A Life of Productivity #12: touch-typing

A Life of Productivity‘s tip #12 looked like it would be useful:

Learn to touch type. The average typing speed is about 40 WPM, and touch typing can boost that to 60–80 WPM—a 50% to 100% increase. The time you save will add up very quickly.

I’m trying to cultivate a daily writing habit; I want to blog more; basically everything I do involves a lot of typing. This seemed like a good way to shave minutes off most tasks.

But first, to find out my actual current typing speed. I decided to use http://typera.net/ because it reminds me of the time that this woman schooled a guy on OKCupid after he mansplained her own typing speed to her.

My typing speed came out at ~71 wpm – nowhere near either of the competing OKCupid typists above, but midway through the apparent speed you can get from touch-typing. So the lesson I’m taking from that is that this doesn’t need to be my priority right now. But it’s always good to learn new things – and a 100+ wpm would definitely save me some time! – so I’m adding ‘learn to touch type‘ to my list of Stuff To Do After The Election. Along with basically everything else.

A Life of Productivity tip #72: completely disconnect from the internet when you have to get something done

Our new campaign office has a wireless internet connection that is often largely theoretical. This is annoying as hell, because most of the time when I have to get something done, emails are involved. It seems like a good point to investigate A Life of Productivity‘s tip #72:

Completely disconnect from the Internet when you have to get something done. 47% of your time online is spent procrastinating. If you want to get something big done, unplug from the Internet.

(Incidentally, that 47% stat is from a study conducted before Facebook, Twitter et al came into popular use. Yeeshk.)

This advice is everywhere, for writers in particular. When the Guardian surveyed successful authors for their top ten pieces of writing advice, one of Zadie Smith’s rules was:

Work on a computer that is disconnected from the ­internet.

And Jonathan Franzen went one further:

It’s doubtful that anyone with an internet connection at his workplace is writing good fiction.

(I’d say ‘I’m sure he meant his or her workplace’, but let’s face it, he didn’t.)

I’m not going to get any writing done in the campaign office (although I’ve already thought it would make an interesting play…) but I can keep a list of other things I need to do which don’t require an internet connection, and use this opportunity to crack through the list without any distractions. Having just wasted ten minutes reading Jonathan Franzen’s entire Wikipedia page to find the source of the quote above, I think it’s an opportunity I should embrace…

A Life of Productivity tip #53: make more friends at the office

This is A Life of Productivity‘s tip #53:

Make more friends at the office. Office friendships increase your job satisfaction by an average of 50%, make you seven times more engaged at work, and make you 40% more likely to get a promotion!

Click the link above for good advice. I’m sharing it today because today is the day we opened Jeff’s campaign office, and as you can see in the picture, lots of new and old friends turned up to help us. (I was there, honest. I’m just not very tall.)

A Life of Productivity tip #5: remember that perfect is the enemy of good

This is another A Life of Productivity tip that came to me during a conversation with Jeff – specifically, while we were taping a large piece of carpet to the ground. (We’ve been putting the new Jeff Smith for Withington campaign office together. It has been both last-minute – it took us a while to find an office – and low-budget.)

“It’s not perfect…” said Jeff, surveying the somewhat wrinkled effect of two big offcuts secured to a concrete floor with duct-tape.

“That’s fine,” I said, and quoted tip #5:

Remember that “perfect is the enemy of good.” Your house will never be exactly 100% clean—something will always be out of place. Particularly with low-leverage activities, know when to stop.

Attention to detail is important, but there’s a danger in making a virtue out of perfectionism. Back when I was a more regular blogger, a friend told me “I just don’t think I could blog as regularly as you do. I’d be too obsessed with making every blogpost perfect and never be able to press ‘publish’.” Which is a socially acceptable way of saying “You’re nowhere near as good a writer in real life as I am in my imagination”, but it also makes a good point. If you get too hung up on perfection, you’ll never get anything finished – or, more likely, never even get started.

