The AwkEng Reads Books So You Don't Have To

Hi all!

Following up on themes of internet addiction and distraction, I read several books in the personal productivity space. Nir Eyal's Indistractable, David Allen's Getting Things Done, Jake Knapp and John Zeratsky's Make Time: How to Focus on What Matters every day.

I can't give any of the books a glowing endorsement, but I've heard the some of the authors speak as guests on various podcasts (which is how I found the books), and actually thought there podcast content was better.

If I were to pick and choose from each and try to sum up all their ideas, it would be something like this.

  1. Make sure to reserve time for what's most important so you do your high priority things each day. While to-do lists can grow indefinitely (email is a to-do list made by other people), your time is limited. Acknowledging that and using time boxing makes it possible to say "no" to things, and to be honest about what you can actually get done.
  2. You probably have many "intake queues" where to-do's come from. Email is the most insidious, but you may have work AND personal email, chat messages, (work and personal again), text message, meeting action items, and honey-do lists pinned to the fridge. When you consolidate these in one place, it relieves mental burden to constantly check across all of them.
  3. Make sure your to-do lists (which you should recognize based on your time bound capacity can't be infinite) are actionable items and clear next steps. For example, "car" is not actionable, but "take car to the mechanic to change brake pads" is.
  4. Reserve time to plan your day (what high priority thing will you do in the time you've reserved for high priority things). Literally write this down by hand to help you focus.
  5. Reserve time to reflect on how your plans went, and what threw them off.
  6. While cutting external distractions (i.e. turning off notifications, taking Instagram off your smartphone) will help, many distractions are internal, and really just procrastinating, rather than working through the discomfort of needing to concentrate. Focus buddies (like a gym buddy, but for concentrating) and other mindfulness and awareness techniques help develop concentration as a skill.

best regards!

Sam Feller
aka THE Awkward Engineer

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published