Tuesday, March 07, 2006

 

Do It Now

From http://www.stevepavlina.com/articles/do-it-now.htm

When going to college many years ago, I decided to challenge myself by setting a goal to see if I could graduate in only three semesters, taking the same classes that people would normally take over a four-year period. This article explains in detail all the time management techniques I used to successfully pull this off.

In order to accomplish this goal, I determined I'd have to take 30-40 units per semester, when the average student took 12-15 units. It became immediately obvious that I'd have to manage my time extremely well if I wanted to pull this off. I began reading everything I could find on time management and putting what I learned into practice. I accomplished my goal by graduating with two Bachelor of Science degrees (computer science and mathematics) in just three semesters without attending summer school. I slept seven to eight hours a night, took care of my routine chores (shopping, cooking, etc), had a social life, and exercised for 30 minutes every morning. In my final semester, I even held a full time job (40 hours a week) as a game programmer and served as the Vice Chair of the local Association of Computing Machinery (ACM) chapter while taking 37 units of mostly senior-level computer science and math courses. My classmates would add up all the hours they expected each task to take and concluded that my weeks must have consisted of about 250 hours. I graduated with a 3.9 GPA and also received a special award given to the top computer science student each year. One of my professors later told me that they had an easy time selecting the award recipient once it became clear to them what I was doing.

I wasn't considered a gifted child, and this was the first time I had ever done anything like this. I didn't have any personal mentors helping me, I didn't know of anyone who'd done anything like this before, and I can't recall a single person encouraging me to do it. In fact, most people were highly discouraging of the idea when I told them about it. This was simply something I decided to do for myself. If you want a better understanding of where I was at this time in my life and why I decided to attempt such a crazy thing, you might enjoy reading The Meaning of Life: Intro, which includes the full background story and more details about my motivation for doing this.

It took a lot of convincing to get the computer science department chair to approve my extra units every semester, and my classmates often assumed I was either cheating or that I had a twin or that I was just mentally unstable (I get accused of that last one pretty much every week, so maybe there's some truth to it). Most of the time I kept quiet about what I was doing, but if someone asked me how many units I was taking, I didn't deny it. I was perhaps the only student at the university with a two-page class schedule, so it was easy to prove I was telling the truth if anyone pressed me, but rarely did I ever do so.

I didn't tell you this story to impress you but rather to make you curious as to how I did it. I pulled this off by applying time management concepts that most people simply didn't know but that were readily available in books and audio programs at the time (1992-93). The time management habits I learned in college have served me very well in building my business, so I want to share them with you in the hopes that you'll find them equally valuable. They allowed me to shave years off my schooling while also giving me about $30,000 to start my business (all earned in my final semester as a game programmer, mostly from royalties). Without further ado, here's the best of what I've learned about mastering time management:



Clarity is key.
The first step is to know exactly what you want. In a Tae Kwon Do studio where I used to train, there's a huge sign on the wall that says, "Your goal is to become a black belt." This helps remind each student why s/he is going through such difficult training. When you work for yourself, it's easy to spend a whole day at your desk and accomplish nothing of value. This almost always happens when you aren't really clear about what it is you're trying to do. In the moments when you regain your awareness, ask yourself, "What exactly is it that I'm trying to accomplish here?" You must know your destination with as much clarity as possible. Make your goals specific, and put them in writing. Your goals must be so clear that it would be possible for a stranger to look at your situation objectively and give you an absolute "yes" or "no" response as to whether you've accomplished each goal or not. If you cannot define your destination precisely, how will you know when you've arrived?

The key period I've found useful for defining and working on specific goals is ninety days, or the length of one season. In that period of time, you can make dramatic and measurable changes if you set crystal clear goals. Take a moment to stop and write down a snapshot description of how you want your life to be ninety days from now. What will your monthly income be? How much will you weigh? Who will your friends be? Where will you be in your career? What will your relationship be like? What will your web site look like? Be specific. Absolute clarity will give you the edge that will keep you on course.

Just as an airplane on autopilot must make constant corrections to stay on course, you must periodically retarget your goals. Reconnect with your clear, written goals by re-reading them every morning. Post them on your walls, especially your financial goals. Years ago (during the mid-90s), I went around my apartment putting up signs in every room that said "$5,000 / month." That was my monthly business income goal at the time. Because I knew exactly what I wanted, I achieved that goal within a few weeks. I continued setting specific income goals, even amidst occasional setbacks, and I found this process very effective. It wasn't just that it helped me focus on what I wanted -- perhaps even more important is that it make it easy for me to disregard those things that weren't on the path to my goal. For example, if you set a goal to earn $10,000/month, this can help you stop doing those things that will only earn you $5000/month.

If you aren't yet at the point of clarity, then make that your first goal. It's a big waste of time to go through life being unclear about what you want. Most people wallow way too long in the state of "I don't know what to do." They wait for some external force to provide them with clarity, never realizing that clarity is self-created. The universe is waiting on you, not the other way around, and it's going to keep waiting until you finally make up your mind. Waiting for clarity is like being a sculptor staring at a piece of marble, waiting for the statue within to cast off the unneeded pieces. Do not wait for clarity to spontaneously materialize -- grab a chisel and get busy!



Be flexible.
There's a key difference between knowing your destination and knowing the path you will take to get there. A typical commercial airplane is off course 90% of the time, yet it almost always arrives at its destination because it knows exactly where it's going and makes constant corrections along the way. You cannot know the exact path to your goal in advance. I believe that the real purpose of planning is simply so that you remain convinced that a possible path exists. We've all heard the statistic that 80% of new businesses fail in their first five years, but a far more interesting statistic is that nearly all of the businesses that succeeded did not do so in the original way they had intended. If you look at successful businesses that started with business plans, you will commonly find that their original plans failed miserably and that they only succeeded by trying something else. It is said that no business plan survives contact with the marketplace. I like to generalize this to say that no plan survives contact with the real world.

Renowned author and business consultant Stephen Covey often uses the expression, "integrity in the moment of choice." What that means is that you should not follow your plans blindly without conscious awareness of your goals. For instance, let's say you're following your plans nicely -- so far so good -- and then an unforeseen opportunity arises. Do you stick to your original plan, thereby missing the opportunity, or do you stop and go after the opportunity, thereby throwing yourself off schedule? This is where you have to stop and reconnect with your goals to decide which is the better course. No plan should be followed blindly. As soon as you gain new knowledge that could invalidate the plan, you must exercise integrity in the moment of choice. Sometimes you can reach your goals faster by taking advantage of shortcuts that arise unexpectedly. Other times you should stick to your original plans and avoid minor distractions that would take you further from your goals. Be tight on your goals but flexible on your plans.

I believe that having a clear goal is far more important than having a clear plan. In school I was very clear about my end goal -- graduate college in only three semesters -- but my plans were in a constant state of flux. Every day I would be informed of new assignments, projects, or tests, and I had to adapt this ever-changing sea of activity. If I tried to make a long-term plan for each semester, it would have been rendered useless within 24 hours.



Use single handling.
Instead of using some elaborate organizing system, I stuck with very basic a pen-and-paper to do list. My only organizing tool was a notepad where I wrote down all my assignments and their deadlines. I didn't worry about doing any advance scheduling or prioritizing. I would simply scan the list to select the most pressing item which fit the time I had available. Then I'd complete it, and cross it off the list.

If I had a 10-hour term paper to write, I would do the whole thing at once instead of breaking it into smaller tasks. I'd usually do large projects on weekends. I'd go to the library in the morning, do the necessary research, and then go back to my dorm room and continue working until the final text was rolling off my printer. If I needed to take a break, I would take a break. It didn't matter how big the project was supposed to be or how many weeks the professor allowed for it. Once I began an assignment, I would stay with it until it was 100% complete and ready to be turned in.

