Productivity porn and structured procrastination

Overwhelmed, too much to do, too little time: story of your life lately?

All kinds of people have their take on how to get more done with less effort and more efficiency, right? Well, here is an excerpt from an oldie but a goodie: Marc Andreessen’s The Pmarca Guide to Personal Productivity.

Productivity porn consists of techniques, tactics, and tricks for maximizing personal productivity — or, as they say, “getting things done”.

Here’s Mark’s 2007 article. It’s still brilliant today.
[From pmarchive.com]

Let’s start with a bang: don’t keep a schedule.
He’s crazy, you say!

I’m totally serious. If you pull it off — and in many structured jobs, you simply can’t — this simple tip alone can make a huge difference in productivity.

By not keeping a schedule, I mean: refuse to commit to meetings, appointments, or activities at any set time in any future day.

As a result, you can always work on whatever is most important or most interesting, at any time.

Want to spend all day writing a research report? Do it!

Want to spend all day coding? Do it!

Want to spend all day at the cafe down the street reading a book on personal productivity? Do it!

When someone emails or calls to say, “Let’s meet on Tuesday at 3”, the appropriate response is: “I’m not keeping a schedule for 2007, so I can’t commit to that, but give me a call on Tuesday at 2:45 and if I’m available, I’ll meet with you.”

Or, if it’s important, say, “You know what, let’s meet right now.”

Keep three and only three lists: a To Do List, a Watch List, and a Later List.

The more into lists you are, the more important this is.

Into the To Do List goes all the stuff you “must” do — commitments, obligations, things that have to be done. A single list, possibly subcategorized by timeframe (today, this week, next week, next month).

Into the Watch List goes all the stuff going on in your life that you have to follow up on, wait for someone else to get back to you on, remind yourself of in the future, or otherwise remember.

Into the Later List goes everything else — everything you might want to do or will do when you have time or wish you could do.

If it doesn’t go on one of those three lists, it goes away.

Structured Procrastination.

This is a great one.

This one is lifted straight from the genius mind of John Perry, a philosophy professor at Stanford.

Read his original description, by all means. You even get to see a photo of him practicing jumping rope with seaweed on a beach while work awaits. Outstanding.

The gist of Structured Procrastination is that you should never fight the tendency to procrastinate — instead, you should use it to your advantage in order to get other things done.

Generally in the course of a day, there is something you have to do that you are not doing because you are procrastinating.

While you’re procrastinating, just do lots of other stuff instead.

The other key two-word tactic: Strategic Incompetence.

The best way to make sure that you are never asked to do something again is to royally screw it up the first time you are asked to do it.

Or, better yet, just say you know you will royally screw it up — maintain a strong voice and a clear gaze, and you’ll probably get off the hook.

Of course, this assumes that there are other things that are more important at which you are competent.

Which, hopefully, there are.

Don’t answer the phone.

Let it go to voicemail, and then every few hours, screen your voicemails and batch the return calls.

Say, twice a day.

Hide in an IPod.

One of the best and easiest ways to avoid distractions in the workplace is to be wearing those cute little IPod earbud headphones (or any other headphones of your choice).

People, for some reason, feel much worse interrupting you if you are wearing headphones than if you’re not.

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