Manage Your Day-To-Day: lessons from this 99U book on productivity

There is an entire industry of creative productivity self-help resources. My friend Sean Blanda gave me ‘Manage Your Day-to-Day,’ one in a portfolio of books from 99U, an effort from Behance, the Adobe division where he works.

It was a quick and energizing read. Buy it for $8.  As I like to do, I wanted to share a few of the directives I most acted on.

Book-Black-1x2From what I read:

  • Make the Heavy Lift in the Morning — Don’t begin your day checking email. Do your most creative work (or the biggest, more longer-term projects) in the morning to accomplish what is the hardest to develop. “Doing little tasks to check off to-dos is easy. Getting important things done is hard.” I am often a victim of focusing too much on just ticking things off a list.
  • Limit work blocks with frequent breaks — I try to do my detailed work in 90 minute bursts, often with head phones and clear focus. Then I take a walk or play a game.
  • Be consistent — The difference between professionals and amateurs is getting the work done even when it’s difficult. Don’t wait for creative moods.
  • Make Progress Visible — Our team has long had a detailed meeting process but there are layers that I can improve upon. Daily, I write down on a post-it 2-3 bigger goals I will accomplish. Then I find time to less frequently check email and take breaks by knocking out smaller tasks. I want to return to quarterly complex goals that can be crossed off, likely with a ‘big board’ we once employed. That would connect to the yearly resolutions I always set for myself.
  • Email smarter — A big focus of almost all of these productivity books these days is email maintenance. Though I’ve long been an ‘inbox zero’ adherent, I’m focusing my discipline here, checking email just 2-3 times a day and using my folders (labels in Gmail) to categorize: what I can respond to immediately, what needs to be done by today and what needs further review.
  • Practice ‘Conscious Computing’ — In which we check our phones or hop on social media only for a specific reason (not just boredom), and take breathing and walking breaks. This can lead to a nice goal of trying to talk to a stranger once a day, when in line or elsewhere that I might immediately jump to my phone. There’s a lot of wisdom throughout about balancing digital love with digital breaks — shout out to the Mountain School for its solo camping trips for meditation.
  • Everything important is not urgent (p. 162) — Yup.
  • Plan ‘unnecessary creation’ (p. 174) — Like ‘morning pages,’ in which one is just writing first thing in the morning without a plan for publishing. Ray Bradbury would just write to words to start his creative process. (p. 184) This is a very foreign idea to me but something worth trying.

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