Can Limiting Choices Help You Get More Done?

Can Limiting Choices Help You Get More Done?

can limiting choices help you get more done

Image courtesy of nattavut/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

This is Week 28 of a Year of Living Productively

This week I tested whether limiting my choices could help me get more done. I simplified my daily routine and rewarded myself with an A for every day I accomplished 90% of it. Scroll to the bottom of last week’s post for more details.

How Limiting Choices Saved My Sanity This Week

  • Finally gave me a sense that I was doing enough. Getting an “A” for the day made a huge difference in my satisfaction with how I spent my time. Previously, I don’t think there was ever a day I got every single aspect of my routine done. It was more than any human being could accomplish. This time I did it and without feeling that I had to be perfect.
  • Gave me guilt-free time. Because I included free time as part of my routine, I could kick back and do something completely frivolous without feeling I needed to be doing something else. It was like being on vacation at home.
  • Motivated me to work ahead. Because I finally had a routine I could actually finish, I found myself using those odd times to finish my tasks early. It was the strangest feeling because I hadn’t done this before. There was no point. Why work ahead when you’ll never finish it all anyway? I think I was able to achieve what I was looking for from Beat the Week.

How Limiting Choices Made Me Crazy This Week

  • Trouble defining the A. On a couple of days, I found it a pain to determine if I’d done 90% of the tasks. I do enough math with the kids! I also needed to define what “doing” each task meant. I wasn’t sure if I needed to require 100% completion of each to count. I didn’t like the ambiguity.
  • Accepting the B. I only earned a B one day this week and I had to really think about this. Did that mean the approach wasn’t working? Was I allowed to have an off day? I wasn’t sure.

Did Limiting Choices Help Me Get Things Done?

Oh my, YES! My household and cleaning tasks are completely caught up. For the first time in weeks, I even had my blog posts done ahead of time. But even more important for me than getting things done is that I finally feel good about me and how I’m managing my work. I realized that I am like the teacher who can’t be pleased when it comes to evaluating my own work. That is going to stop. I decided that making any effort to do a task in the routine counted and furthermore, having a day a week that I don’t get an A is more than O.K. This spontaneous, fun-loving lady will wither with too much rigidity.

**UPDATE**

I still limit my choices just so I don’t drive myself crazy trying to decide on lots of good things. But I don’t “rate” myself at all anymore. As long as I am meeting my deadlines (external and self-imposed) and I am making time for the most important things in my life, I don’t feel the need to grade myself. My perfectionism has died down and I am much more relaxed thankfully!

Can Zen to Done Help You Get More Done?

The Productivity Approach I’ll Be Using for Week 29

This week I’ll be testing Zen to Done using GTDAgendaI read Leo Babauta’s book some time ago, but I am amazed by how many of the practices that improve my productivity it encompasses. Like GTD, it emphasizes collection of tasks into an inbox and a weekly review. Like Covey’s quadrants, it emphasizes focusing on important, goal-related tasks. It incorporates routines, time blocking, and even timers if you like. One to three MITs (most important tasks) are planned for each week and each day and are addressed first, similar to Eat That Frog.

The concept. Leo describes the system he uses to get things done. He emphasizes the need to spend more time doing than playing with systems. He also keeps it simple enough that people who dislike more complex systems will approve.

Although Leo recommends paper, I was given the opportunity to try Zen to Done using a GTDAgenda premium membership free of charge in exchange for my honest review.

If you’d like to join me this week, here’s what you do. Read the basics of Zen to Done here. Implement with paper or if you’re interested in trying GTDAgenda, sign up for a free account here, then read how to implement Zen to Done using it.

To see how my week with Zen to Done went, click here.

If you’ve tried limiting choices, please comment. Click here to follow me on Twitter.

