Productivity Reboot Week 2: Reviewing Options and Direction

Productivity Reboot Week 2: Reviewing Options and Direction

It’s Week 2 of my two-week diagonostic productivity reboot. To recap, I started this because I’ve been coming off a period of heightened activity due to family visits, taxes, and client projects. In the aftermath of the whirlwind of activity, I’ve been finding it difficult to self-motivate. Thoughts follow.


Last week I established some new routines designed to simplify my daily tasks under three focusing categories, allowing myself to define the tasks that moved these forward on-the-fly in small steps:

  • Website Content Improvements
  • External Clients
  • Gym

Furthermore, I kicked-off each day with a 15-minute focusing ritual, before looking at email or anything else. This was to be followed by an immediate jump into Content Improvement or External Client Project work, with at least 15 minutes of work. I expected to work only 2-4 hours on these projects, allowing the rest of the time to be taken up by Happy Bubble Time (HBT is unstructured exploration project time).

I had a number of epiphanies, which I documented under the tag xpr-2013a on main blog and stream of consciousness journal. Overall I’d say that week 1 was not efficient even with the very generous schedule and (I think) light structure; my working hypothesis was that with less pressure to product RESULTS in an hour, I would be more inclined to just start the projects. This is the big sticking point for me, just getting rolling. A few things got done, but only 50% each day.

Today’s Assessment

Today, I’m struck by my overall reaction: I don’t want any structure, even if it’s structure I design myself. I suspect I really need to admit to myself that external motivation is indeed mandatory. There otherwise is no natural reason that I would want to go to the gym, work on other people’s projects, or work on my own website. Intellectually I know these are all good for me, but they are deferred rewards. Either I tighten down the rules and enforce them on myself (unlikely) or I accept a lower level of productivity.

The trick, as I mentioned earlier, is getting started. Reviewing my list of tasks, the emotion that I feel is boredom. Though, that’s not quite right either. When I deconstruct each task, I find they are actually somewhat interesting: reviewing some web technology to see what it could do, modifying my WordPress theme to improve blog visibility on the home page, and so on. However, “interesting” isn’t good enough, apparently. I need these tasks done, but in my eyes they are chores that need to be done so I can reap greater reward down the road: resources that can deliver freedom to me. In the interim, though, I’m not uncomfortable enough to really want to impose tasks on myself—that’s the opposite of freedom, after all—though I do reap the emotion of desire and frustration. SO MUCH I want. And yet I am stymied by this feeling of boredom.

Here are a few theories on why I am having the mehs:

  • I might just need a vacation. Then again, I wouldn’t enjoy it knowing there’s so much stuff to do. That would be a good opportunity to practice some mental discipline in putting those thoughts out of my head.

  • I have been very productive before, like during the Product A Day Challenge. What is different now? There’s no feeling of mission or accountability to anyone except myself. Perhaps I need an audience or some measurable concrete goal. That element of human connection and shared problem solving is sorely lacking.

  • It may be that my desire for tremendous productivity is wishful thinking, naive, or merely an excuse to spend more time in my head analyzing it to death.


p>What jumps out at me is the second theory, though the others also resonate. There’s a desire for meaning and connection with people.

On the other hand, what I really need to do is make things, as this is the vehicle for financial and creative freedom. However, this desire to make is about the end product, not the journey toward mastery. I’m impatient, and want to have this all working now.

Hmm. To summarize:

I want to make things to achieve creative independence, but I’m bored by the idea of making the things I need to make, because I am feeling disconnected from people and from meaning. While the tasks themselves have interesting technical aspects, there is not enough of an overlap between “what I like” and the “purpose behind the task” to develop enthusiasm to start. This creates resistance to starting.

Creating Meaning and Connection

I don’t know if I can entirely deprogram myself to emphasize journey rather than end result, but I think it’s worth a try. Perhaps that was what I was getting at when I tried to make my simplified daily schedule. I reduced the workload and increased the amount of Happy Bubble Time because I wanted to harness playfullness that lead to a flow state. However, the way I tried to approach that was by just reducing the “required time” doing work-type stuff. What if instead I converted all the tasks to a form of play? Or directed play? I would have to let go of the idea that there’s any kind of schedule to product WIDGET X in a certain number of hours to be efficient (the project manager mentality).

The challenge, of course, is that when I look at these tasks on my task list, I still find them boring. To make them more innately interesting, I could try combining them with activities that I already am compulsive about:

  • blogging what I’m doing
  • creating original tools that make it easier
  • solving multiple problems with one solution
  • sharing and seeing what happens

My gut reaction is that this sounds really inefficient. It would be better if I could sit still and code for four hours, but I do need motivation for it in the form, perhaps, of:

  • Another coder that needs what I’m working on to continue his/her work.
  • Cross-training with another interested programmer or designer to develop our skills at the same time.
  • Solving a problem for someone who plans on using my advice to move toward their own goals in real-time, if I’m being rewarded somehow (not necessarily monetarily) for my effort.

I’ve found this hard to find unless I am running the project or working with a peer. So maybe I need to really push the connect challenge by actually forming a team of interested people to work for me. While I can’t offer a lot of money, perhaps there are people out there looking for the same kind of shared mission, even if it’s just for a week or so. To attract a team in the first place, I need to show my work to show that what I’m doing is of high standards and of value. Transparency, commitment, competence, excellence, and accomplishment need to all shine through…

This could all tie together nicely…I’ll give it a try for this week. The challenge: demonstrate capacity for self-leadership as a beacon for those seeking a leader. Kind of frightening: do I have the stuff to do it? It’s like an interview and recruitment drive at the same time, and these are skills I know are necessary in the long run. Certainly, this focus can work as the THEME OF THE WEEK for giving an added sense of urgency to the work I am doing: to do the tasks on my task list like they are part of a leadership test.



  1. Avrum 8 years ago

    Dave – I’ve been following your writing & thinking for a while now. Would it be fair to say you’ve discovered (a la your accountability check-ins) what B. Sher has been saying for some time: “Isolation is a dream killer”. More on this idea here (not my blog or writing):

  2. Author
    Dave Seah 8 years ago

    Avrum, that’s a fantastic insight and link…it does describe how I’ve been feeling. Thank you!