This simple practice saved me a significant amount of time. First, it allowed me to concentrate deeply on each assignment and to work very efficiently while I worked. A lot of time is lost in task switching because you have to re-load the context for each new task. Single handling minimizes time lost in task switching. In fact, when possible I would batch up my assignments within a certain subject area and then do them all at once before switching subjects. So I'd do all my math homework in a row until it was all done. Then I'd do all my programming assignments. Then I'd do my general education homework. In this manner I would put my brain into math-mode, programming-mode, writing-mode, or art-mode and remain in that single mode for as long as possible. Secondly, I believe this habit helped me remain relaxed and unstressed because my mind wasn't cluttered with so many to-do items. It was always just one thing at a time. I could forget about anything that was outside the current context.



Failure is your friend.
Most people seem to have an innate fear of failure, but failure is really your best friend. People who succeed also fail a great deal because they make a lot of attempts. The great baseball player Babe Ruth held the homerun record and the strikeout record at the same time. Those who have the most successes also have the most failures. There is nothing wrong or shameful in failing. The only regret lies in never making the attempt. So don't be afraid to experiment in your attempts to increase productivity. Sometimes the quickest way to find out if something will work is to jump right in and do it. You can always make adjustments along the way. It's the ready-fire-aim approach, and surprisingly, it works a lot better than the more common ready-aim-fire approach. The reason is that after you've "fired" once, you have some actual data with which to adjust your aim. Too many people get bogged down in planning and thinking and never get to the point of action. How many potentially great ideas have you passed up because you got stuck in the state of analysis paralysis (i.e. ready-aim-aim-aim-aim-aim...)?

During college I tried a lot of crazy ideas that I thought might save me time. I continued reading time management material and applying what I learned, but I also devised some original ideas. Most of my own ideas were flops, but some of them worked. I was willing to fail again and again for the off chance I might stumble upon something that gave me an extra boost.

Understand that failure is not the opposite of success. Failure is an essential part of success. Once you succeed, no one will remember your failures anyway. Microsoft wasn't Bill Gates' and Paul Allen's first business venture. Who remembers that their original Traf-o-Data business was a flop? The actor Jim Carey was booed off many a stage while a young comedian. We have electric light bulbs because Thomas Edison refused to give up even after 10,000 failed experiments. If the word "failure" is anathema to you, then reframe it: You either succeed, or you have a learning experience.

Letting go of the fear of failure will serve you well. If you're excited about achieving a particular goal, but you're afraid you might not be able to pull it off, jump on it and do it anyway. Even if you fail in your attempt, you'll learn something valuable and can make a better attempt next time. If you look at people who are successful in business today, you will commonly see that many of them had a string of dismal failures before finally hitting on something that worked, myself included. And I think most of these people will agree that those early failure experiences were an essential contributing factor in their future successes. My advice to anyone starting a new business is to begin pumping out products or devising services and don't worry much about whether they'll be hits. They probably won't be. But you'll learn a lot more by doing than you ever will by thinking.



Do it now!
W. Clement Stone, who built an insurance empire worth hundreds of millions dollars, would make all his employees recite the phrase, "Do it now!" again and again at the start of each workday. Whenever you feel the tendency towards laziness taking over and you remember something you should be doing, stop and say out loud, "Do it now! Do it now! Do it now!" I often set this text as my screen saver. There is a tremendous cost in putting things off because you will mentally revisit them again and again, which can add up to an enormous amount of wasted time. Thinking and planning are important, but action is far more important. You don't get paid for your thoughts and plans -- you only get paid for your results. When in doubt, act boldly, as if it were impossible to fail. In essence, it is.

It is absolutely imperative that you develop the habit of making decisions as soon as possible. I use a 60-second rule for almost every decision I have to make, no matter how big or important. Once I have all the data to make a decision, I start a timer and give myself only 60 seconds to make a firm decision. I'll even flip a coin if I have to. When I was in college, I couldn't afford to waste time thinking about assignments or worrying about when to do them. I simply picked one and went to work on it. And today when I need to decide which article to write next, I just pick a topic and begin writing. I believe this is why I never experience writer's block. Writer's block means you're stuck in the state of thinking about what to write instead of actually writing. I don't waste time thinking about writing because I'm too busy writing. This is probably why I've been able to write hundreds of original articles very easily. Every article I write spawns ideas for at least two more, so my ideas list only increases over time. I cannot imagine ever running out of original content.

Too often people delay making decisions when there is no advantage to be found in that delay. Usually delaying a decision will only have negative consequences, so even if you're faced with ambiguity, just bite the bullet and make a decision. If it turns out to be the wrong one, you'll know it soon enough. Many people probably spend more than 60 seconds just deciding what they'll eat for dinner. If I can't decide what to eat, I just grab an apple or a couple bananas and start eating, and sometimes I'm full of fruit before I figure out what I really would like to eat. So my brain knows that if it wants something other than fruit, it had better decide quickly. If you can speed up the pace of making decisions, you can spend the rest of your time on action.

One study showed that the best managers in the world tend to have an extremely high tolerance for ambiguity. In other words, they are able to act boldly on partial and/or conflicting data. Many industries today have accelerated to such a rapid pace that by the time you have perfect data with which to make any decision, the opportunity is probably long gone. Where you have no data to fall back on, rely on your own personal experience and intuition. If a decision can be made right away, make the decision as soon as it comes up. If you can't make a decision right away, set aside a time where you will consider the options and make the decision. Pour the bulk of your time into action, not deciding. The state of indecision is a major time waster. Don't spend more than 60 seconds in that state if you can avoid it. Make a firm, immediate decision, and move from uncertainty to certainty to action. Let the world tell you when you're wrong, and you'll soon build enough experience to make accurate, intelligent decisions.



Triage ruthlessly.
Get rid of everything that wastes your time. Use the trash can liberally. Apply the rule, "When in doubt, throw it out." Cancel useless magazine subscriptions. If you have a magazine that is more than two months old and you still haven't read it, throw it away; it's probably not worth reading. Realize that nothing is free if it costs you time. Before you sign up for any new free service or subscription, ask how much it will cost you in terms of time. Every activity has an opportunity cost. Ask, "Is this activity worth what I am sacrificing for it?"

In college I was downright brutal when it came to triage. I once told one on my professors that I decided not to do one of his assigned computer science projects because I felt it wasn't a good use of my time. The project required about 10-20 hours of work, and it involved some tedious gruntwork that wasn't going to teach me anything I didn't already know. Also, this project was only worth 10% of my grade in that class, and since I was previously acing the class anyway, the only real negative consequence would be that I'd end up with an A- in the course instead of an A. I told the professor I felt that was a fair trade-off and that I would accept the A-. I didn't try to negotiate with him for special treatment. So my official grade in the class was an A-, but I personally gave myself an A+ for putting those 10-20 hours to much better use.

Ask yourself this question: "Would I have ever gotten started with this project, relationship, career, etc. if I had to do it all over again, knowing what I now know?" If your answer is no, then get out as soon as possible. This is called zero-based thinking. I know a lot of people that have a limiting belief that says, "Always finish what you start." They spend years climbing ladders only to realize when they reach the top that the ladder was leaning against the wrong building. Remember that failure is your friend. So if a certain decision you've made in the past is no longer producing results that serve you, then be ruthless and dump it, so you can move onto something better. There is no honor in dedicating your life to the pursuit of a goal which no longer inspires you. This is another situation where you must practice integrity in the moment of choice. You must constantly re-assess your present situation to accurately decide what to do next. Whatever you've decided in the past is largely irrelevant if you would not renew that decision today.



Identify and recover wasted time.
Instead of watching a one-hour TV show, tape it and watch it in 45 minutes by fast-forwarding through the commercials. Don't spend a half hour typing a lengthy email when you could accomplish the same thing with a 10-minute phone call. Batch your errands together and do them all at once.

During the summer between my second and third semesters, I found an apartment across the street from campus that was slightly closer to the engineering building than my on-campus dorm room. So I moved out of the dorms and into that apartment, which saved me some walking/biking time every day. I was also moving from a two-bedroom dorm which I shared with two roommates into a smaller single-person studio apartment. This new apartment was much more efficient. For example, I could work on programming assignments while cooking dinner because my desk was only a few steps from the stove.

