Ming the Mechanic:
The Pmarca Guide to Personal Productivity

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 The Pmarca Guide to Personal Productivity2007-06-14 13:28
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Oh, this is just brilliant. This article. I had read it all the way through before I realized the author is Marc Andreessen, the guy who invented Mosaic, essentially the first web browser. This is, as he calls it, Productivity Porn. A lot of people, myself included, are addicted to new systems of staying organized and productive. Getting Things Done (GTD) by David Allen has been the most popular angle recently, and so far the best system I've run into. But then again, I haven't completely succeeded in making it work for me, even though I agree with it. And, now, this system is not incompatible with GTD, but it goes some steps further in simplifying things, and addressing that which makes people productive. At least people like me, who do the best work when I don't have to, and get stuck when I've got too many commitments and deadlines and meetings. So, a key new principle here is:

don't keep a schedule

Don't keep a schedule at all. Don't schedule meetings for next week. He's quite right, that often a meeting scheduled in the future is a way of avoiding the fact that it is not very important to you right now. Or, at best, when next Tuesday at 3 o'clock comes along, even if the subject maybe interests you, most likely there's something else you'd rather be doing at that exact time. So, don't give away your future time. Always work on what is most important to you. If somebody needs to see you, either see them right now, or tell them you can't commit to anything, and you don't keep a schedule.

Andreessen didn't altogether invent this. He seems to be inspired in part by the book A Perfect Mess, which presents that idea, that it is more productive to not have a schedule, and which gives examples of well-known people, like Arnold Schwarzenegger, who supposedly organize themselves like that.

He gives other great suggestions. Like, every night write down, on a 3x5 card, a todo list of 3 to 5 things you for sure need to do the next day. Then, the next day, do your best to get those things done, and cross them off when you've done them. And, on the back of the same card, write down an anti-todo list, which are the things you get done during the day that weren't on your actual todo list. And, at the end of the day, enjoy the fact that there probably are many more items on the anti-todo list, and that actually you were more productive when you weren't supposed to.

And then there's the related Structured Procrastination approach. I recognize that very well, because I do that often. Deliberately procrastinate some things you need to do, but which you don't feel like, and use that time to get some other things done that you feel more like.

Which is indeed what I'm doing now. I have lots of work to do today, which I don't feel like doing, and I wouldn't be writing this post if I only followed my todo list.

There are more suggestions, but you can read them yourself. But basically it adds up to organizing your life so that you can do the things that are most important to you, the things you love doing, the things that seem most valuable at the time. As opposed to a list of "shoulds" that don't do much for you.

It is cool that we're beginning to have technological tools that make that more possible. You know, you can better do impromptu meetings when everybody have cellphones. Or you can do it online. It is easy to know when a small group of people are available at the same time, even if nothing was scheduled. It is actually often easier than scheduling anything.

And in ad-hoc self-organization within networks there are potentials that don't exist in strictly organized, scheduled, hierarchical systems. It is entirely possible that you can do what you love most of the time, and that at the same time collective intelligence emerges in your network. It just can't be planned in advance.

(Thanks to Loic for mentioning it)


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5 comments

14 Jun 2007 @ 14:59 by dewf @72.178.11.61 : couldn't resist!



"went to college" = "led a productive life"

The structured procrastination stuff was neat, I'll admit.

Something I've often asked myself about existence (or anyone who will listen), is:

Why can't we be safe and loved BY DEFAULT, and then, from that center of absolute peace, be able to radiate outward in various endeavors-- but not feel like our worth is defined by them?

And yet, it's always the other way around. The ego beckons, "just do this, it'll be great, you'll see" -- always promising some future payoff. Anybody who is at the top of their game, just as productive as all heck, is only a short period of time away from being a hopeless nobody (in their own mind first, and then eventually in other people's minds). You can do amazing things for years on end, but the second you stop, it's all about "well, what have you done lately?"

Reminds me of a bit from A Course in Miracles:

"The ego wants to have things for salvation, for possession is its law. Possession for its own sake is the ego's fundamental creed, a basic cornerstone in the churches it builds to itself. And at its altar it demands you lay all of the things it bids you get, leaving you no joy in them.

"Everything the ego tells you that you need will hurt you. For although the ego urges you again and again to get, it leaves you nothing, for what you get it will demand of you. And even from the very hands that grasped it, it will be wrenched and hurled into the dust. For where the ego sees salvation it sees separation, and so you lose whatever you have gotten in its name."  



19 Jun 2007 @ 21:44 by anandavala : Don't keep a schedule at all...
It's funny how something like this becomes a "new principle"!

"Don't keep a schedule at all... don't give away your future time. Always work on what is most important to you... tell them you can't commit to anything, and you don't keep a schedule."

I've been doing that all my life - it's natural! Life has worked by that principle for billions of years and it's an ancient principle that has underlied Taoist culture for thousands of years - called wu wei or going with the flow.

It's central to yogic culture too - the past and future are only constructs of the mind. The only thing that is real is the flow of reality in the present moment and by tuning into that reality you flow with the flow of reality and everything works out far better than you could have ever planned.

It's only if you want to take part in unnatural dysfunctional activities that you need to plan - if you want the take part in reality then just go with the flow. The flow is within you and without you, just tune in and let the cosmos take you to exactly where you need to be at exactly the right time and you'll be perfectly prepared when you get there.

That's the mystic way and it's good to see the mechanistic world is catching on - it's just funny that people call it a new principle - I guess it is new to them :)  



19 Jun 2007 @ 22:53 by ming : New principle
It is of course the natural way. Schedules are a very new invention. But we've become so stuck in a social order that seems to require that we do things on a schedule. Going to work, paying your rent, meeting people, watching TV. And now, with new means of communication, we're re-discovering that maybe we can be effective without a schedule. Strange that it is supposed to be something new, yes. It is something old, but in new ways, from a different angle.  


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