Akrasia & Monoidealism
We have talked about the theory of human behavior, why we act, how we collect information, how we make decisions and now we're going to get into the superfund part, which is using all of these tools to actually make sure we get what we want to get done done so personal productivity and, uh I talk about this job it's it's learning how to work with yourself, right it's learning how to understand what's going on in your life and in your business manage all of the crazy things that are going on in your life that are that are distracting that are overwhelming all of the challenges where you don't know what to do understanding how to work with yourself in a way that actually accomplishes the result and the result could be anything right? It could be an increase in the profitability of your business it could be a accomplished in a deeply personal goal something that you've always wanted to do uh could really be anything we're just what we're trying to get to is a state where you decide you wa...
nt to do something, you do it with a minimum of frustration and energy and fuss you just sit down and get it done okay now, but where we're going to start this particular discussion is by discussing the enemy of all of that right the exact opposite state of learning of this experience of sitting down and doing things effortlessly and the word for the state it's a very old word originally from greek to different pronunciations across cia or a crazy both are appropriate I usually use across cia um across e is the state of knowing what you should do but not doing it right and this appears in uh in literature going all the way back to paris subtle in plato this is like the oldest productivity idea pretty much ever um for thousands of years human beings have been deciding they want to do something and then noticing that they do everything except for the thing that they want to do that's across cia and I have a list if you look in the workbook and this is page twenty nine what makes across e a slippery, slippery problem is that it appears and all sorts of different forms, so the common word for across is usually in english procrastination, right? Putting it off not doing it. The problem with thinking in terms of procrastination is that it appears it's it's not one problem it's a sin it's, a collection of lots of different problems with different sources and different outcomes that are all kind of lumped into the same term we're going to break it down for just a moment all of the things that can cause this situation of across yet not doing what we decided we wanted to do and so the first is you can't define what you want, right? If you don't know what you want, but you have an idea for what you should do that's a problem, right? So across you can happen from not knowing what what you want the second is you feel the task will bring you closer to something you don't want. So the example from earlier of I want to make a lot of money, but rich people are really horrible human beings that could be a cause of across the right, an additional dollar in your pocket is bring you closer to being a horrible human being, and you don't want to have that, right? Uh, the third is you can't figure out how you're going to get from where you are right now to where you want to be, right? So I want to be a famous movie director, but I have no idea how to get there. And so I should be working on being a famous movie movie director, but I'm not doing anything because I don't know, right that's across here, too, number four is you idealize the desired end result to the point your mind estimates a low probability of achievement resulting in loss aversion for something you haven't even done yet, right? So I want to go work on getting this thing and I really want this thing, but I don't think I'm going to be able to do this thing and if I don't do this thing that I lose all the benefits and I lose all the benefits that's horrible and you have a cross right? Is this sounding familiar to anybody just a tiny bit? Yeah now the fifth is the should part the knowing what you should do was established by someone else not you but you believe them, right? Your parents tell you you should do something or want something where your boss tells you you should work in a particular way all of those should ziff they're not established by you and you in some part of your mind think that should should be different that's recipe for across it happens all the time number six is a competing action in the current environment promises immediate graphic gratification while the reward of the tasking question comes much later right? I should work on my a paper for school but the tv show is on and that's way more interesting so I'm gonna watch tv and still working on my report, right? Um I should eat healthier, but this bag of chips is right here and it looks so delicious that I'm going to eat those right now um all sorts of areas where this shows up in our life all right number seven is the benefits of the action are abstract and distinct, abstract and distant, while other possible actions will provide concrete and meat be it benefits so it would be ah wonderful thing to become a billionaire, but I'm really tired and the couch is looking really inviting and song then go take a nap right now instead of working on my bit, my business right? The benefits of being a billionaire are abstract and distant decades into the future, potentially, while the couch is calling my name right now and I would much rather taken out right concrete and specific, our brains deal with things that are abstract and distant in a very different way than things that are happening right here. Right now, we tend to prioritize the right here right now seventy seven completely different situations, right, resulting in this conflict that results in us not doing the things that we believe we need to do to get the entire was the result. So the things that I just used there that I just listed that's a super valuable checklist when you get stuck right when you're not doing when you think what you think you should be doing, go to the checklist, what situation are you actually in? And if you can name what's happening, it becomes wait easier to fix the situation instead of just slapping a generic label of procrastination on it doesn't make sense questions were good for the moment okay that's across it yeah so that is the enemy across zia is the enemy and that must be destroyed the more that we can get out of the state of a crossing into into productivity the more we're going to get done now let's look at the office it what's the ideal situation for getting things done this is an idea called mono idealism and model idealism is the state of focusing your attention on on lee one one and only one thing at a time so you're