Trying to cut out time-wasting habits is a common starting point for people who desire to become more efficient, but I think this is a mistake. Optimizing your personal habits should only come later. Clarity of purpose must come first. If you don't have clarity, then your attempts to install more efficient habits and to break inefficient habits will only fizzle. You won't have a strong enough reason to put your time to good use, so it will be easy to quit when things get tough. You need a big, attractive goal to stay motivated. The reason to shave 15 minutes off a task is that you're overflowing with motivation to put that 15 minutes to better use.

For example, you might have a career you sort of like, but most likely it's not so compelling that you'll care enough about saving an extra 15 minutes here and there, even if your total savings might amount to a few hours each day. But if you've taken the time to develop a sense of purpose that reaches deep into your soul, you'll be automatically motivated to put your time to better use. If you get the highest level of your life in order (purpose, meaning, spiritual beliefs), the lower levels will tend to self-optimize (habits, practices, actions).



Apply the 80-20 rule.
Also known as the Pareto Principle, the 80-20 rule states that 20% of a task's effort accounts for 80% of the value of that task. This also means that 80% of a task only yields 20% of the value of that task. In college I was ruthless in my application of this principle. Some weeks I ditched as many as 40% of my classes because sitting through a lecture was not often the most effective way for me to learn. And I already noted that I would simply refuse to do an assignment if I determined it was not worth my time. There was one math class that I only showed up to twice because I could learn from the text book much more quickly than from the lectures. I only showed up for the midterm and final. I would pop my head in at the beginning of each class to drop off my homework and then again at the end of each class to write down the next assignment. I actually got the highest grade in that class, but the teacher probably had no idea who I was. The other students were playing by the rules, not realizing they were free to make their own rules. Find out what parts of your life belong in the crucial 20%, and focus your efforts there. Be absolutely ruthless in refusing to spend time where it simply cannot give you optimal results. Invest your time where it has the potential to pay off big.



Guard thy time.
To work effectively you need uninterrupted blocks of time in which you can complete meaningful work. When you know for certain that you won't be interrupted, your productivity is much, much higher. When you sit down to work on a particularly intense task, dedicate blocks of time to the task during which you will not do anything else. I've found that a minimum of 90 minutes is ideal for a single block.

You may need to negotiate with the other people in your life to create these uninterrupted blocks of time. If necessary, warn others in advance not to interrupt you for a certain period of time. Threaten them with acts of violence if you must. In school I would lock my bedroom door when I needed to work, so my roommates would know not to disturb me. While each individual bedroom in the two-bedroom dorm suites was designed for two people (four people per suite), I paid a bit extra to have a bedroom all to myself. This way I always had my own private room to work. When I had time to be social, I'd leave the door open, sometimes playing computer games with one of my roommates. If you happen to work in a high interruption environment that's negatively affecting your productivity, change that environment at all costs. Some people have told me that giving their boss a copy of this article helped convince him/her to take steps to reduce unnecessary interruptions.

While for some people it's helpful to block off a specific period of time for a task, I find that I work best with long, open-ended stretches of uninterrupted time. I'll often allocate a starting time for a task but usually not a specific finishing time. Whenever possible I just allow myself to stick with a task as long as I can, until I eventually succumb to hunger or other bodily needs. I will frequently work 6+ hours straight on a project without taking a break. While frequent breaks are often recommended to increase productivity, I feel that suggestion may be an artifact of industrial age research on poorly motivated workers and not as applicable to high-motivation, purpose-driven creative work. I find it's best for me to maintain momentum until I can barely continue instead of chopping a task into smaller chunks where there's a risk of succumbing to distractions along the way.

The state of flow, where you are totally absorbed in a task and lose all sense of time, takes about 15 minutes to enter. Every time you get interrupted, it can take you another 15 minutes to get back to that state. Once you enter the state of flow, guard it with your life. That is the state in which you will go through enormous amounts of work and experience total connection with the task. When I'm in this state, I have no sense of past or future. I simply feel like I'm one with my work.

While sometimes I suffer from the problem of the task expanding to fill the allotted time (aka Parkinson's Law), I often find that it's worth the risk. For example, when I do optimization work on my web site, I'll frequently think of new optimization ideas while I work, and I'll usually go ahead and implement those new ideas immediately. I find it more efficient to act on those ideas at the moment of conception instead of scheduling them to be done at a later time.



Work all the time you work.
During one of these sacred time blocks, do nothing but the activity that's right in front of you. Don't check email or online forums or do web surfing. If you have this temptation, then unplug your Internet connection while you work. Turn off your phone, or simply refuse to answer it. Go to the bathroom before you start, and make sure you won't get hungry for a while. Don't get out of your chair at all. Don't talk to anyone during this time.

Decide what it is you should be doing, and then do nothing but that. If you happen to manage others, periodically ask them what their #1 task is, and make sure they're doing nothing but that. If you see someone answering email, then it should be the most important thing for that person to be doing at that particular time. If not, then relatively speaking, that person is just wasting time.

If you need a break, then take a real break and do nothing else. Don't semi-work during a break if you feel you need rest and restoration. Checking email or web surfing is not a break. When you take a break, close your eyes and do some deep breathing, listen to relaxing music and zone out for a while, take a 20-minute nap, or eat some fresh fruit. Rest until you feel capable of doing productive work again. When you need rest, rest. When you should be working, work. Work with either 100% concentration, or don't work at all. It's perfectly fine to take as much down time as you want. Just don't allow your down time to creep into your work time.



Multitask.
The amount of new knowledge in certain fields is increasing so rapidly that everything you know about your line of work is probably becoming obsolete. The only solution is to keep absorbing new knowledge as rapidly as possible. Many of the skills I use in my business today didn't even exist five years ago. The best way I know to keep up is to multitask whenever possible by reading and listening to audio programs.

When watching TV, read a computer magazine during commercials. If you're a male, read while shaving. I use an electric shaver and read during the 2-3 minutes it takes me to shave each day. This allows me to get through about two extra articles a week -- that's 100 extra articles a year. This habit is really easy to start. Just grab a couple magazines, or print out some articles you wouldn't otherwise have time to read, and put them in your bathroom. Whenever you go out, carry at least one folded up article with you. If you ever have to wait in line, such as at the post office or the grocery store, pull out the article and read it. You will be amazed at how much extra knowledge you can absorb just by reading during other non-mental activities.

Listen to educational audio programs whenever you can. When you drive your car, always be listening to an educational audio program. Nightingale Conant sells excellent ones on a variety of subjects produced by experts in their fields. Most include about six hours of content and sell for around $60-70, and they are well worth the price. The material in these programs tends to be much more practical than what you would learn by taking classes at a university. Whereas people with degrees in marketing or business have been taught by college professors, you can learn about these subjects from millionaires and billionaires who know what works and what doesn't. One of the best ways to save time is to learn directly from people who already have the skills you want to master.

Multitasking was perhaps the most important low-level skill that allowed me to go through college in three semesters. My average weekday involved about seven or eight hours of classes. But on Tuesdays during my final semester, I had classes back to back from 9am until 10pm. Because I was taking about a dozen classes each semester, I would have several tests and projects due just about every week. I had no time to study outside of class because most of that time was used for my job. So I simply had to learn everything the first time it came up. If a teacher wrote out something on the board, I would memorize it then and there; I couldn't afford to learn things later and risk falling behind. During my slower classes, I would do homework, work out algorithms for my programming job, or refine my schedule. You can probably find numerous opportunities for multitasking. Whenever you do something physical, such as driving, cooking, shopping, or walking, keep your mind going by listening to audio tapes or reading.

The idea of multitasking may seem to contradict the previous piece of advice to work all the time you work. But whereas the previous tip refers to high intensity work where you must concentrate all your mental resources in order to do the best job you can, this tip addresses low intensity work where you have plenty of capacity to do other things at the same time, like standing in line, cooking dinner, flying on a plane, or walking from point A to point B. Multitasking shouldn't be used where it will significantly degrade your performance on a crucial task, but it should be intelligently used to take advantage of excess capacity. Take real breaks when you need them, but don't waste time in a state of partial effort. It's more efficient to cycle between working flat out and then resting completely.