Here are the links to the productivity hacks I’ve tried so far:

A Year of Living Productively

Week 1: Paper To-Do List

Week 2: Covey’s Quadrants

Week 3: Routines

Week 4: Paper Planner

Week 5: SMEMA

Week 6: Guilt Hour

Week 7: Envision Ideal Day

Week 8: Do it Tomorrow

Week 9: Pomodoro

Week 10: Time Warrior

Week 11: Scheduling

Week 12: The Repeat Test

Week 13: Personal Kanban

Week 14: Eat That Frog

Week 15: Vacation

Week 16: David Seah’s 7:15AM Ritual

Week 17: Another Simple and Effective Method

Week 18: Daily/Weekly/Monthly To-Do List

Week 19: Ultimate Time Management System

Week 20: Getting Things Done

Week 21: Time Blocking

Week 22: Morning Ritual

Week 23: Beat the Week

Week 24: Productivity Ritual

Week 25: Make it Happen in 10 Minutes

Week 26: Focus & Relief List

Week 27: Accountability Chart

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Can an Accountability Chart Help You Get More Done?

Can an Accountability Chart Help You Get More Done?

Sparring Mind

This is Week 27 of a Year of Living Productively

This week I tested the Accountability Chart from Sparring Mind. I broke my day up into 90-minute work periods followed by 15-minute breaks and then wrote down what I accomplished during each 90-minute block. Scroll to the bottom of last week’s post for more details.

How an Accountability Chart Saved My Sanity This Week

  • Gave me something new to try. I was excited to give this method a try. Maybe because it was based on research, but I think more because I thought the “accountability” factor would work for me just like it does for dieters.
  • Helped me get a lot done at first. The first day I cruised through lots of work and enjoyed writing what I accomplished next to each time block.
  • Enjoyed the longer work periods. This week I have been preparing materials for the new school year. I was so motivated to complete these tasks, that I honestly didn’t take 15 minute breaks after every 90 minutes of work. I took little breaks here and there and long breaks in the evenings.

How an Accountability Chart Made Me Crazy This Week

  • Hated writing things down. After the first day, I resorted to using my phone’s Notes app to record what I’d done. The longer I did this, the more time I let go by before recording. Soon I was just thinking about what I’d done and not writing. I was getting lots and lots done and it just felt silly to take the time to write it down. On the other hand, if I had been goofing off, I wouldn’t have wanted to write that down either. My response to this approach was very much like it was when I wrote down what I ate while dieting: yuck.
  • Resisted the time limits. While I used a timer for work and breaks at first, I quit in part because I overused the method by continuing it all day long. I think that’s because I was in binge work mode. I quickly realized that I liked the 50-10 approach I used with Pomodoros much better because it didn’t interfere with the rest of my routines.  Often a 90-minute block would overlap with lunch or dinner, for example.
  • No help with knowing what to do. As I’ve said, I’ve been focused on school preparation. That means that other things I need to be doing started to slide through the cracks. The time blocks and chart were no help with this.

Did an Accountability Chart Help Me Get Things Done?

Overall, no. Even though I was very productive, I felt like this approach got in my way more than helped me.

**UPDATE**

While I don’t use an accountability chart, the warning feature of Skedpal keeps me accountable. I am not able to slack off or try to squeeze in too many tasks without consequence.

can limiting choices help you get more done

Image courtesy of nattavut/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net 

The Productivity Approach I’ll Be Using for Week 28

This week I’ll be testing whether limiting choices can help me get more done. The idea is that the fewer options we have, the more we get done. I have simplified my routine and will reward myself with an A for every day I accomplish 90% of it.

The concept. This week I was telling a friend how much my 15-year-old likes to know exactly what school work to do on a given day. That’s when it occurred to me that I like that, too. Unfortunately, I don’t have much of that in my life and when I do, I give myself more tasks for a day than anyone could accomplish. The result is that I never feel like I’m doing enough of the right things. I’m striving to be an A student in a course that has hundreds of fuzzy objectives. And it’s exhausting.

