Posts belonging to Category Productivity

PP2: Morning, afternoon, evening rule – Finding your rhythm

(Part of the series: 12 Favorite Productivity Principles)

2. Morning, afternoon, evening rule – Finding your rhythm

A second productivity principle I find helpful is the morning, afternoon, evening rule. The idea is that different parts of the day are better suited for different tasks. I’ve found that the following arrangement works best for me:

  • Mornings for creative work (writing; thinking; creating)
  • Afternoons for action work (tasks; chores; administration)
  • Evenings for reflective work (walking; reading; unwinding)

Thinking about my day in these larger categories gives a rhythm to the day and helps me as I plan out my regular weekly schedule as well as my specific tasks for each day. By doing the types of tasks that are best suited for the various parts of the day, I gain momentum and find that I am more productive throughout the day.

Next in series: PP3: Habit stacking – Habits are hard, but routines are routine

PP1: 20/20/MIT – First things first

(Part of the series: 12 Favorite Productivity Principles)

1. 20/20/MIT – First things first

The most important productivity principle for me is, appropriately enough, to do the most important things first. This is often called the “big rocks” principle, named after Steven Covey’s famous illustration of putting the big rocks in the jar before adding the smaller pebbles and sand.

I like to break this down into two areas. What are the most important things for me to do every day? And what are the most important things I specifically need to do today?

The two most important things for me to do every day are to read my Bible and pray. To make sure I do this every day, I do what I call my 20/20 – twenty minutes of prayer followed by twenty minutes of Bible reading.

For prayer I take a twenty-minute prayer walk first thing in the morning. I talk to God about my upcoming day, confessing any wrongs I have done, thanking him for the good things in my life, praying for my family and loved ones.

Then I come home, make a nice hot, cup of tea, sit in my favorite chair and spend twenty minutes reading from the Bible. I use a Bible-reading schedule that helps me read through the Bible each year. This is a peaceful time each morning as I read and reflect.

Now there are other things that are important for me to do every day as well – exercise, grooming, spending time with family, etc. I have a system to make sure I do all those as well. But these are the two most important things for me, so I make them a part of my morning routine and do them first every day.

Then I spend just a few minutes writing down my MITs – my most important tasks for today. I write down between 3-5 tasks that are the most important things for me to do today. I keep that list with me throughout the day and make sure I work on those things first rather than put them off until later.

The 20/20/MIT is essential for me to make sure I do the most important things every day. I encourage you to think through what the most important things are for you and to use some form of the 20/20/MIT to build these things into your daily life.

Next in series: PP2: Morning, afternoon, evening rule – Finding your rhythm

12 Favorite Productivity Principles

I am a pastor and have a variety of tasks to fulfill each week – study, prayer, counseling, visitation, teaching, administration, etc. I also enjoy reading about productivity and learning how best to use my time for both professional and personal pursuits. I’ve learned a lot of tips and tricks along the way and have compiled my twelve favorite productivity principles below. I trust you will find them helpful in your life as well.

(Note: You can also access all twelve principles in one longer posting here: 12 Favorite Productivity Principles)

Links to individual articles in the series:

1. 20/20/MIT – First things first
2. Morning, afternoon, evening rule – Finding your rhythm
3. Habit stacking – Habits are hard, but routines are routine
4. Ideal weekly schedule – A place for everything, and everything in its place
5. Appointments, tasks and information – Using the right tool for the job
6. Task processing – One thing at a time (micro-tasking)
7. Working with resistance – Resistance is not futile
8. 10-3-2-1-0 rule – Countdown to a good night’s sleep
9. Capture notebook and pen – One book to rule them all
10. “Briefcase” principle – Avoiding the last-minute rush
11. “Default” principle – Choosing enjoyment over easy
12. “Do it first” principle – Tell what you’ve done, not what you will do
00. Miscellaneous – Your mileage may vary

How to Beat Daylight Savings Time

This year I finally found a way to beat Daylight Savings time.

I get up at 5am each morning, so moving the clock ahead an hour in the spring makes my body feel like it’s getting up at 4am instead. Last year the time change completely wiped me out, and it took several weeks (months?) before I finally adjusted.

I’ve tried going to bed an hour earlier in the past, but that doesn’t work because I don’t fall asleep right away. My body hasn’t adjusted to going to sleep a whole hour earlier, so I lay in bed for an hour, fall asleep at the regular time and still have to get up an hour earlier the next morning.

So I decided to do something different this year.

I took a multi-day approach starting on the Monday before the time change. Monday night I set my clock ahead ten minutes. I went to bed ten minutes earlier than usual and set my alarm for ten minutes earlier in the morning. The ten-minute adjustment was easy to make, and I got up ten minutes earlier Tuesday no problem. Each night all week I set my clock ahead an additional ten minutes and got out of bed another ten minutes earlier in the morning.