Multitasking allows you to take your productivity to a new level. You might think it would be draining, but many people find it has the opposite effect. For me it was tremendously energizing to be getting so much done. The harder you work, the greater your capacity for work, and the more restorative your rest will be.



Experiment.
Everyone is different, so what works for you may well be different than what works for everyone else. You may work best in the morning or late at night. Take advantage of your own strengths, and find ways to compensate for your weaknesses. Experiment with listening to music while you work. I use the free WinAMP player, which can stream commercial-free radio directly to my computer all day long with a variety of channels to choose from. I find that classical and new age music, especially Mozart, is terrific for web development work. But for most routine tasks, listening to fast-paced techno/trance music helps me work a lot faster. I don't exactly know why, but I'm twice as productive when listening to really fast music as compared to listening to no music. On the other hand, music with vocals is detrimental to my productivity because it's too distracting. And when I really need to focus deeply, I'll listen to no music at all. Try a simple experiment for yourself, and see if certain forms of music can increase your productivity. For me the difference was dramatic.

Whenever you come up with a wacky new idea for increasing your productivity, test it and see what effect it has. Don't dismiss any idea unless you've actually tried it. Partial successes are more common than complete failures, so each new experiment will help you refine your time management practices. Even the ongoing practice of conducting sometimes foolish experiments will help condition you to be more productive.



Cultivate your enthusiasm.
The word "enthusiasm" comes from the Greek entheos, which means literally, "the god within." I really like that definition. I doubt it's possible to master the art of time management if you aren't gushingly enthusiastic about what you're going to do with your time. Go after what really inspires you. Don't chase money. Chase your passion. If you aren't enthusiastic about your work, then you're wasting your life. Switch to something else. Consider a new career altogether. Don't beat yourself up if your current career has become stale. Remember that failure is your friend. Listen to that god within you, and switch to something that excites you once again. The worst waste of time is doing something that doesn't make you happy. Your work should serve your life, not the other way around.

If you're like most people, you can get yourself motivated every once in a while, but then you get caught up and sink back down to a lower level of productivity, and you find it hard to continue with a project. How easy is it to start a new project when your motivation level is high? And how difficult is it to continue once your enthusiasm fades? Since most people are negative to one degree or another, you'll naturally lose your positive charge over time unless you actively cultivate your enthusiasm as a resource. I don't believe in pushing myself to do something I really don't want to do. If I'm not motivated, then getting myself to sit down and work productively is nearly impossible, and the work is almost painful. When you're highly motivated though, work feels like play.

While in college I could not afford to let my enthusiasm fade, or I'd be dead. I quickly learned that I needed to make a conscious effort to reinforce my enthusiasm on a daily basis. I always had my Walkman cassette player with me (there were no portable MP3 players back then), and while walking from one class to the next, I would listen to time management and motivational tapes. I also listened to them while jogging every morning. I kept my motivation level high by reinforcing my enthusiasm almost hourly. Even though I was being told by others that I would surely fail, these tapes were the stronger influence because I never went more than a few hours without plugging back in.

If your enthusiasm level is high, you can work so much more productively and even enjoy the normally tedious parts of your work. I've always found that whenever I want to take my business to a new level, I must take my thoughts to a new level first. When your thinking changes, then your actions will change, and your results will follow. Unless you're a naturally hyper person, your enthusiasm is going to need daily reinforcement. I recommend either listening to motivational tapes or reading inspiring books or articles for at least fifteen minutes every day. Whenever I've stopped doing this, I've found that self-doubt always returns, and my productivity drops off. It's truly amazing how constantly feeding your mind with positive material can maintain your enthusiasm indefinitely. And if you multitask, you can get this benefit without investing any extra time into it.



Eat and exercise for optimal energy.
During the summer before my last semester in college (1993), I became a lacto-ovo vegetarian, and I noticed a decent boost in my energy and especially in my ability to concentrate. Four years later (1997) I became a complete vegan (no animal products at all), and I've been one ever since, and this yielded an even bigger boost.

What you eat can have a profound effect on your productivity. Animal products take significantly more time and energy to digest than plant foods, and when your body must divert extra energy to digestion, it means you have less energy available for productive mental work. Effectively your work will seem harder while you're digesting meals containing animal products, and you'll be more inclined to succumb to distractions. So if you find yourself having a hard time focusing on mentally intense work after lunch, your diet may very well be the culprit. Even Benjamin Franklin credited eating lightly at lunch time as being a significant factor in his productivity. He claimed while his colleagues were sluggish and sleepy, he could continue to work productively the rest of the day.

Regular exercise is also necessary to maintain high energy and mental clarity. In college I would go running for 30 minutes first thing every morning before breakfast. And of course I'd be listening to motivational and educational tapes at the same time. This daily renewal kept me in good physical condition and helped me maintain my ideal weight. Furthermore, my class schedule kept me zigzagging around campus each day to attend all my classes, and I'd usually have to carry a 20-30 pound backpack full of textbooks with me. So even though I spent most of my weekdays sitting in classrooms, I still got plenty of daily exercise.

If you want to master time management, it makes sense to hone your best time management tool of all -- your physical body. Through diet and exercise you can build your capacity for sustained concentrated effort, so even the most difficult work will seem easier.

If you currently find yourself overweight, take a trip to a local gym or a sporting goods store, and find a dumbbell (or two) that weighs as much as the excess fat you're carrying around. Pick it up and walk around with it for a while. Become aware that this is what you're carrying around with you every day. Imagine how much lighter and easier everything would be if you could permanently put that weight down. Carrying some extra weight for training purposes is one thing, but if that weight is in the form of body fat, then you're never able to put it down and enjoy the benefits of that training. Make a committed decision to shed those extra pounds, and enjoy the lifelong benefits of living in a more efficient physical vehicle.



Maintain balance.
I don't think it's easy to sustain long-term productivity, health, and happiness if your life is totally unbalanced. To excel in one area, you can't let other areas lag behind and pull you down. While in college I made an effort to take off a full day each week to have a personal life. I exercised, went to parties, attended club meetings, played computer games and pool, and even had time to vacation in Las Vegas during my final semester. The high turnover rates at the end of "death march" projects are caused by a lack of balance. To focus exclusively on your primary work at the expense of every other area of your life will only hurt you in the long run. Maintain balance by paying attention to every area of your life. As you grow in your career, be sure that your personal life grows as well.

Probably my biggest regret about going through college in three semesters is that I never had a girlfriend during this time. While I had plenty of good friends (both male and female), got involved in clubs, and enjoyed fun social activities every week, I definitely didn't have enough time to pursue an intimate relationship on top of everything else. I remember one instance where a girl I knew was clearly interested in pursuing a relationship with me, and she started machinating to spend more time alone with me, but I couldn't take the bait because I just didn't have time for dating in a way that would be respectful towards her. I wouldn't have made her a very good boyfriend.

If I had to do it all over again, I think my college experience would have been even better if I'd stretched it to four or five semesters and allowed myself time for a girlfriend. It would have been great to have someone else to share my life with, not to mention all the other benefits of intimacy. At least I had plenty time for dating after graduating. Within a few months I had a steady girlfriend, and four years later we were married. She and I actually went to the same college at the same time, but we never happened to meet while we were there, although it turned out we had a few mutual acquaintances.

I believe the main goal of time management is to give you the power to make your life as juicy as you want it to be. By getting clear about what you want and then developing a collection of habits that allow you to efficiently achieve your goals, you'll enjoy a much richer, more fulfilling life than you would otherwise. When I look back on my college days from more than a decade in the future, I feel a sense of gratitude for the whole experience. I set an enormous stretch goal and grew tremendously as a person in the pursuit of that goal. It was one of the best times of my life.

If you wish to become more productive, then do so with the intention of improving the totality of your life from top to bottom. The reason to master time management is to take your good life and transform it into an exceptional one. Time management is not about self-sacrifice, self-denial, and doing more of what you dislike. It's about embracing more of what you already love.