A Life of Productivity tip #73: resist temptation by rehearsing

So despite the fact that I held Chinese food at least partially responsible for ruining my run yesterday, I then went home last night and had another takeaway. And I hold that responsible for the fact that I spent all of today throwing up. It’s not food poisoning. It’s karma. I need to learn how to say no to convenient deliciousness. I need A Life of Productivity‘s tip #73: resist temptation by rehearsing how you’ll act ahead of time. (Just like Taylor Swift rehearses being so perfectly kooky and adorable all the damn’ time.)

It only takes a minute or two, and believe me, it works. The next time you know you’re going to be in a tempting situation, rehearse how you’ll react ahead of time to significantly increase your changes of resisting temptation when the time comes.

Everyone knows that it helps to rehearse ahead of a difficult conversation. It’s just that you don’t necessarily prepare for a conversation that goes like this:

Jeff: You got anything in mind for tea?

Me: Yes! I have a whole healthy, protein-rich meal plan for this week. Tonight I am making teriyaki peanut tofu with stir-fried vegetables and brown rice, would you like some?

Jeff: …I was gonna order curry.

Me: Chana dal and two chapatis, please.

Sometimes, you see, the Blerch takes the form of my other half and wants me to eat curry with him. So – as is always the case with the Blerch – I need to practise saying no.

This tip may also come in handy when I work on getting up earlier. Check out this blogpost from 2006 (warning: it looks a lot like a blogpost from 2006). I’m particularly drawn to it because it acknowledges the difficulty of getting out of bed when you have someone there to snuggle. The author recommends practising getting up in the morning, because that way the action will be taken over by your subconscious mind – which is really the only part of your mind that works when your alarm just went off. It may sound stupid, but it just might work…

A Life of Productivity tip #52: be mindful of when you’re needlessly hard on yourself

This morning I had a horrible, terrible, no good, very bad run.

(If you’re thinking my last couple of posts have been a tad whiny – yeah, I do have bigger things to worry about than my 10k training and people being mean to me. It’s just that right now I’m blogging about the things I can control.)

I won’t bore you with too many details but: my 10k training plan said today I needed to do a warm up, then 6 intervals of 4-min ‘threshold’ runs and 2-min recovery.

I tried running at threshold pace (basically: run as fast as you can) for the first time ever a couple of weeks ago and found the experience amazing. I ran faster than I ever thought I was capable of, Platt Fields went past me in a blur, and I covered a mile in the first seven and a half minutes, which for me is usually unthinkable. It was one of those runs that reminds you why you run.

So naturally I was excited about today. Runkeeper said “First interval. Four minutes. Fast!” in my ear; I set off like I was being chased by zombies…and it was awful. After less than two minutes I was already slowing down to a jog. My legs felt hollow. I managed to keep going in some semblance of a run for the rest of the interval, then collapsed among the duck-poo, scraped myself back together and limped home.

It was a long walk, and I spent it berating myself. “Why couldn’t you do it? You did it two weeks ago. And you stopped keeping a running diary so there’s no way to go back and find out what you did differently – that’s stupid. It’s probably because you ate so much last night – why did you do that? You’re supposed to be following a healthy meal plan. What happened to anticipating the Blerch? Or is it because your self-confidence is still a bit shot from yesterday? Why would you let that get to you? Why couldn’t you just keep going?”

By the time I got home I was sick of this internal monologue so, like yesterday, I turned to A Life of Productivity for advice, and there I found tip #52:

Be mindful of when you’re needlessly hard on yourself. According to David Allen, who wrote Getting Things Done, 80% of what you say to yourself in your head is negative. Watch out for when you’re needlessly hard on yourself, so you can have fun on your journey to become more productive.

Click the link to read about ALOP’s interview with David Allen. He recommends combating all that negative self-talk by reminding yourself of your achievements. It’s good advice – this is why I lot of people keep a Done List – so I took a moment to record some of the things I got done yesterday over at iDoneThis, and had a look at some past running achievements on Runkeeper for an extra boost.