A friend sent me a link on Raptitude that motivated me to limit my choices of what to do. My first strategy was to use the routine I set up using Home Routines. This would enable me to limit the choices I make. The second strategy was to reduce the number of steps so it is humanly possible to finish them all on a typical day. I went over each aspect asking myself if my husband (one of the most balanced, productive people I know) would say it was stupid. I eliminated work that I wasn’t doing anyway and wasn’t important. I limited cleaning to a time limit per floor rather than several specific tasks. I limited the true task time of my routine to “must do’s.” I reviewed the blogging tasks for the traffic they produce and decided to eliminate the smallest returns on investment. I asked to be excused from a ministry that stretches my time. And I will no longer write first thing in the morning on non-gym days, allowing myself time for a leisurely chat with my husband and oldest son over breakfast.

The result is a routine I think I can really do. If not, I will pare it down further this week.

If you’d like to join me this week, here’s what you do. Read the Raptitude article on minimalism in task management. The Barry Schwartz video he links to is worth the watch, but note that there is a cartoon with sexual content. (Note that I am not necessarily endorsing the views expressed on any site I link to).

Do a review of what you’re doing and your expectations of what you should be doing and make your day manageable. If you prefer not to use a simplified routine, make decisions now that will limit your choices later.

Click here to see if limiting choices helped me get more done.

If you’ve tried an accountability chart to increase your productivity, please comment. Click here to follow me on Facebook.

Here are the links to the productivity hacks I’ve tried so far:

A Year of Living Productively

Week 1: Paper To-Do List

Week 2: Covey’s Quadrants

Week 3: Routines

Week 4: Paper Planner

Week 5: SMEMA

Week 6: Guilt Hour

Week 7: Envision Ideal Day

Week 8: Do it Tomorrow

Week 9: Pomodoro

Week 10: Time Warrior

Week 11: Scheduling

Week 12: The Repeat Test

Week 13: Personal Kanban

Week 14: Eat That Frog

Week 15: Vacation

Week 16: David Seah’s 7:15AM Ritual

Week 17: Another Simple and Effective Method

Week 18: Daily/Weekly/Monthly To-Do List

Week 19: Ultimate Time Management System

Week 20: Getting Things Done

Week 21: Time Blocking

Week 22: Morning Ritual

Week 23: Beat the Week

Week 24: Productivity Ritual

Week 25: Make it Happen in 10 Minutes

Week 26: Focus & Relief List

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Can a Focus & Relief List Help You Get More Done?

Can a Focus & Relief List Help You Get More Done?

productivity hacks, reviews

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net 

This is Week 26 of a Year of Living Productively

This week I tested Deven’s modification of one of Mark Forster’s Autofocus approaches that I called Focus & Relief. I worked from two lists–a Focus list with urgent and deadlined tasks and a Relief list for everything else. Up to three Relief tasks could also be moved to the Focus list. Scroll to the bottom of last week’s post for details.

How Focus & Relief Saved My Sanity This Week

  • Gave me a true focus list. When I tried the original Autofocus approach, I had to hunt through an enormous list to find urgent or deadlined tasks. I really liked having all these tasks on their own list plus three more tasks that I just wanted to get to–and no more. I tend to overdo it on the “want to get to” tasks being added to my focus list. Both lists were short which empowered me to get more done. This advantage likely wouldn’t be present the longer I worked the system.
  • Helped me accomplish non-deadlined tasks. Just the fact that these tasks were on a separate list motivated me to do them. It may be a language thing (calling these tasks “relief tasks”), but I also felt free to work on them whereas I haven’t before. I felt I should be doing urgent work or recreating and little in-between.
  • Gave me an alternate reward for work. When I used Autofocus originally, I included absolutely everything I wanted to do–even fun, frivolous things. I realized partway into the week that I could do this again, including them on the Relief list. I found that the system rewarded my work with tasks rather than time as the Pomodoro did. Jacq, a blog reader and friend, calls this a “task sandwich” and it was very effective. Finally, I really enjoyed the Autofocus approach of crossing off and rewriting tasks that I had worked on but hadn’t completed. This functioned as a reward as well.

