Think of the following paper-based workflow: you’re working at your desk when an idea comes to you. Maybe it’s something you need to do, someplace you need to be, a book you want to read, a new recipe you want to try this weekend, or a character trait you want to develop. Whatever it is, you don’t want to forget it, but now is not the right time for it.
You reach for a slip of paper from a small stack you keep next to your inbox tray on the corner of your desk. You write down the idea, put the slip in the inbox tray where you can process it later, and get back to work.
It’s textbook GTD. Your brain had an idea. Instead of trying to hold it there until it was time to act on it, you wrote it down to process it later. Mind like water.
It’s a clean and simple workflow. If you plan digitally, there’s an app for that! Meet Drafts, the unusual text editor for iOS from Agile Tortoise.
Photo courtesy of © Adobe Stock / kaseyj
High-performance cars have a special mode called launch control. When launch control is turned on, the car takes over the details of accelerating from a standstill (usually at the start of a race or timed trial, but sometimes when you just want to feel the G-force pushing you back into your seat). The brakes, accelerator, and clutch are all controlled automatically to ensure that the car launches with the maximum possible acceleration under the conditions.
Many cars limit the number of times you can use launch control, requiring a cool-down period between launches and/or limiting the number of launches you can make over the lifetime of the vehicle. That kind of performance takes its toll on the car. Even Teslas with their simplified drivetrain will pull back so you don’t cause permanent damage to the car.
High-performance individuals like you and me have a launch mode, too. When we’re starting a project or a goal, we start off strong. We lay out a plan, identify a bunch of next actions, and schedule milestones. We want to go from zero (where we’re starting) to sixty (goal achieved) as fast as possible.
Like a high-performance car, we, too, need a cooling down period after we launch to preserve our performance. Otherwise, that kind of performance takes its toll on us. If we push ourselves too hard, it can damage our capacity to get work done.
Photo courtesy of © Adobe Stock / Luis Viegas
When an idea to do something bold pops into your head, you have five seconds to act on it before your brain kicks into survival mode and talks you out of it.
That’s the idea behind Mel Robbins’ 5 Second Rule. It has nothing to do with the hot dog you dropped on the ground at the BBQ last weekend. It has everything to do with interrupting this natural defense mechanism that your brain is invoking so you can get around it and do something bold in spite of yourself.
Here’s the Rule: when you have an idea, count backward from five (5–4–3–2–1) then act. Launch, like a rocket taking off. Despite its simplicity, there’s a lot of psychology packed into it, which Mel covers.
Most of the book is dedicated to the Rule, how she came up with it, and hundreds of examples of how it has helped people change their lives ever since she mentioned it, almost in passing, at the end of her 2011 TED talk. She also goes a bit into how you can use the Rule to overcome anxiety through reframing it as excitement and how she overcame her fear of flying through anchor thoughts.
Throughout the book, she hammers home one point that I absolutely love: change is simple, not easy. There’s a difference. Having an idea isn’t going to change your life, but acting on that idea will. The 5 Second Rule is a simple tool that is surprisingly effective at closing the gap between the two.
Our brain is where we think thoughts. It’s also where thoughts go to die.
You see, our brain has one job: keep us alive. As our need for Survival is satisfied, we start exploring ways of staying alive more efficiently, improving the quality of our lives, and helping others stay alive. The moment our Survival is threatened, however, our brain sets all that aside and reverts to its primary mission.
There’s one problem: our brain is terrible at distinguishing between different types of threats. It doesn’t matter whether the threat is physical or emotional. If it threatens any of our basic needs, our brain will invoke the same fight-or-flight response to get us out of danger.
When you have the idea to do something bold, you have five seconds to act on it before you brain will shut the idea down.
Photo courtesy of SpaceX
One of the greatest enemies of productivity is perfectionism, not procrastination. (Procrastination can be a good thing if you do it right.)
Perfectionism hits us in two ways:
- We’re afraid to get started.
- We’re afraid to finish.
Great one-two punch, no? Perfectionism gets you both ways. We’re afraid to start because we don’t want to make mistakes. We’re afraid to finish because it’s not perfect yet.
The point of being productive isn’t to be perfect. There is no right time to start; there is only now. There is no perfect outcome; once it’s good enough you’re wasting your time. Waiting for everything to be perfect before we move (or move on) is a guaranteed way to set yourself up to fail. If you want to start a change, you do just that: you start.
Photo courtesy of © Adobe Stock / Brian Jackson
If you don’t sacrifice for what you want, what you want becomes the sacrifice.
The One Password You’ll Ever Need to Remember
If I don’t have to memorize something, I prefer not to. Albert Einstein said, “Intelligence is not the ability to remember information, but knowing where to find it.” In Getting Things Done, David Allen wrote, “Your mind is for having ideas, not holding them.” I’m in good company.
I used to devote an inordinate amount of mental energy to remembering passwords. I tried to follow the recommended practices of incorporating numbers and punctuation and never reused passwords across sites. I would take something distinct about the site as a mnemonic and derive a unique-but-relevant password. I couldn’t tell you the number of times I reset a password only to retrace the same steps into the mind palace and arrive at the same password I had set before. (I know this because some sites don’t let you reset your password to what it was.)
Then I met 1Password. Now I delegate (almost) all of my password concerns to it, freeing up my attention to focus on what I need to do instead of the details of doing it.
Photo courtesy of © Adobe Stock / Tomasz Zajda (and 1Password)
“You can’t talk your way out of a problem you’ve behaved your way into.” —Stephen Covey