How to stop being a lazy frak and get stuff done

Hi there folks – hope you had an awesome holiday! You may have noticed my pesky little pop-up, advertising a small survey of mine about the problems faced by electrical engineers. Now, they response rate seems to be dying down, and I’ve already compiled something of an overview of the results. They’ll be discussed in their respective post shortly.

Before that, however, I’d like to raise to your attention one particular issue identified in the survey: productivity. Or, if you like the more colloquial expression: getting crap stuff done.

I’d wager that everybody faces problems in this respect at least occasionally. Lack of motivation for mundane tasks, being overburdened with responsibilities, plain lack of energy due to exhaustion. We’ve all been there and done that.

Indeed, I’ve already written about the topic once or twice. But, I feel it’s just such a common obstacle that it bears some repeating.

So here goes – some re-iterated tips for productivity.

Coffee

Engineers love coffee for a reason – it works. Caffeine is an actual stimulant after all. Stimulating is what it’s supposed to do.

I’d say this apparatus alone wrote at least 50 % of my Master’s Thesis back in the day.

The biggest downside is that you quite quickly develop a tolerance towards it. Meaning it doesn’t work anymore; not as well as it used to be.

So here’s my recommendation. Most of the time (the famous 80 percent), keep your coffee consumption on the low side of moderate. Meaning one or at most two cups a day. One cup in the morning, and maybe another one in the 10 o’clock coffee break every now and then. Avoiding coffee in the afternoon will also make it quite damn certain that caffeine’s not bothering your sleep.

By doing this, you’re actually lowering your tolerance for caffeine. Meaning it gets more effective.

So, when the push comes to shove, you have an ace in your hole. You sleep poorly for a couple of nights in a row, or maybe you suddenly have so much on your plate it becomes to feel overburdening. But it matters not – you have an extra cup or two of the miracle bean juice, and suddenly you’re all buzzed-up and ready to roll.

It won’t work for many days in a row, but it’ll do in a pinch.

Oh and by the way – check out my protein coffee recipe in case you want to fitness it up a bit!

Sleep and nutrition

Get them in check. I called them fundamentals in my recent training post in for a reason. Talking about training – do some exercise, too.

Pomodoros

Pomodoros – timed periods of work interspersed by short regular breaks – are popular for a reason. They work extremely well. Or rather: they can work extremely well, if you make them.

The trick here is to limit distractions. So shut down your Facebook and Reddit tabs, and put your mobile phone out of reach. It might be a good idea to listen to something other than your favourite band. I find rain sounds (you can find nice 10-hour videos of those on Youtube) and other natural white-noise-like soundtracks work extremely well in this respect.

The important thing with pomodoros is to just get started. Occasionally, you may suffer from such a severe writer’s block that you have to literally force yourself to write down the first few words. Don’t aim for perfect or even good here – aim for words.

The first sentence be potato. -A typical break out of writer’s block.

But once you do get started, it’s so much easier to gather more momentum. The words just get flowing, or new functionality keeps on appearing in your code.

Focus

Pomodoros have another great benefit – they force you to mono-task.

Don’t live under the rock – multitasking is very much passé.

And for a reason.

Positive reinforcement

A few sentences ago, I mentioned just getting started. It also applies to another important aspect of life: habit-forming. It requires getting started, and then keeping going on.

The best way to get stuff done, is actually get stuff done. Sounds paradoxical, but please excuse me until I explain a bit. What I mean is this:

Let’s say you manage just one proper workday nicely (or study day, alternately). Meaning most of the time spent on actually doing work, rather than updating your Facebook profile and hunting for new bands to listen. (And please note I said most: there’s always some time for little vices.)

Having done that, the next day is going to be a little bit easier. And the day after that even more so, and the one after that.

After an adjustment period (some sources say three weeks, but the real number probably varies a bit more), this conscious effort of focus has turned into exactly what it’s supposed to.

Habit.

Keep it up

There’s one common pitfall here to avoid, and that is a sense of entitlement. It’s far to easy to use the somewhat-disproportionate sense of accomplishment to justify slacking off.

So you just managed to work for a whopping 25 minutes – woo! You’ve certainly deserved four hours of Youtube videos.

You at work.

Pomodoros are followed by a timed break for a reason. It’s far too easy to extend a small break into a huge break.

Like I wrote earlier in my stress relief post, a major part of building positive habits is simply not giving up. And I don’t mean a teeth-grinding grit here – simply not being a lazy fuck.


Do you have a tip that you can share? Let us know in the comments!

-Antti


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How to Get Stuff Done

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