I’m currently attending a 12 weeks retreats in Recurse Center (RC). Since it’s self directed and I’m constantly working at the edge of my abilities, I do face some challenges during my time here that affect my productivity. Some of the challenges I faced are:
- I felt tired/demotivated to do anything after working intensely through a problem.
- I felt stupid/self-doubt when things doesn’t work as I expected.
- I can’t seem to mingling around with different projects.
After experiencing those, I mostly ended up procrastinating and doom scrolling Twitter or Youtube. After reflecting about it, these are the solutions I came up with.
Take a 15 minutes break after working through intense problem.
A break will calm your mind down.
Limit intense focus session to be less than 3 hours.
This force us not to dwell on a problem for too long. I found that after N hours, continue working on a problem have diminishing returns.
Write down the things I want to work on.
Often time, we roughly know what to work on, but since we are storing it mentally in our brain, it takes up capacity and our mental energy.
While this work fine in most of my days, it suffers badly when I’m facing roadblocks during the day. As all my mental energy is sucked by focusing on the problem. Thus, without writing down ahead, it’s unclear for me what I should be working on next, and I’ll have dilemma.
So, by writing things down, we are reducing any friction arises when we need to move on to our next task.
Scheduled time block for the things you want to work on.
This strategy is similar to a mixed of the above 2 points. Now that we have a list of things we want to work on, let’s allocate some time blocks for them, including our break time.
Ideally, to achieve 6 hours of productivity, consider schedule 80% of your time, which is around 5 hours. The other 20% of your time would be your buffer.
By scheduling time blocks, we essentially limit the time we focus on, and ensure we consider break time in our schedule as well. Instead of having a false hope of “we have tons of time”.
Reduce the number of big/intense tasks you are working on.
Once we schedule the time blocks, you’ll realize that you have less time than you think, yet you have so many things you want to do.
It’s inevitable. Prioritize your list. Pick 3 things from the list, which you’ll schedule dedicated time blocks for. For the rest of the list, think of it as optional.
I suggest picking 3 things from your lists, but any number is fine as long as it fits into your hours of productivity you wish to achieve.
Out of the list, I suggest picking:
- One intense and important thing
- One fun thing
- One small win
Ending your day with small win, is extremely important, especially on the day where you forsee you’ll be having setbacks. This help giving you a small dose of domaphine from the small win and feel less negativity.