projects like a great juggler.

Elimination

Running an established blog is a lot less work than building one from scratch. As of now, my blogging routine is very minimalist and contains only five tasks:

  • Writing content.
  • Moderating comments.
  • Answering emails.
  • Reading feeds once a week.
  • Checking stats and subscriber count once a day.

In Skelliewag’s first month, my blogging routine looked something like this:

  • Writing a long post every day.
  • Moderating comments.
  • Answering emails.
  • Leaving many comments on other blogs.
  • Guest-posting.
  • Participating in forums.
  • Using StumbleUpon actively.

By eliminating some of the more time consuming tasks, I’ve been able to free up hours each week, and that’s one of the reasons I can take on multiple projects.

The assumption that running an established blog is more work than running one which is just starting out hasn’t held true for me.

If your blog is established, your readership will generally do your promotional work for you. While you spend more time moderating comments and answering emails, this pales in comparison to the time most new bloggers do (and should) spend on self-promotion.

Being able to eliminate that has been incredibly freeing.

The principles of productivity by elimination are essential for success with multiple projects.

For each of your projects, complete this exercise:

  1. Write down all the different tasks involved in the project.
  2. Ask: what would happen if I eliminated this task completely? Record both the time you’d save and possible negative consequences. If the negative consequences are too high, ask yourself this follow-up question:
  3. Could I spend less time on this task? Once again, record the time you’d save and the possible negative consequences.

I don’t believe real productivity is about doing the same things faster. It’s about simplifying down to what’s important.

Longer-term readers will know that simplicity is important to me and I’m only just discovering the benefits of taking a minimalist approach to multiple projects.

Even with these strategies in place, I dedicate as much time as possible to each project. I don’t necessarily believe that there’s some kind of paradise state where you can run a successful project by remote control.

It’s theoretically possible, but if you’re like me, you enjoy what you’re doing. Thanks go to you for being part of an audience that has made blogging so much fun.

Messy Productivity: Why Perfection Will Slow You Down

True productivity is often painted as perfect, highly ordered, hierarchical and clean. The ideal system is polished and clinical, rules are followed and the productive person is all things to all people.

In my experience, this sanitized ideal is incompatible with ruthless effectiveness. True productivity is messy and imperfect.

It requires mistakes and small sacrifices, elimination and survival of only the most useful actions. Sometimes the quickest, roughest solution is more effective than the right one, and some rules are meant to be broken.

You don’t need to mow down tasks like an unstoppable machine. You just need to stop doing things that don’t matter.

Even if it gets a little messy sometimes.

Be nice, say No.

The ability to say No without making people hate you is one of the productive person’s top skills. This is tricky, because the more productive you are, the more effective you’ll be and more people will want a piece of your time as a result.

I’ve seen many productive people become overwhelmed once others begin to cotton on to their effectiveness!

Ask:

Will completing this action help further my goals?

If yes,

Could I accomplish something that would go further in the same time?

If no,

What is the worst that can happen if I say “No”?

Never do someone’s homework for them. Say “No” to any request which could be accomplished with some Google detective work. My favorite strategy is: don’t do it for them — tell them how to do it, or how to find the information they need.

That being said, one of my goals is to help bloggers and people trying to earn an income online, and I always do my best to give advice when it meets criteria 1 — that it’s the most good I could do in that time.

If I’m asked to give one person advice that would take 20 minutes to half an hour to complete, I tend to think of greater good I could do in the same amount of time by writing a useful post, for example.

This strategy hinges on your politeness, though. If you refuse in a way that seems rude or abrupt, you’re likely to leave a bad impression on the person who asked.

There is already some small degree of humiliation involved in asking for something and not getting it, so being polite, kind and encouraging or complimentary can help soften the blow and turn a positive into a negative.

Ending on a positive note can change the tone of your entire exchange.

Don’t be afraid to be imperfect.

Sometimes being imperfect is more effective than getting everything right, or trying to be all things to all people.

While it’s often desirable to respond to thank-you emails or email tips, the world won’t cave in if you miss one. If you offer to follow-up on something relatively insignificant, then find out that it’s going to take a lot more time than you thought, it’s usually more effective to cancel the follow-up or forget about it.

If it does mean something to the person, they’ll generally remind you. In most cases though, you’ll find that these things are a lot less important than you think!

Part of being truly effective is understanding that perfection isn’t always necessary. In many cases, you’re your own worst critic, and it can lead us to believe (falsely) that other people will judge us harshly for failing to do small things.

It requires a certain modesty to understand that your non-essential actions probably mean more to you than they do to anyone else.

Ruthlessly eliminate.

Just because you are in higher demand doesn’t mean that you’ll suddenly have more time to fit things in. Part of scaling effectively is to cut out just as much as you add.

My main tip in this area is to stop tolerating bad habits. Checking stats or email five times a day is unnecessary, but we often allow ourselves these indulgences because they seem so insignificant.

What’s a few minutes here and there, after all?

In truth though, spending ten minutes more than you need to checking stats each day is 70 minutes a week — time you could have spent brainstorming ideas for a Muse, talking to your youngest child, or doing paid work.

What are your little indulgences really costing you?

Truly effective elimination can be messy because it’s often somewhat ruthless. It might involve cutting out feeds from your feed reader, turning off comment moderation and allowing the occasional spam comment to appear on your blog, or not responding to emails from clients you’re not really interested in working for.

The question: “What’s the worst that can happen if I eliminate this?” will lead to some messiness, and it may seem ruthless to you at first (though it rarely is).

We are so used of doing — or trying to do — every little thing, that we attach too much significance to things which don’t move us closer to our goals.

I want to suggest that many people who feel stressed or guilty about a lack of productivity are actually highly productive, but they undervalue what they achieve and over-value what they don’t.

Work backwards from desired results.

When you decide exactly what you want the outcome of your actions to be, it becomes a lot easier to define the important and the unimportant.

Once you realize that your primary goal is to charge $100 an hour for your coding services, you can begin to categorize potential actions in one of two ways: actions that contribute to this goal, and actions that don’t.

For the don’t pile, apply your new favorite question: “What the worst that can happen if I stop doing this?”

5. The best way is the easiest way that works.

If it takes 10 seconds to create a filter in Gmail that eliminates unwanted notification emails by sending them to the trash, or ten minutes to work out a way to switch off the notifications at the source, the messy productivity method is to go with option 1.

It’s the quickest way to achieve the same visible results. Messy productivity says that the best way to do something is the quickest, easiest option, not necessarily the ‘right’ and proper way.

Remove temptations.

One of the simplest ways to break bad habits is to make it harder to practice them. If you find yourself checking email a lot more than is necessary, delete your email account bookmark so that you have to manually type in the address.

Do this with any site you waste time on. This prolongs the decision making process and stops you falling into old habits on impulse.

It’s also essential that you get rid of auto-notifiers forever. These are nothing more than a temptation and a focus-breaker. Halt anything which allows a one-click indulgence of bad habits.

Create an action inventory.

Just like it’s almost impossible to maintain good finances if you don’t keep track of where your money is going, it’s impossible to maintain a ruthlessly effective routine without taking a holistic view of where you spend your time.

An incredibly useful process you can undertake for an hour or two every month is to write down a list of everything you do and evaluate the worth of each item on the list.

Are you doing too much of one thing and too little of another? Can you justify every part of your routine?

Critiquing your productivity is the only way to improve it. Though this self-analysis can be a little harrowing at first, it’s a skill that will help you far outside the realm of productivity.