How Focus & Relief Made Me Crazy This Week

  • Resisted starting with the Relief list. I understand the idea that we can get so stuck on urgent and deadlined tasks that we never get around to the not urgent, but important tasks. But feeling forced to start with that list didn’t work for me. Part of that is because I had urgent things to do that had to be addressed first thing and part of that is because I have already experienced the value of Eat That Frog. If the Relief list is used to record recreational tasks, there shouldn’t have to be a requirement to use it to be effective.
  • Resisted the other rules, too. After writing down the focus tasks and relief tasks, I usually knew what I wanted to do and did it. At other times, I just wanted to scan the list in any order to decide what I wanted to do. As before, I both liked the paper list and didn’t like it. It’s very satisfying to cross off tasks and see the list shrink, but I hated carrying it around. I did like the approach I chose for listing tasks, however. I used the front of a notebook for Focus tasks and the back for Relief tasks.
  • Difficult to identify the 3 Relief tasks on the Focus list. I didn’t use any kind of notation for the three non-urgent tasks I chose, so after I had completed a number of tasks, I honestly couldn’t remember what they were. I didn’t know if I could choose more or not, so I just didn’t worry about it. I found myself as happy to work on the substantive tasks in the Relief list as any other anyway.

Did Focus & Relief Help Me Get Things Done?

Yes, and I enjoyed it. I am starting to think that rewarding myself with a task could be even more effective than rewarding myself with time–maybe because the time feels too restrictive? I have serious concerns about using this method on paper long-term, however. I can see how it could become unwieldy over time. It would necessitate the use of stars and rules that I’m not wild about using.

**UPDATE**

I don’t use any type of long task list anymore. I now find it rewarding to work ahead and get tasks done before their scheduled time. I also enjoy the free time I have over lunch hour and after 8 p.m. That’s what I was missing before.

Sparring Mind

The Productivity Approach I’ll Be Using for Week 27

This week I’ll be testing the Accountability Chart from Sparring MindThe day is broken up into 90-minute work periods followed by 15-minute breaks. You write down what you accomplish during each 90-minute block.

The concept. Research of masters of music suggests that those who practice for 90 minutes and then rest for 15-20 minutes achieve the most in terms of skill building. The idea is similar to Pomodoros, but allows for longer periods of work.

Research also suggests that dieters who record what they eat lose the most weight. Combining these two approaches should theoretically help us get more done. Either that or I will lose weight and be playing piano better by next week.

If you’d like to join me this week, here’s what you do. Read Sparring Mind’s article on productivity and watch the 3-minute video if you’d like. It’s one of those cool white board animations. Choose a method of timing your work and rest breaks and have something ready (notebook, white board, smart phone) to record what you accomplish during each period.

To see how I did with an accountability chart, click here.

If you’ve tried Deven’s Focus & Relief method to increase your productivity, please comment. I will no longer be including polls.

Here are the links to the productivity hacks I’ve tried so far:

A Year of Living Productively

Week 1: Paper To-Do List

Week 2: Covey’s Quadrants

Week 3: Routines

Week 4: Paper Planner

Week 5: SMEMA

Week 6: Guilt Hour

Week 7: Envision Ideal Day

Week 8: Do it Tomorrow

Week 9: Pomodoro

Week 10: Time Warrior

Week 11: Scheduling

Week 12: The Repeat Test

Week 13: Personal Kanban

Week 14: Eat That Frog

Week 15: Vacation

Week 16: David Seah’s 7:15AM Ritual

Week 17: Another Simple and Effective Method

Week 18: Daily/Weekly/Monthly To-Do List

Week 19: Ultimate Time Management System

Week 20: Getting Things Done

Week 21: Time Blocking

Week 22: Morning Ritual

Week 23: Beat the Week

Week 24: Productivity Ritual

Week 25: Make it Happen in 10 Minutes

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Can Make it Happen in 10 Minutes Help You Get More Done?

Can Make it Happen in 10 Minutes Help You Get More Done?

make it happen in 10 minutes

Are these emails ending up in your Promotions folder on Gmail? Here’s how to get them out.

This is Week 25 of a Year of Living Productively

This week I tested Make it Happen in Ten Minutes a Day {affiliate link}. I chose a create task and a conquer task for the week and sought to spend ten minutes a day on each. Scroll to the bottom of last week’s post for details.

