Make your life harder... to get more done!

Note: This new article of mine has been published yesterday on the GTDtimes blog.
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We all strive to make everything easier-to-use, more accessible, etc. We strongly believe that if all of our applications and all of the tools we use on the daily basis are properly optimized, we can get more done and have everything accomplished. This is true in 80% of the cases… I couldn’t agree more – I love it when everything goes more easily and automatically. Actually I’m always coming up with ideas on how to make certain aspects of my life “more automatic” to make sure I’m not doing the same boring stuff over and over again. But in 20% of the cases… I’m trying to complicate my life… on purpose. I know this sounds weird. It struck me the other day upon a conversation with a fellow GTD-er Testeq that as strange as this may sound, this is actually a good thing to do. So why would I want to complicate my life if I can get stuff done the easy way? Why would I do something manually if I can have it done automatically or semi-automatically for me? The answer: to fight temptation… and reduce procrastination. Let me give you an example. I love blogs and RSS feeds which let me read great up-to-date information from many sources across the web in one place. To read RSS feeds, I used to use a great plug-in for Firefox called “Sage”. Sage works really great, just press “CTRL+Z” and your RSS feeds appear on the left side of your Firefox browser and once you click on the feed that you want to read, you can see all of the feed’s content right there in the browser. Neat. The problem… I would turn on “Sage” too often… and instead of actually browsing for the stuff I needed for my work, I’d happily turn “left” to check how the feeds are going and if there is some new interesting info that has been published… When this “habit” of checking feeds turned into a temptation I couldn’t resist, I decided to put an end to it. I removed all of my feeds from Sage and copied them to my Google Reader account. Now when I want to read the feeds, I need to explicitly log in to my Google Reader account and start reading… and since I’m not logged in to my Google account for most of my day, this takes several steps to do. A “Tempting” habit turned into a conscious decision… Now, instead of “clicking and checking what’s up” I need to decide: “OK, now I’m going to log in to my Reader account and read the feeds for 30 minutes”. After that I’ll log out and won’t be reading them any more. You can apply the very same thing to email. If you use Gmail like I do - just log in to your Google Account only when you want to check your email. Decide to check your email. Once you’ve processed your email, log out and continue with your next action on your Next Actions list. Conclusion: focus on your next actions and help yourself resist temptation. So there you have it. I’ve made my life a little more complicated, but then again, I don’t get distracted all that much anymore. When I want to read my feeds, I log in to my Google Reader account – once I’ve read them, I log out. When I want to process my email, I log in to my Google Mail account and also log out once I’m done. However to make sure I know what to do next, I’m always logged in to my Nozbe Account to see my list of “Next Actions”. How do you fight your distractions? Do you complicate your life as well? Please do let me know in the comments what your daily temptations and distractions are and how you fight them. I’ll be happy to learn from you!

Posted on Monday, June 16, 2008