focusing on what you want to do there are no distractions there's nothing else just you and the thing that you're working on for as long as possible now if you look so go to the self help section of the bookstore that contains the productivity books and you will find thousands of books that contain methods that are designed to make you more productive about lots of different things if you read all of those books, they will all tell you wildly different things right do this don't do that do this don't do that lots of them are directly contradictory to each other, so it helps tohave some type of method some type of standard to figure out for you based on who you are, what you're working on, what your particular goals are what actually helps you be more productive and what doesn't and mono idealism is the standard so if a particular method helps you focus on one and only one thing at a time for as long as possible that method is helpful and establishing your and maintaining your productivity if it doesn't, it won't right so there's there's a lot of a common recent term for this anybody heard the term flow state uh raj you want to tell people what that is? Yeah, I know in this state when you're engaged in eighty almost lose track of time but you think that hey, I must have been doing this for thirty minutes when you're there for like, three hours yeah, and you totally enjoyed it. Yes yeah so it's you know you're concentrated you're not distracted. You get very absorbed into the word um this is actually a really important state to be in for things like programming right? So there's a certain amount of time it takes to load the problem into your head and then the longer you can keep it in your head working on the problem on and just focusing on that without being distracted the more productive you are. And so you know any particular method that helps you go from a normal state into that very focused concentration on one and only one thing the faster you can get into the state and the longer you can maintain in that particular state the more productive it is, and so if you read productivity books, uh, every technique that helps you get into that state, those are the things that work and figuring out the things that work for you is mostly a matter of experimentation. I'll suggest a couple as we go along, but this is what we're shooting for, right? Paying attention to one and only one thing now related concept is called the cognitive switching penalty on the colony of switching penalty means that every time you switch the focus of your attention from one thing to another, you pay a price and the price is for the new thing that you're paying attention to. You need to spend a certain amount of time and energy loading the context of whatever it is that you're trying to do into your mind before you're going to start to be productive, right? So there's information there that you need together from the environment before you get down to the productive work of making things better. And if you switch from one thing to the next, over and over and over again, you're basically in constant information loading mode, and you're not in productivity mode, right? So imagine surfing the internet and let's say it takes a second for the page to load. The cognitive switching penalty is like opening a whole bunch of different tabs on your browser and loading this one, but then switching to a next one, letting that one load and then switching to the next one in loading, leading light and doing that over and over. And you never, ever really read anything because never nothing ever fully loads right? The same thing happens in our minds when we switch. So this is the whole idea that multitasking is one of the very worst things that you can do from a productivity standpoint because you're incurring the switching penalty over and over and over and over again. And so the very best thing that you could do to avoid the cognitive switching penalty is to focus on one thing, block out the time and spend as much time as you possibly can without distractions to maintain that mano ideal state. Okay, sometimes it's easier to do this, uh, than other times, right? So if you work in office, you may have folks stopping by to pick your brain, right? Hey, can I bother you about this? You may have customers calling on the phone. There are a lot of distractions that happened in the course of a normal day or in a normal business. Two things that you can do about that the first is an environmental thing, right? Can you turn off the phone can you block the internet? Can you do the behavioral psychology things we talked about earlier to make it less likely that you are going to be distracted by something in the moment? My biggest thing when I'm writing, if I have an internet connection on the laptop that I'm trying to write on, it is all over. Seriously, I can't, I can't I can't write because I'll get started, and this appears in my particular mind as, oh, I don't know really know what I'm trying to say, I need to do some research and then I go to the internet and I start doing research and then three hours later, I have twenty tabs open on my browser and I've done a lot of research and nothing has been put on the page, so the biggest thing that I do to avoid this is I block the internet, right and it's weird, I'll be writing and I'll stop and reach a hard part and it's freaky, but I can notice my brain go into automatic call it screen saver mode, right? Just kind of like just automatic processing, bring up a web browser and start to type in reddit dot com it just happens and so. And what's really weird is when I blocked my internet connection I go all the way through that process and I don't realize what I'm doing until the page doesn't come up like oh I just tried to go to read it and the internet is not blocked and so I should probably get back to what I was doing right but so building a barrier in there makes it much easier to stay focused on the task at hand really productive uh the second thing that you could do is what's called matching so imagine let's say there's there's a day where you have a lot of things to do in town ah a lot of errands to do things to pick up the store go to the post office all that stuff imagine a day where you just and you have a big project you know let's say a presentation that you need to create it which would be more efficient working on your presentation then getting your car and driving to the post office and then driving back and then working on your presentation some more and then driving to the store and then driving back and then working on your presentation that driving too you know going back and forth score could you just take all of your errands, go to the post office, go to the store, do them all at once and then come back and focus on the