I love me some technodorktacular lifehackery as much as the next guy. But there comes a time when we realize that the enemy of our productivity is not our tools (or lack thereof). The enemy is us.
My little contribution to this panel is about the psychology of productivity: how to de-cruft and optimize the “app between your ears,” in addition to your email client or filing system. I’m not a psychologist, but you don’t need to fully understand every nuance of your own psyche in order to be more productive. This is why I like the term Psy-Ops: You just need a sense of what buttons to push.
Here’s an easy one. We all know that physical activity is good for our brains, but how can you leverage that during your sedentary 40+ hours a week of “knowledge work”? Simple: question the “sedentary” part. Where is it written that sitting at a desk is the only way to write/brainstorm/edit/etc? A couple years ago I bought myself a standing desk (actually, a bar table from Target) and never looked back.
The point here is not that working while standing is “better,” morally or intellectually or whatever, than sitting. The point is that, for me, it’s more psychologically effective. One day I noticed that sitting down, especially after 2pm, seemed to enable/encourage a sort of mental “fudginess” that I didn’t find preferable for getting stuff done. So instead of berating myself for my laziness, or aimlessly browsing Lifehacker.com for some techno-magic-bullet, I just asked, “if that’s what tends to happen when I sit for long periods of time, and I don’t like it, how can I avoid sitting for long periods of time?” Duh, by standing! And what would make that easier? Getting rid of the sitting-desk and replacing it with a standing-desk, so I don’t even have the option anymore.
And that’s the essence of the psy-op: don’t waste time with guilt-trips or fruitless attempts to reprogram yourself into being some kind of perfect Terminator of productivity. Just do something simple and concrete to “trick” yourself into acting/thinking differently and then see if it’s effective. As freelancers, we’re in an awesomely empowered position to experiment like this because we’re our own bosses. If setting up your home office like a jungle gym (or a prison cell, or a deli, or a laboratory) enables you to mentally inhabit a more productive state more often, then hell, go nuts. But the point is that you’re actually “hacking” your mind, not your means.
So that’s my little preview. (And just so you know, none of the stuff I’ll talk about necessarily requires purchasing new office furniture.) Hope to see you there!