From http://www.metaldudu.com/blog/index.php/109

很多年前读大学的时候,我决定制定一个计划挑战自己:只用三个学期完成其他人通常花费四年的课程,能否毕业。这篇文章详细的说明了我在成功实现该目标过程中的所有时间管理技巧。

为了实现这个目标,我决心每个学期得到30到40个学分,而其他学生平均只要12到15个学分。显而易见,我必须合理安排时间才能实现目标。我开始阅读我所能找到的所有关于时间管理的资料,并学以所用。正好三个学期,我完成了目标:两个理科学士学位(计算机科学和数学),而且没有参加暑期课程。我每天晚上睡七到八个小时,处理好我的日常杂务(购物,做饭等等),参与社交活动,每天早晨锻炼30分钟。在最后一学期我完成了高级计算机和数学两门总共37学分的课程,我甚至拥有一份游戏程序员的全职工作(每周工作40小时),还是当地ACM学会(Association of Computing Machinery)的副主席。我的同学把他们完成功课要花的时间加到一起,结论是我的一周有250小时。我以3.9GPA的成绩毕业并且获得每年颁发给最优秀计算机专业学生的特别奖。我的一个教授后来告诉我当他们知道我所做所为之后,选择奖项的候选人就变得很简单了。

我并不被看作一个天才儿童,这也是我第一次做出这样的事。没人指导过我,我不知道是否有谁那么做过,我也没有想起什么人鼓励我这么做。事实上,当我告诉大家的时候大多数人都出来劝阻我。我只是简单的想为了我自己而做。如果你想更好的了解我那个时候为什么会尝试如此疯狂的事儿,你也许会乐于读 一读生活的意义:引子,里面包含了整个故事的背景以及有关我的动机的细节描述。

我花了很多时间来说服计算机系主任给我选学额外的学分,我同学经常说我作弊,要么就是有个双胞胎兄弟,或者干脆说我是精神不正常(每周我听到最多的就是最后一条,也许说的有些道理)。大多数时候我保持沉默,但当被问到修多少学分的时候,我会如实回答。我也许是整个大学里唯一拿着两页课表的学生,因此如果有人胁迫我,这很容易证明我说的是真话,虽然我很少这么做。

讲这个故事,并非为了引人注目,更不是使你好奇于我如何做到它。我成功实现目标只是我运用了时间管理这个概念,很多人可能根本不知道,但它却早就存在于那个时候(1992-1993年)的书籍和音频节目中。大学里养成的时间管理习惯对我后来创业帮助很大,所以我想与你分享并希望你觉得同样有价值。它让我节约了学费并且给了我大约$30,000 来起家做创业(全部是我最后一学期当游戏程序员时赚的,大部分是版税收入)。闲话少说,下面就是我知道的时间管理的精华所在:

目标明确是关键。

首先要明确的知道你想要什么。在我曾经训练过的一个跆拳道馆,墙上有一块巨大的标语,“你的目标是黑带!”。它提醒每个学员为什么他/她们要经过如此艰苦的训练。你独自工作的时候,很容易整日在办公桌上碌碌无为完成一些毫无价值的工作。在你不知道自己打算做什么的时候,这会经常发生。当你意识到这点,问自己“我到底在这里试图想实现什么目标么?”你必须尽量清楚自己的目标。使你的目标更明确,并把它们写出来。你的目标必须清楚到这种程度:即使一个陌生人,在客观地了解了你的情况后,都能就你是否完成每个目标给出一个绝对的“是”或者“否”的答复。假如你不能明确的定义你的目标,就算到达了你又怎么能知道?

我发现定义和展开一个明确目标的关键周期是九十天,就是一个季度。在那样一段时间里,如果你确立里非常明确的目标,你就可以作出重大的可估量的改变。花点时间停下来,写写你希望接下来的九十天你的生活是什么样。什么样的月收入?体重多少?朋友如何?事业如何?人际关系如何?你的网站会是什么样子?详细的写。绝对明确的描述会给你全程计划提供一个边界。

就像飞机的自动驾驶仪必须不断修正航线,你必须定时重新审视你的目标。每天早晨重读你清楚写下的目标,将这些清晰的、记录下来的目标重新接合起来。把它们贴在墙上,特别是你的经济目标。几年前(九十年代中期),我在每个房间里贴上”5000美元/月”的表语。那就是我当时的月收入目标。我不断的确立明确的收入目标,即使有时候遭遇挫折,我发现这个过程十分有效。这并不只帮助我关注我的目标——也许更有助于让我忽视那些目标之外的事情。例如,如果你确定了月收入一万美元的目标,这会让你放弃做那些每月只能挣五千美元的事情。

如果你仍不明白如果明确目标,那就把它作为你的首要目标。一辈子不清楚自己到底想要什么是对时间的巨大浪费。大多数人长久的沉迷于“我不知道做什么”的状态中。他们等着外力使自己目标明确,殊不知明确是自身创造的。一切在等着你动手,没有别的办法,它会一直等待直到你下定决心。等待明确的目标就像一位雕塑家注视着一块大理石,等待里面的雕像可以抛开不需要的碎屑自动出现。不要指望目标会自动明确起来——拿起凿子动手吧!

灵活安排

知道你的目标与知道你达到目标的途径是完全不同的。一架典型的商用飞机90%的时间偏离航线,但它差不多总是能到达目的地,因为它知道往哪里飞并且随时的修正方向。你不可能预知确切的途径。我认为计划的真实目的在于你确信存在一条可行的途径。我们都听说过,据统计80%的新商业机构在头五年里倒闭,但一个更有趣的统计是几乎所有成功的商业机构的发展道路都与原定的计划不同。以商业计划开始的成功的企业,你通常都会发现最初的计划惨遭败绩,他们只是因为尝试其他途径而成功。有人说不与市场紧密联系的商业计划难以生存。我把它推广为不与现实世界紧密联系的计划也难以实施。

著名作家和商业顾问Stephen Covey经常引用这个句子,”诚实面对选择。”意思就是在没有了解目标的情况下,不能盲目的执行计划。例如,你细心的执行计划–目前为止一切顺利–突然出现一个无法预料的机会。你坚持原有计划(这会丧失机会)还是停止机会抓住机会(这会使你脱离计划)?这时你需要停下来考虑你的目标,以决定哪个是更好的选择。盲目的执行计划是不可取的。一旦获得可以更正计划的信息,你要训练在选择的时刻保持诚实。有时你可以借不曾预料的捷径达到目标。另一些时候你得坚持原有计划并避免为次要的东西分心,那会把你带离你的目标。紧守你的目标,但灵活对待计划。

我相信一个清晰的计划远远比一个清楚的计划来得重要的多。在大学里我很清楚自己的最终目标——在三个学期里完成大学学业——但是我的计划随时随刻都在变化。每天我都会有新的作业,课程或者考试,我必须适应这些随时变化的情况。如果我试图为每个学期指定长期计划,那么不出一天计划就会失效了。

一时一事

我坚持非常基础的用纸-笔记录要做的事,而并非某些精细的组织系统。我唯一的组织工具只是一个笔记薄,在上面我写下所有任务以及它们的完成期限。我并不为预先的安排和次序而担忧。我我只需看一眼清单,选出适合空余时间的要事即可。一完成这个任务,就把它从列表里去掉。

如果我有一份10小时的学期作业要写,我会一次完成它而不是把它分成更小的任务。我通常在周末去做那些耗时的工作。在上午去图书馆做必要的查阅,然后回到宿舍开始写,直到最终的论文打印出来。如果需要休息我就休息。这与这个计划如何重要还有教授要求几周内完成它没有关系。一旦我开始,我就会坚持下去直到100%完成,就等着交作业了。

这个简单的习惯为我节约了大量时间。首先,它使我对每项任务全神贯注,做起来效率就很高。转换任务会浪费很多时间,因为你不得不重新了解和熟悉它们。单独处理使得切换任务所耗费的时间最小化。实际上,如果可能我会把某一特定主题的任务集中在一起,然后一次完成它们。所以我一次性连续做完我的数学作业。然后去做所有的编程作业。然后去做综合作业。这样,我使我的大脑处于数学思维,编程思维,写作思维,还有艺术思维的状态,并且保持尽可能长时间的保持单一的模式。第二,我觉得这个习惯使我没有拘束也没有压力,我的思维不会因为过多要做的东西而混乱。这种每次只做一件事的习惯,让我忘掉现在任务之外的所有东西。