In order to stay in sync with the rest of the world, I only changed the time on the bedroom clock. That way all the other clocks including my smartphone and watch all showed the correct time throughout the week. But when it was time to get ready for bed and go to sleep, I only went by the time on the bedroom clock.

So by the time I got to Saturday, my body was already fifty minutes ahead. Saturday night I set the bedroom clock ahead the final ten minutes, set all the other clocks in the house ahead an hour, and I was now fully ready for Daylight Savings Time.

And it worked! I got up Sunday morning at 5am, and it felt like 5am instead of 4am. No extra adjustment time needed.

I realize this tip is too late to help for this year, but if you have trouble adjusting to Daylight Savings Time, I recommend you try this incremental approach next year. I know I will definitely be doing it again.

Related post: 12 Favorite Productivity Principles

New Search Options from Google

Google just unveiled new search options to help you search for information more effectively. Whenever you search for an item, the search results page now includes a “Show options” link at the top left of the page. Click on “Show options,” and Google will open up a left sidebar with additional filtering options such as:

  • Videos, forums, or reviews
  • Recent results, past 24 hours, past week, or past year
  • Images from the page, or more text
  • Related searches, Wonder Wheel, or Timeline view

Here is a brief video showing these new search options in action:

(Video length: 2:04)

HT: Lifehacker

Best Advice on Procrastination

Do you have a habit of procrastinating? Here is the best advice on procrastination I have read.

“No unwelcome tasks become any the less unwelcome by putting them off till tomorrow. It is only when they are behind us and done, that we begin to find that there is a sweetness to be tasted afterwards, and that the remembrance of unwelcome duties unhesitatingly done is welcome and pleasant. Accomplished, they are full of blessing, and there is a smile on their faces as they leave us. Undone, they stand threatening and disturbing our tranquility, and hindering our communion with God. If there be lying before you any bit of work from which you shrink, go straight up to it, and do it at once. The only way to get rid of it is to do it.”

-Alexander MacLaren (1826–1910), Scottish preacher

HT: C.J. Mahaney

12 Alternatives to Beating a Dead Horse

“The tribal wisdom of the Dakota Indians says when you discover you’re riding a dead horse, the best strategy is to dismount. However, in modern business and ministry, because of the heavy investment factors, other strategies are often tried with dead horses, including:

  1. buying a stronger whip;
  2. changing riders;
  3. threatening the horse with termination;
  4. appointing a committee to study the horse;
  5. arranging to visit other sites to see how they ride dead horses;
  6. reclassifying the dead horse as “living-impaired”;
  7. hiring outside contractors to ride the dead horse;
  8. harnessing several dead horses together for increased speed;
  9. donating the dead horse to a recognized charity and deducting its full original cost;
  10. doing a time management study to see if lighter riders would improve productivity;
  11. declaring a dead horse has lower overhead and therefore performs better; and
  12. promoting the dead horse to a supervisory position.”

My favorites are numbers 4, 5, 8 and 12. Which are yours?

HT: Dr. Sam Lamerson.

Average American Work Day Chart

Here is an interesting chart on the average American work day from the American Time Use Survey, released by the U.S. Department of Labor – Bureau of Labor Statistics. The chart shows time use on an average work day for employed persons ages 25-54 with children. Data include non-holiday weekdays and are annual averages for 2005.

Time use on an average work day for employed persons ages 25 to 54 with children

So, how does this compare to your typical work day?

Note: The Bureau of Labor Statistics page provides many other interesting charts, organized in the following categories:

HT: Lifehack

A Messy Desk is the Sign of an Orderly Mind

Al Gore - An Inconvenient Desk

Wow, I finally found something that Al Gore and I both have in common. Here is a picture of Al Gore’s desk from Al Gore’s American Life in Time Magazine.

And here is my favorite messy desk picture. This is philosopher Quentin Smith looking for something in his faculty office at Western Michigan University:

Philosopher Quentin Smith's Desk

Having trouble with your desktop lately? You could try these 10 tips for keeping your desk clean and tidy from

Or you could try Nobel prize winner Robert Fogel’s ingenious solution:

When Nobel Laureate and University of Chicago economics professor Robert Fogel found his desk becoming massively piled he simply installed a second desk behind him that now competes in towering clutter with the first. (from A Perfect Mess: The Hidden Benefits of Disorder, by Eric Abramson and David Freedman)

As we messy-desk type people are fond of saying: “A messy desk is the sign of an orderly mind.” It must be true – how else could we posibly find anything?

News and Notes – 3/19/2007

Rolling in the dough. People in New York are paying chef Nino Selimaj $1,000 for a single 12-inch lobster tail and caviar pizza. Granted, each pizza costs Selimaj $720 to make, but that is still a pretty good profit margin.

No brains, no sweat. A new study links regular exercise with improved memory. So if you can’t remember the last time you exercised, maybe that’s why.