presentation all right, really common sense batch though this similar things together and then focus on on other things, right? So if you have a bunch of calls to make, make all of the calls one right after the other because they're all similar and then go back and do something different, like building a new product or or writing or doing a presentation or something that requires focused attention and effort, right? They make sense. God, just, uh, just thinking about it because we're in this course per since morning on during the lunch break, it took me, like, fifteen minutes toe respond to fifteen e mails I was thinking, why shouldn't I do it in on other days, toe making artificial constraint? Exactly, exactly, yeah, you know, and one of the things email is one of the I'm glad you brought that up. Email is one of the most distracting things in the entire world, particularly, uh, particularly if you're in the middle of doing something and you have your email program set to beep every time a new e plea oh, my gosh, like, just, yeah, terrible. So one of the actually I've had a lot of folks have really good success with blocking out the morning just to have productive time, right? No meetings, no email, nothing happens until ten eleven twelve o'clock when that's there's an artificial limitation I'm not going to open my email until eleven o'clock in the morning the morning is set aside for this um paul graham who's who's actually here in town he's he's a very well known venture capitalist runs ah fund called y combinator that invest in early stage startups he's also a fantastic essayist and one of the things that he wrote about a couple of years ago was this idea that he talked about maker schedule and manager schedule when you're making something, you need large blocks of a new interrupted time to really load the problem in your head and work in a way that moves that project forward distractions air deadly ok, so if you're making things you need to schedule your time around the making two just to avoid distractions manager schedule is what most people experience in uh in modern day companies right? I have a half hour meeting here half hour meeting here in our meeting here half hour meeting here and the whole day is meetings and then you know which which is important, right? If you're communicating with other people, you need to make sure everybody's on the same page, but if you're trying to both make something and manage at the same time disaster because your context switching too much right that's why people who work in large companies will spend their entire day at work in meetings and then we'll work two or three hours after the workday is nominally over, because that's the only time that they could get without distractions to actually get something done. So the the whole idea here is if you have both types of schedule, make sure you batch them as much as you can, right? So make in the morning and have meetings in the afternoon or vice versa, whatever it is, it works for you, but batch the similar tests together and make sure you're avoiding as many distractions as you possibly can. There was one question from todd k, but if the task is taxing, isn't doing the context switch useful sometimes, right? So this comes up to the biological limitations stuff, so yeah, if you've been coding for four hours and you're tired and you need a break, you know, hopping on a phone call could be a very welcome distraction and that's great, the trick is to minimize it as as much as they can. So what you don't want to do is get to the point where you're making a ton of progress, and then the phone rings and you answer it because that will destroy it. So there's actually been some research on very cognitive cognitively demanding things like programming or like creative work, it takes about ten minutes. To really low the problem into your your brain in a way that allows you to be maximally productive and if you're distracted and you need to get back to it, it'll take another about ten minutes to get back to that sam steak got a question, a question he just said and you talking really little florist stay true what I'm writing when you creative you can write for fifteen, sixteen hours a day are you shooting you shooting for sixteen hours and you don't see those sixteen hours so the model for me, for businesses, all the flow states going to the creative part and business becomes a chore so how can we switch that? Yeah, well, ah lot of it is determining what are the types of tasks that need to be done and making sure the running of the business part is done? You know, if you would rather focus on the creative work, but you have administrative stuff you need tio get done batch the administrative stuff as much as you can. So one of the thing that is a strategy that works pretty well in general is ah, have one day a week where that's dedicated to doing random administrative stuff, right? So paying bills responding to email reading newsletters going to the bank, looking at your bank statement like all that stuff is all random really kind of different stuff and if you try to do that too much in the course of your creative work flow you're not going to be very effective so you can take like an afternoon a week to clean up your desk to do all of that random administrative stuff that you have to get done sometime you're just choosing a block of time during your week that is devoted to doing that and if the distraction comes up you can say ok, I'm not going to focus on this right now this is a friday afternoon thing and you can you can defer that in a way that allows you to maintain your attention make sounds about something that you just mentioned that I started using in my life which was like before noon it's like time to do you know these particular work on these particular projects and that's the way I got my website launched yesterday because essentially did that and it worked so well and then one other thing that you had recommended in the book what in your book was you know the three major tasks and then the ten minor tax oh that was such an awesome advice because I did that too and I use that that same time frame your nine in the morning told twelve I use those and I get those tasks done and now my service has launched this is an awesome oliver yeah yeah, and we'll talk about that particular method. It's called most important tasks. It's a way of prioritizing your time around the things that are actually going to produce the best results instead of whatever it is. That's urgent in the particular moment. Um, yeah, part of part of that method is ok. Set aside the bulk of your time and with his little distraction, that it's possible to work on the things that are actually going to get you. The results that you want and everything else can kind of flow around them.