As for the bad run – I still don’t feel good about it, but I can learn from it. I’m going to start keeping a running diary again; I need to work on making run-friendly eating more of a habit. And since even without the diary I know I tend to do better at evening runs than mornings, I’m going to try and schedule runs for later in the day where possible. In the immortal words of Alanis Morrisette,* you lose, you learn.


*there’s another one for the Canadian productivity blog

A Life of Productivity tip #84: ask yourself for advice

Today did not start well.

Without going into too much detail, this morning I was on the receiving end of some quite nasty and intimidating verbal abuse.

It was pretty upsetting and I took a little while to calm down. I have low self-esteem as a general rule, so when some of the negative thoughts I quietly have about myself are shouted back at me by someone else, I don’t cope as well as I should.

I knew I had to write this blogpost at some point today, but the thought of anything introspective made me feel a bit panicky, so I had a scroll through A Life of Productivity‘s top 100 tips in search of something that might help.

Then I found it. #84: ask yourself for advice.

It might seem odd and/or counterintuitive, but have a read of the link above – it really made sense to me (apart from the use of the word ‘likelier’). After all, who better to ask for advice than me? I know me better than anyone!

So I asked myself for advice on the best way to respond to what had happened. Did I want to, for example, change my entire life so that there was no chance I might run into the person who had spoken to me like that, ever again?

And the advice I got was: no, I don’t want to do that, because I am going to be 30 in 84 days’ time, and I am therefore too old to hide from a bully. What I want to do is go to Central Library – always a recommended happy place – to spend half an hour with my godson; then spend some time outside and have a cup of tea; and then write a blogpost, get on with some work, and listen to a lot of Taylor Swift.

So that’s just what I did. It was good advice.

A Life of Productivity tip #36: get enough sleep

I overslept this morning, so I’m particularly pleased to read today’s A Life of Productivity tip:

36. Get enough sleep, even if that means sleeping in. Sleep boosts your concentration, attention, decision-making skills, creativity, social skills, and health, and decreases mood fluctuations, stress, anger, and impulsiveness.

As a dedicated and enthusiastic sleeper I’ve lately been a little unnerved by stories linking longer sleep to health risks. But the health benefits of getting your full 8 hours are well documented. Look out for more tips about getting a proper night’s sleep coming soon – not to mention more tenuous excuses to post pictures of my sleep-loving baby niece…

A Life of Productivity tip #46: get more natural light

Since today was so sunny and beautiful – not exactly characteristic of Manchester in March – I thought I’d highlight (see what I did there?) A Life of Productivity‘s tip #46:

Expose yourself to more natural light. Natural light helps you sleep better, reduces your stress levels, increases your energy levels, and allows you to focus better.

It’s hard getting enough natural light in this country. Between November and March the sunlight isn’t strong enough for our bodies to make Vitamin D from it – the NHS page at that last link has some useful advice about how to deal with that.

Fortunately we’re getting to the time of year when it’s a bit more pleasant to be outside – and also, for those of us who would like to see the back of this government, the time of year when there are a lot of important reasons to be outside! So if you’re looking for an excuse to get rained on some sunshine, get in touch. A leaflet round is just what the doctor ordered.

A Life of Productivity tip #51: start very small

Today’s A Life of Productivity tip is #51:

Start very small. I think one of the keys to becoming more productive is to simply make one small change at a time. The smaller the change you try to make to your life, the more likely you’ll actually make it.

This is central to zen habits, another excellent productivity blog I’ve linked to before, and it’s good advice. You can make yourself do something every day if it’s just something little. One of these blogposts, say, instead of a whole chapter of a novel (save that for November).

I’m illustrating this post with a picture of my niece, Daisy, as a reminder to myself – sometimes even when things start small, you know they’re going to be amazing.