失败是朋友

大部分人对失败怀有先天的恐惧,事实上它却是你最好的朋友。成功的人也因为屡次尝试而经历很多失败。伟大的棒球手Babe Ruth曾同时保持本垒打和三振出局的记录。最成功的人同时也面对着最惨痛的失败。失败没什么不正常,也不必感到羞耻。唯一的让人后悔的是从不去尝试。所以,别对前进的过程产生恐惧。要确定一些事是否可行,有时候最快的办法是上手去做。在进行的过程中你可以不断调整自己。这是个准备-开火-瞄准的过程,让人惊讶的是,它比通常的准备-瞄准-开火更有效。原因是你”开火”以后,你就有了第一手数据来调整自己的瞄准。很多人陷入思考和计划之中,而从不开始动手。停滞于某个步骤里(比如:准备-瞄准-瞄准-瞄准-瞄准……),这你失去了太多好点子。

大学里我做了很多我认为可以节约时间的疯狂尝试。我不停的阅读有关时间管理的资料并且加以应用,但我也有独创的办法。大部分我自己的办法彻底失败,但有些行得通。我乐于一次次的失败,以求在微小的机会下,我的偶然发现让我突飞猛进。

要明白失败并不是和成功正相反。失败是成功之母。一旦你成功,没人记得你曾经失败。微软并不是Bill Gates和 Paul Allen的第一次商业冒险。有谁记得他们经营Traf-o-Data时的失败?金凯·利还是个年轻喜剧演员的时候就经常被嘘下舞台。电灯泡的发明是因为托马斯·爱迪生经历过10000次失败后仍不放弃。如果你被失败纠缠,你就这么理解它:这同样是成功,或者说获得了经验。

战胜对失败的恐惧会让你快乐。假如你对达到某个特殊的目标而兴奋,但又害怕不能成功实现,那么扑上去着手做吧。就算你的尝试失败了,你也会学到有价值的东西,下一次就可以做更好的尝试。如果你看到当今那些成功的商业人士,你一样要看到在他们事业的一举成功之前的一连串惨痛失败,包括我在内。而且我觉得这些人大都会同意我的看法,开始的失败经验对后来的成功有着基础性贡献。对打算开始创业的人,我的建议是创业就是生产或者服务,而不要太担心是否成功。它们可能会失败。但相比只是空想,你会学到更多东西。

现在开始!

W. Clement Stone建立了价值数亿美元的保险业帝国,他要求所有的雇员每天开始工作前一遍遍的背诵这句话:”现在开始!”一旦你觉得变得懒散而且又想起必须要做的事情,停下来大声说,”现在开始!现在开始!现在开始!”我经常把这句话作为我的屏保。拖拖拉拉的代价巨大,因为你一次次的回到工作中,大大增加了时间的浪费。思考的和计划固然重要,但行动更重要。思考和计划不会让你得到报酬,只有工作成果才能。当你犹豫的时候,大胆的行动吧,就像它根本不可能失败。实际上,的确如此。

养成果断决定的习惯是绝对必要的。我对每一个必须的决定使用六十秒原则,不管它多么重要。一旦我有足够的准备去做一个决定,我打开一个定时器,只给自己六十秒来做一个果断的决定。如果需要我甚至靠掷硬币来选择。我在大学的时候,我没时间去担心作业或者什么时候完成。我拿起一个就开始做。现在我我需要决定要写那个报告,我就挑一个主题开始写。我觉得这让是我从未觉得无从下笔的原因。无从下笔就是处于停滞状态思考该写什么。我之所以没有为写东西浪费时间,只是因为实在太忙了。这可能也是我能轻松写出成百篇原创文章的原因。我写的每篇文章衍生出至少两个观点,所以我的观点列表与日俱增。我无法想象这些内容会用光。

人们经常迟迟不做决定,拖延也没什么好处。通常推迟决定觉得只会导致消极的后果,所以就算你面对困惑,咬咬牙下定决心吧。假如是个错误的决定,你很快就能发现。许多人可能花超过60秒的时间来决定午饭吃点什么。如果我无法决定吃什么,我就抓起一个苹果或一把香蕉开始吃,有些时候在我确定我到底想要吃什么以前,水果已经填满我的肚子。这样我的大脑明白除了水果我如果还打算吃点别的,那最好迅速决定。如果你可以加快决定速度,你就会节约余下来实施计划的时间。

研究表明世界上最优秀的管理者对犹豫不决都有着极高的抵制力。也就是说,他们在面对偏爱或者矛盾状况的时候会大胆决断。许多当今的工业家都加快了作决定的速度,因为等到准备充足了也许机会也错过了。当你无路可退的时候,你只能依靠自己的经验和直觉。尽可能快速的作出决定。如果不能马上决定,就先放到一旁,抽个时间考虑再作决定。大把的时间应该花在行动上,而不是决定本身。优柔寡断是严重的时间浪费,最好不要超过60秒。作一个坚决而直接的决定,由不确定转变为确定,然后行动。出现错误就让事实告诉你,这样你就会积累足够的经验,从而作出正确而睿智的决定。

无情的放弃

放弃一切浪费时间的事情。把它们统统扔进垃圾筒。遵循”如果怀疑,不如放弃”的准则。不要订阅那些没用的杂志。如果两个月前的杂志你至今还没有读过,扔掉它,它可能不值得一读。要明白任何花时间去做的事情都是有价值的。在注册新的服务或者订阅之前,问问自己那会占用你多少时间?做每一件事情都有它的机会成本。试问自己,”它值得我为它做出牺牲吗?”

上大学的时候,我严格地筛选要做的每一件事情。我曾经拒绝参加一位教授安排的关于计算机科学研究的活动,因为那样的话会浪费我很多时间。那项研究大概需要10到20小时的工作时间,在如此长的时间里我将陷入繁杂的工作中,但却学不到任何我以前不知道的东西。而且那项研究仅占我课堂成绩的10%,就我以前的表现很优秀,不参加研究所导致的唯一结果就是学期成绩从A变为A-。我对教授说那是公平的并且会接受A-。我不想再去和他谈任何的特殊条件。所以那学期我的成绩是A-,但是由于更好的利用了那些10到20个小时,我给了自己A+。

问自己这样的问题:”如果要我把例如像研究一个课题,建立一个关系,从事一项工作等等这样不能获取新的知识的工作再做一遍的话,我还要重新开始吗?”如果你的答案是”不,”那就赶紧远离那些事情吧。这就叫做毫无意义的思考。我了解到有很多人用”做事要有始有终”这个信条来限制自己。他们花费了大量的时间去爬一架梯子,但当他们到达梯子顶端的时候才发现,原来梯子搭错了建筑,之前所做的都白费了。记住失败是你的朋友。所以,当你发现以前所做的决定不再为你现在的目标而服务时,请大胆并无情地抛弃以前的决定吧,然后去寻找更好的想法。人们不会以花费毕生精力去追逐一个懈怠人生的目标而自豪的。这是另一个要顾全大局的时刻。你必须坚持对你自己目前的处境进行重新的评估,然后才能为以后的发展做出正确的决定。如果你今天不时刻审视自己决定的话,那么以前所做的一切决定都是毫无用处了。

确定并且弥补浪费掉的时间

把一小时长的电视节目录制下来,然后在45分钟内用快进的方式跳过广告。同样一件事情,如果用电话10分钟就可以解决的话,就不要花半个小时去发送一封长长的电子邮件。把你要做的事情放在一起,然后立刻把它们搞定。

