Lifehacks and my State of the Union address :-)

We live in constant tension between the urgent and the important. The problem is that the important task rarely must be done today or even this week.  … But the urgent tasks call for instant action—endless demands pressure every hour and day. … The momentary appeal of these tasks seems irresistible and important, and they devour our energy. But in the light of time’s perspective their deceptive prominence fades; with a sense of loss we recall the important task pushed aside.  We realize we’ve become slaves to the tyranny of the urgent. -Charles Hummel

So as some of you know I’ve been looking more into productivity tooling and lifehacks since shortly after I started this new job back in July 2014. Microsoft as a whole is such a vast company – and there’s such a torrent of information – that quite a few very bright people struggle to keep up. I also would like NOT to be up till ten at night, getting no exercise, and not really making a lot of progress on real work. You know the saying “Some things are urgent, and some things are important – but not everything that’s urgent is important, and not everything that’s important is urgent.” I saw a lot of that in previous work – I would dump my all into a career, or a company – and my family and personal health would suffer.

So I tried the following things:

  • Don’t check email in the morning. I set “email block” meetings in Outlook from 12-1, and 4-5 daily. In the other times, turn off Outlook.
  • Eat that frog. Plan 2-3 most important (not urgent) actions on calendar and get it done.
  • Reflection. End of day – what did I do today? What will I focus on tomorrow? What could be improved?
  • Time management. Pomodoro (50 minute working cycle / 20 minute break. P.s. sitting all day is TERRIBLE for your health, even if you work out)
  • Personal fitness. Paleo diet and Crossfit mostly. I flirted with vegetarianism briefly, and even went off coffee for a month (otherwise known as the WORST MONTH OF MY LIFE)

Here’s what worked:

  • Crossfit is terrific, and so is Paleo. Changing up my diet and focusing on working out and strength training – hard as it was – was a game changer for me. I’m stronger than I’ve ever been and am losing weight, at long last. I feel like a hero around my girls, which is worth quite a bit.
  • Doing a technology detox (see the pix below) was actually a good exercise. We went without TV for a month, and I uninstalled a lot of social media apps off my phone. Guess what? Life gets better after FaceBook.
  • Not checking email in the morning made a HUGE difference in making me less reactive. If you try only one thing from this post – DO THIS.

Here’s what didn’t work:

  • I didn’t really focus on keeping Important things foremost. Too many times the more important things slipped behind the urgent issues of the day.
  • Pomodoro was NOT GREAT for me. I am thinking of retrying it in the future, but since much of my calendar is meeting driven not heads-down programming – it just didn’t apply.

Here’s my goals for the future:

  • I’m convinced that buying out the time for myself and my family first – esp with health-related things like exercise and diet – is vital for me to be really productive. So I’m going to push ahead with this. Seven days successfully on an improved diet and the odds are you’ll stick with it – yet most people THINK they lack the self-control to make this change, and so they drop out on day 4 or 5. I have all kinds of events coming up and free lunches – so saying no to this is hard – but going alcohol-free and sticking to Paleo is really good for me in all areas of life.
  • I will add to my daily diary routine more of a reflection on life and the big picture.


One last picture again. This really sums it up.


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