Over the years I’ve developed simple work and life habits that have helped me get things done. I’d like to share six of those with you now.
1. Do work in blocks of one hour
Your brain can not handle continuous, neverending work. Like a muscle that becomes tired of exertion, it needs frequent periods of rest. Therefore you should only do work in blocks of one hour. During this hour, do not check your phone for messages, do not go on the internet, and do not socialize. The hour is sacred in that you must stay on your task until the timer says you are done. Even if you don’t want to do the work, you are only allowed to stare blankly at the task before you instead of seeking out entertainment or distraction.
This is the main strategy I use to write books. A significant portion of my one hour blocks is spent staring at the blinking cursor on my screen, but I prevent myself from doing anything else. It actually happens that staring becomes more boring than working, so gradually I pile words onto the document. Compare that to most normal people who perform work in short 10 or 15 minute increments. It takes them 3 hours to do 1 genuine hour of work.
2. Be deliberate, slow, and thoughtful in every task you perform
You should be as focused on performing trivial tasks as important ones because this trains your brain to work at high levels. Otherwise, lazy thinking and poor performance will seep into the tasks that you actually want to perform well at.
I dislike cleaning my apartment, but the energy I put into it is the same as writing this article. I clean slowly and thoroughly, knowing that this is training for other tasks that have more weight in life. Rushing also causes you to make mistakes, often prolonging the task longer than if you did it carefully in the first place. Creating a habit of excellency means you have to do everything excellently, no matter how trivial. Even when I wash dishes by hand, I make sure to do a first-rate job. If anything is worth doing in life, it’s worth doing right.
3. Have a readily accessible to-do list that you constantly update
On my laptop I use an old version of Google Desktop that has a To Do List module. It stays on top of my screen so that I can constantly see the tasks that I have to perform. Before I go to bed, I have all the tasks lined up for the next day, so that when I wake up there is no doubt about what I have to do. This list is always within view so that I can never “forget” my work. If there is one thing in life that I voluntarily enslave myself to, it’s this list, because it makes me extremely productive on the projects I want to complete.
4. Schedule more work than you’re capable of
The less work I schedule for the next day, the less likely I am able to complete them. When I wake up and see that my list is light, the slacking begins immediately. I know that I have much time to complete everything, so my brain allows me to dick around. Next thing I know it’s the end of the day and I haven’t finished everything.
On the other hand, when I wake up and see a crushing list of tasks, I get to work immediately, fearful that I may not finish them. Even if I don’t finish it all, I may end up doing twice as much work than if I scheduled a light day. Slacking begets slacking, and if you want to get a lot done, simply overwhelm yourself with work. Since you know you don’t have a minute to spare, you refuse to take “5 minute breaks” that prolong into hours.
5. Settle your mind before undertaking difficult tasks
In the past I recommended watching episodes of Seinfeld to get ready to chat with girls, since it gets your mind primed for talking. You should also prime your mind for hard tasks. The most reliably way is book reading, which acts as a transfer station for deeper focus. Read a book for 15-30 minutes to calm your mind and then immediately start your one hour block of work. With time you won’t need these training wheels. For example, if I now want to approach a girl, I can do it cold without any prior warm-up, but this the result of many years of practice. Use a warm up until you get to that point.
6. In times of stress, write down what is bothering you
Things tend to go wrong simultaneously. You were coasting along fine and then suddenly everything is turning upside down. You feel dread and anxiety, making it difficult to get through the day. Alleviating this is quite simple. Simply grab a piece of paper and make a list of everything that is bothering you. Then for each item write the next possible action you can perform to resolve it. Sometimes this means making a telephone call or simply waiting for a certain date to arrive. Within a day of writing the list, your anxiety will decrease because having concrete steps acts as a balm to anxiety, an emotional state that often arises from helplessness. The list takes away that helplessness and gets you through rough patches.
So these are my six habits that I’ve learned over the years and which are intertwined into my life. When you are seeing the results of my labor, you are actually seeing the above habits in action. I see no reason why men can’t implement them into their lives as well.
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