在大学期间第二个和第三个学期之间的夏天,我发现沿着街道的一幢公寓要比我们宿舍距离工程馆近一点。所以我从宿舍搬出来并搬进了那幢沿街的公寓,这样,我每天都节省了一些步行或者骑车的时间。我原来的宿舍每个房间有三个人,而现在我拥有一个更小的,单人住小型公寓房间。新的房间效率更高,比如说,我可以在工作的同时做晚饭,因为我的书桌和炉子之间只是几步而已。

渴望提高效率的人们总是以克服浪费时间的习惯作为起点,但我却认为那是错误的。培养个人习惯来的要慢一些,首先要明确目的。如果你没有明确目的,只是设法用高效的习惯去排挤无效的习惯,那么结果只有失败。因为你没有一个强有力的理由支持你花费时间去做有意义的事情,所以做的时候很容易就会停止。你需要一个宏大的,有吸引力的目标来激发自己。能从工作时间里挤出15分钟的原因,就是因为你由于更好的利用这15分钟而产生的激情。

例如,你或许有一份还算喜欢的工作,但是从事这个工作竞争并不激烈,那么你就应该留意做每一项工作的时候都节省15分钟,这样下来,你每天一共节省下来的时间甚至有好几个小时。如果能把它们用来实现你那个深藏心底的目标,那么你将积极主动地更好地利用节省下来的时间。如果你明白真正的生活以”目的,意义,信仰”为次序,那么低水平的生活则处于”习惯,实践,行动”的自我调节状态。

应用80-20 的规则。

我们都知道帕累托原理,即80-20的比例关系规则,该规则是指用20%的努力实现80%的价值。反过来,其规则也同样指代着:用80%的努力实现20%的价值。我在大学的时候严格遵守此原理。在几周的时间里我逃了40%的课,因为对于我来说,上课并不是学习最有效率的方式。在前文中我已经提到了因为觉得不值得花时间而拒绝参与一项课题研究的事情。同样,我在一门数学课上仅仅出席了两次,即期中和期末的时候。因为我觉得我自己看书要比听讲座学的快得多。我在每次刚上课的时候开始做家庭作业,然后在快下课的时候记录下次要讲的内容。事实上,我拿了那门课的最高分,但是那个教授可能都不知道我是谁。除了我以外的其他同学都循规蹈矩的学习,而忽视了他们自己的规则。要找到你人生中属于那至关重要的20%的部分,然后全力以赴。如果有一些事情会浪费时间,一定要毫不犹豫地放弃它。把你的时间投资在那些可以事半功倍的事情上。

捍卫你的时间

想有效率地工作,就需要大块不间断的时间,这样才能完成有意义的工作。当你确保自己不被打扰的时候,你的工作效率就会高的多得多。当你坐下来要去完成一项特别认真的工作的时候,不要做其他任何事情,专心致志投入到这段时间里吧。我发现,一个不少于90分钟的时间段,对于完成一项单独的工作十分理想。

你需要和周围人商量一下,来保证大块不被打扰的时间。如果必要的话,提前通知他们在特定的时间里不要打扰你。有必要的话就武力威胁。在学校,当我需要工作的时候,会把寝室的门锁上,这样的话,我的室友就明白在这段时间里不要来打扰我。然而,每个独立的寝室都是为住两个人(四人套房)设计的,为此我多付了钱而拥有一个完全属于自己的寝室。于是我可以在私人的房间里工作。有空的时候,我就打开门,有时候也和室友打打游戏。如果你碰巧工作在一个经常被打扰的环境里,那么你的工作效率就会被影响,所以要不惜任何代价去改变那样的环境。一些人告诉我,他们曾经拿这篇文章给他们的老板看,帮助说服他/她在工作的时候设法减少不必要的打扰。

对于一些人来说,划出一段特殊的时间来工作是有好处的。我的最佳工作时间是一段很长、结束时间不定、且不想被打扰的时间。我经常规定工作的开始时间,但却没有规定具体完成的时间。无论什么时候我都尽可能长时间的工作,直到我觉得饿了或者身体上其他的需要。我可以连续工作六个小时不休息。虽然人们普遍认为经常休息可以提高效率,但是我觉得那种说法只是工业化时期对于那些贫困、不主动的工人们的一种人为安慰,并不适用于那些主动性强、目标明确和富有创造性的人。我发现自己会一直工作,直到几乎不能继续为止,而不会把一项工作分成好几个小的部分去做,因为那样的话,在工作的时候就有分心的危险。

每当专注于一项工作而忘了时间的时候,需要大约15分钟的才能进入状态。当被打扰之后,又要花费15分钟才能重新进入状态。一旦你进入了状态就一定要保持住。这种状态让你全神贯注于大量的工作以及与工作相关的以往的经验之中。当我处于这种状态的时候,我从来就不想过去和将来的事情。我只会想到我和我的工作。

然而有的时候,我遭遇了这样的问题。由于工作的增加而不能准时完成(帕金森定律),但我觉得很值得冒险去试一下。例如,当我优化我的网站时,经常有好的想法出现在我的脑海中。于是我立刻把我的想法付诸实践。我发现当时就执行想法要比事后安排再去做,效率会高很多。

完全投入

在一段时间里,除了做眼前的工作以外不要考虑其他任何事情。不要检查邮箱、泡论坛或者随便上网溜达。如果有这个念头,在工作的时候断开互联网连接。关掉电话或者拒接。开始前去趟厕所,同时确保在一段时间里不会觉得饿。在此期间根本不离开椅子,也不要和人说话。

决定好了要做什么,就不要做其他事情。如果偶然被别人打扰,问他们最重要的事儿是什么,确定他们是否只是在做最重要的事。如果这个人在回复电子邮件,那么这个时候发邮件就是他此时最重要的事。否则通常来说,这个人是在浪费时间。

如果需要休息就彻底的休息。假如你觉得自己需要恢复一下体力,那就不要边工作边休息。收邮件、上网都不是休息。当你休息的时候,闭眼,做深呼吸,听一些轻松的音乐或者出去走走,小睡二十分钟,或者吃点水果。一直休息到你觉得又可以努力工作。需要休息就休息,应当工作就工作。要是100%的集中精神,干脆不工作。想休息多久就休息多久是没错的,只是别让休息时间占用了工作时间。

多线工作

特定领域的新知识增加的如此之快,以至于你的知识可能随时在变得陈旧。解决的唯一办法是尽可能的吸收新知识。今天我工作中的很多技能,在五年前根本没有。据我所知,跟上时代发展的好办法是尽可能的阅读,还有听录音资料。

看电视的时候,在广告时段读计算机杂志。如果是男人,边刮胡子边读。我每天用电动剃须刀刮脸,会在这两三分钟里读点东西。这让我每周多看了两篇文章–一年就多出100篇。这个习惯很容易开始。只要拿起几本杂志,或者打印一些没时间去读的文章,把他们放在你的卧室里。出门的时候,顺手拿一本。如果要排队,比如在邮局或者商店,就可以拿出来读了。你会惊讶于在做这些不费脑子的事情的同时,学到了多少知识。

尽可能的听一些教育录音。开车的时候就可以听。Nightingale Conant销售各个领域的专家整理的各种录音节目。大部分有六小时长,大约售价60到70美元,它们物有所值。这些节目比起到大学里上课更实用一些。在大学拿到商业或者贸易学位的人由大学教授授课,而你学同样的课程时,却是由那些百万富翁或者亿万富翁告诉你什么可行而什么不可行。一个节约时间的好办法是直接请教那些掌握着你想学到的技能的人。

多线工作也许是让我在三个学期完成大学课程的最重要的简单技巧。通常我在工作日里有七到八小时的课程。但最后一学期的每个周二,我从早上九点到晚上十点都连着上课。因为每学期我选了12门课,每周都有不少测验和作业要做。课外的时间除了打工我没时间去学习。所以遇到什么我就不得不学什么。假如老师在黑板上写了点东西,我就记住它;我不能等过后再学,那样就有落后的危险。对那些困难的课程,我会做作业、完成程序设计算法,或者改进我的计划。你能找到无数多线工作的机会。当你活动的时候,比如开车、做饭、购物或者走路,听磁带或者读点东西吧。

