Defeating the Procrastination Monster – Part 3

By June 15, 2015 Productivity No Comments

Framework 2: Eliminate Distractions with a Flow-Friendly Schedule

====5-PART SERIES=====
Introduction: The Things You Care About Doing But Haven’t Gotten Around To…
Framework 1: Tackle Big Dreams, Eliminate Overwhelm, and Prevent Disappointment with Bottom-Up Goals and the MIT System
Framework 2: Eliminate Distractions with a Flow-Friendly Schedule
Framework 3: Knock Out Tasks That Are Difficult to Start by Following the 15 Minute Rule
Framework 4: Kill Burnout, Low Mojo, and Over-Productivity with Purposefully Pointless Play
=====================

Have you ever had a day when you reached a state of “flow” where everything is easy and you seem to be making a lot of progress on your work? And then you were disappointed that you couldn’t always replicate that same feeling for a long time?

What if you could have it all the time?

You can increase the chances of having a day with good flow by dividing your time into two different buckets: Flow, and No-Flow.

Flow Tasks
Imagine sitting down to do something that requires deep thought and concentration. Then imagine that every 30 minutes, you are interrupted by a phone call, a request for a meeting by your team, or a newborn erupting loudly into tears. By the time you get back to your creative work, it feels like you are back at Square 1 and need another 20 or 30 minutes (or more) just to get back into the flow of where you were before. Given a chunk of, say, 90 minutes, you might make very little progress in the first hour, then get into a “flow” state and make most of your progress in the following 30 minutes.

No-Flow Tasks
Meanwhile, meetings and emails are different. You can have 5 meetings lined up in a row, and as long as you have time to get from one meeting to another, the prep time before you are in the right mindset to be having the next meeting is almost zero. Same with emails. You can just bang them out one by one.

Conflicts in Flow
You may find that some aspects of your work, like writing, drawing, web design, or coding don’t follow a linear path of progress in the same way meetings and emails do. The two types of tasks adhere to completely different schedules that will always conflict with each other if you try to switch too often between the two.

Putting Principles to Practice

To combat this inherent conflict in the differing nature of Flow tasks and No-Flow tasks, we are advised to dedicate special time for Flow work, and reserve other time for No-Flow tasks, on a daily and/or weekly basis.

Sample Morning Schedule: If you are most creative and productive in the morning, schedule Flow work early in the day (e.g. 8am-12pm), and schedule your No-Flow tasks (e.g. meetings, emails, and errands) to afternoons and evenings (e.g. 1pm-6pm).

Sample Evening Schedule: Likewise, if you are night owl who is more creative and productive in the evenings, schedule No-Flow tasks for the daytime (e.g. 1pm-6pm), and Flow tasks for the evenings (e.g. 8pm-12am midnight).

Sample Flow-Friendly Weeks:

  • Mon-Wed = Flow tasks
  • Thu-Fri = No-Flow tasks (e.g. meetings and errands)

Or…

  • Mon/Wed/Fri = Flow
  • Tue/Thu = No-Flow

One important thing to note about having a Flow-friendly schedule is that the most productive professionals in their field can reportedly only work up to 4 hours in Flow per day….and that’s after having mastered their craft and creative energies through several years of practice!

In the beginning, if you only do 1 hour of Flow tasks per day (or even just 15 minutes, which was what I had to do in the beginning), consider it a win, because it is! Over time, you can work on expanding Flow time to be longer, but don’t be surprised or disappointed if you can only manage a little bit of Flow time in the beginning.

Resources

Paul Graham’s Maker’s Schedule, Manager’s Schedule: Similar concept as Flow versus No-Flow tasks, in “techie”-oriented language. “Maker” = “Flow” and “Manager” = “No-Flow”.

Get A Head Start With This Exercise

Have you ever achieved a state of “flow”?

If so…

What time of day was it?
Where were you when it happened?
What other factors do you think contributed to being in flow?