How Make it Happen Saved My Sanity This Week

  • Got me started on tasks that seemed overwhelming. You’d think I would know better than to make mental mountains out of molehills as a psychologist, but I still do it. I was procrastinating on both my tasks and this approach shrunk them down to size.
  • Gave me a positive attitude about the work. I love the dichotomy of create and conquer. Both are positive terms that helped me have the right mindset.
  • Time flew. I did get quite a bit done while working for each ten-minute stint, but was continually surprised by how quickly it was over.

How Make it Happen Made Me Crazy This Week

  • Wasn’t able to get into a work flow. With everything going on this week, I didn’t feel free to work beyond the ten-minute mark. Neither task was critical, so I just fulfilled the obligation. That was frustrating because I knew I wasn’t making as much progress as I wanted to.
  • Didn’t use it every day. Either I was gone, exhausted, or I forgot. After 25 weeks of these tests, it’s become clear that I have a one-track mind. I had a hard time focusing because the tasks aren’t top priorities.

Did Make it Happen Help Me Get Things Done?

Yes, when I used it. Besides being gone and absorbed by other goings on, I found myself a lot more interested in my 12 Week Year tasks. My two tasks felt like added obligations and habits I had to attend to. I did really appreciate that I started on the tasks, however. I am thinking I should use the ten minutes on my 12 Week Year tasks because it does work.

**UPDATE**

I have used this concept to good effect in organizing. I try to spend at least 15 minutes a day on some organizing or decluttering task. Using the tasks on this calendar helps.

productivity hacks, reviews

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net 

The Productivity Approach I’ll Be Using for Week 26


This week I’ll be testing what I call the Focus & Relief approach. Deven has modified Mark Forster’s AutoFocus approach to include two lists: a focus list composed of urgent tasks, tasks with hard deadlines, and up to three other tasks and what I am calling a relief list made up of tasks with no or soft deadlines. 

The concept. The problem with the AutoFocus approach is finding the right balance between attention to urgent tasks and everything else. In simplest terms, the Focus & Relief approach begins with the Relief List. This is what Deven originally called the Whenever list, but renamed the Main list to avoid the connotation of someday/maybe. Based on group discussion, I like the term Relief–not because tasks are always a relief to work on, but because they will provide a break from focused work. You begin with the Relief list because it will contain non-urgent tasks that you might not otherwise get to.

Once you have done something on the Relief list, switch to the Focus list and work for as long as you like, switching to the Relief list when you need a break. After EACH Relief task, you must return to the Focus list. This process keeps you from forgetting about your top priorities, in favor of tasks you could do any time.

If you’d like to join me this week, here’s what you do. Read Deven’s post on Mark’s forum. Don’t worry about all the acronyms. If you’re too confused by his extended rules relating to starring and rewriting, just use the guidelines above. I will be using paper lists of tasks as they occur to me.

To see if Focus & Relief made me more productive, click here.

If you’ve tried Make it Happen in Ten Minutes to increase your productivity, please comment. I will no longer be including polls.

Here are the links to the productivity hacks I’ve tried so far:

A Year of Living Productively

Week 1: Paper To-Do List

Week 2: Covey’s Quadrants

Week 3: Routines

Week 4: Paper Planner

Week 5: SMEMA

Week 6: Guilt Hour

Week 7: Envision Ideal Day

Week 8: Do it Tomorrow

Week 9: Pomodoro

Week 10: Time Warrior

Week 11: Scheduling

Week 12: The Repeat Test

Week 13: Personal Kanban

Week 14: Eat That Frog

Week 15: Vacation

Week 16: David Seah’s 7:15AM Ritual

Week 17: Another Simple and Effective Method

Week 18: Daily/Weekly/Monthly To-Do List

Week 19: Ultimate Time Management System

Week 20: Getting Things Done

Week 21: Time Blocking

Week 22: Morning Ritual

Week 23: Beat the Week

Week 24: Productivity Ritual

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