多线工作的想法似乎与之前建议的一时一事相矛盾。不过前面所谈的是高强度的工作,你必须尽全力集中所有的精神来做好它们。而这里的工作是指低强度的,能同时做其他事情的工作,比如排队、做饭、乘飞机或者从一个地方走到另一个地方。多线工作不能用在至关重要的任务上,否则会适得其反。需要休息就好好休息一下,但别把时间浪费在局部的成果上。在全力工作和彻底休息之间调节是更有效的。

多线工作可以让你的效率提高到一个新水平。你可能觉得这样太累,但很多人却发现效果正相反。做很多事情让我充满活力。工作越努力,工作的能力就越强,休息就越有效果。

动手一试

人和人不尽相同,所以对你有效的方法可能对别人没效果。你可能上午工作效率高或者喜欢熬夜。利用你自己的特点,想办法弥补不足。试验工作的同时听音乐。我用免费的WinAMP播放器,它可以直接整天在电脑上播放各种各样的免费音乐。我发现古典音乐和新世纪音乐,特别是莫扎特,对网络开发的工作效果不佳。但是对于大多数日常事务,听那些快速的techno/trance音乐可以让我的速度快一点。不知道为什么,当我听快节奏音乐的时候工作效果是不听音乐的两倍。另一方面,有歌词的音乐有害的,因为它太分心了。如果我想要精神高度集中,我根本不听音乐。你自己试一试,看看什么样的音乐能有益于你。对我来说这些音乐的差别是戏剧性的。

当你想到一个提高效率的怪主意,先试试看效果怎么样。如果没尝试,不要轻易放弃任何想法。局部成功比全盘失败更普遍,所以每一次尝试对于时间管理实践来说都会有所帮助。就算正在进行的尝试愚蠢的很,不过它也会使你变得更高效。

保持激情

“enthusiasm”这个词来自希腊语的”entheos”,字面意思是”神在心中”。我很喜欢这个解释。如果对如何安排时间没有持续的激情,我怀疑掌握时间管理的艺术是不可能的。朝着真正鼓舞你的方向前进。追逐你的激情,而不是金钱。假如你对工作没有热情,你就是在浪费生命。换个工作吧。重新考虑新的职业。如果你现在的职业变得乏味,也不要丧气。记住,失败是朋友。听从内心的召唤,换一个刺激自己的工作。做那些让自己不快乐的事情是最浪费时间的。你为了自己的人生而工作,不为别的。

象大多数人那样,你可能很快就让自己主动起来,但接着就消沉下来,效率很低,无法继续完成计划。当你热情高涨的时候,开始一个新计划是多么简单。然而当激情退去,坚持又是多么困难?人总会有这样或者那样的不足,除非你想办法主动培养,否则随着时间推移你会失去主动性和积极性。我不认为那些我根本不想做的事情可以强求。如果我不主动,那么坐下来努力工作几乎是不可能的,而且这又是多么痛苦。当你有足够的主动性,工作起来就跟玩一样。

在大学里我不能失去我的激情,那样我会死掉。我很快意识到每天必须有意识的增强自己的积极性。我一直把随身听带在身边(那时候还没有MP3),当我从一间教室走向下一间的时候,我就听那些时间管理和自我激励的磁带。早晨慢跑的时候我也听。我几乎时时刻刻都在保持我的激情。就算有人说我一定会失败。这些磁带对我影响巨大,因为我一直保持着积极的状态。

如果你的热情高涨,你会卓有成效的工作,并且把乏味的工作当作乐趣。我始终发现,一旦我想把我的事业提高到一个新水平,我必须先把我的意识提高到新的水平。内心希望改变时,行动才会改变,结果也就随着改变了。除非你天生是个亢奋的家伙,否则你需要每天增强自己的热情。我推荐听自我激励的磁带,或者读催人上进的书和文章,每天最少十五分钟。你一停止给自己打气,就会开始怀疑自己,动力就开始减退。经常给自己灌输主动性的东西可以保持自己的激情,这真的让人惊讶。如果你同时多线工作,你就不用另花时间。

饮食和锻炼

大学最后一学期前的夏天(1993年),我成了半素食主义者,我发觉精力有了很大的提高,特别是集中精神的能力。四年后(1997年)我成为严格素食主义者(不吃肉类),一直到今天,这产生了更大的增强。

饮食对活动有着深远的影响。肉制品比植物食品需要更多时间和能量来消化,那么当你的身体消耗特别的能量来消化的时候,意味着你用于脑力劳动的能力能量就会减少。消化包含肉类食物的时候,你的工作效率会降低,也更容易分散精力。如果你发现饭后很难集中精神做事脑力劳动,你吃的东西就是罪魁祸首。富兰克林也认为有节制的用餐对工作意义重大。他在余下的时间里能够继续有效的工作,而他的同僚们则显得迟钝和昏昏欲睡。

经常的体育锻炼对于足够的精力和清醒的头脑也是很必要的。大学里我每天早饭前都要跑步30分钟。当然,我同时会听一些自我激励的磁带和教育磁带。每天如此使我的身体处于良好状态,并帮我保持理想的体重。另外,我每天上课的地方需要在校园里绕来绕去,同时我还要背一个20至30磅的书包,里面装满了课本。这样即使我大部分周末都坐在教室里,我一样得到了足够的体育锻炼。

掌握时间管理,对于磨练你最佳的时间管理工具,也就是你的身体,十分有意义。通过饮食和锻炼你可以培养持续集中精神的能力,即使再难的工作看上去也变得容易了。

假如你现在觉得自己超重了,去一趟附近的体育馆或者体育用品店,选择一个(或一对)和你多余重量相当的哑铃。拿着它四处走走,感受一下你每天的负担。想象一下如果你减掉这部分体重,一切将变得多么轻松。携带重物来锻炼是一回事,但如果这些重量是体重的一部分,那你永远不能放下这样的重物,也无法从这样的锻炼里得到收获。下定决心减掉这些多余的重量,标准的身材会让你终身受益。

劳逸结合

我觉得如果你不能合理的安排生活,那么保持长期的动力、健康还有快乐就没那么容易。某些方面的长处并不能弥补其他方面的不足。大学里我尽量在每周安排一天放松自己。做运动、参加聚会和社团社团、打游戏、打台球,在最后一学期甚至去拉斯维加斯驴旅游。”黑色三月”就是因为生活不合理造成的。以其他生活为代价而在某一方面过分专注,从长远看时有害的。在你生活的各个方面维持一个平衡。事业发展的同时,别忘了发展自己的个性。

三个学期就读完大学这件事让我最后悔的,就是我没有女朋友。虽然我有很多好朋友(男女都有),我们每星期都在酒吧一起玩,但在忙忙碌碌之外,我确实没有时间去追女孩子。我记得有一次,一个女孩明显对我有兴趣,她更多的和我在一起。但我放弃了,因为我没时间以她想象的方式和她约会。她不可能成为我的女朋友。

如果让我重新开始,我相信花四到五个学期完成学业会更好,那样我也有时间找个女朋友。和别人分享生活的乐趣是美妙的,更不要说其他亲密接触了。毕业以后我有了很多时间用来约会。几个月以后我找到女友,四年后我们完婚。她和我大学时就是校友,我们又不少共同的熟人,但那时候根本没见过面。

我相信时间管理的意义在于尽全力让自己的生活变的有趣。明确自己的目标并培养良好的习惯,都使你更高效的达到目标,你会享受一种从未有过的充实而丰富的生活。十几年后我回头看看我的大学生活,我充满了对整个过程的感激之情。在成功的路上我制订了严格的计划,迅速成长起来。这是我一生中最美好的时光。

如果你希望自己变得主动,那就让自己的生活彻头彻尾的发生改变。掌握时间管理的原因在于获得优质的人生,并让它变得与众不同。时间管理不是自我牺牲或者自我否定,也不是拼命做那些自己不愿意做的事情。实际上,它是让你更乐于做你喜欢的事情。

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致谢:此文前半部分参照blog中文翻译的feiyafei和luanlan译稿。
说明:第一次翻译长篇文字,如有错误请指出。



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