Hello! Here Luis.

For some time now I have been wanting to adopt a polyphasic schedule.

Primarily, my reason were that (1) I do not feel confortable with a normal sleeping pattern of 8 hours, and (2) I seems crazy, so I naturally want to try it.

Polyphasic sleeping consists on, instead of sleeping in one sit, breaking your sleep down into separated parts along the night (or the day). The trick is that this allows you to reduce the total sleep hours, without short term downsides. The long term effects are unknown.

A well known example of polyphasic schedule is the Siesta. Also, it seems that centuries ago, before the invention of electric devices, some people followed polyphasic schedules. Babies also do, as any parent who had to wake up at 3 am may known. (Reference)

I first got in contact with polyphasic sleeping by reading the 4 Hour Body by Tim Ferriss. Thanks to this book I am now also leaner than ever before, if only because it motivated me into action.

In the book, there is a brief chapter devoted to polyphasic sleep, written by Neil Strauss. Mr Strauss tried a very extreme polyphasic schedule adaptation and failed to implement it, as far as I know. The schedule he was trying to implement is known as “Uberman”, and consists on a total of 2 hours/day of sleep, distributed into six 20 min naps. This schedule is the most difficult to follow.

It turns out, there are more polyphasic schedules, which can be classified into different tiers depending on the total sleep hours and the difficulty. I got all the information from the Polyphasic Society.

Truth is, I already tried to implement polyphasic schedules in the past, and failed. The reason that I failed was that the adaptation requires discipline and everyday persistence. Not quite like me. So this morning, after failing on following the schedule, I asked myself: why did I fail? Why should I do this at all?

I failed, because at some point I lost the motivation. I lost the motivation because I forgot why I decided to do it.

There are two important things to consider, the DOs and the DO-NOTs.

The DO-NOTs tell you why you shouldn’t do it. They may be seen as rocks in your way, if you really want to do something. DO-NOTs for me are:

  • I do not use my time effectively. Why should I then want more time?

From Lewis Howes, I know that I must break through my excuses for not to do something. I must figure out first what stops me, and solve it in a daily basis. The answer then is, to use time effectively.

What about the DOs?

  • Do it because it is a challenge, and you’ll learn from it.
  • Do it because it gives you more time during your most physically and mentally able years (I am 28).
  • Do it because people think it is crazy.
  • Do it to know more about myself, and what my body and mind can do.
  • Do it to practice self-discipline daily.
  • Ultimately, it gives me an additional “time slot” every day, allowing me to do more things (and there are a lot of things that I want to do).

My plan

I will go through a process of adaptation of about 2 months.

The first part lasts for 2 weeks, and consists on a biphasic segmented schedule.

Shaded areas are sleeping time.

Shaded areas are sleeping time.

The second part, about 6 weeks of adaptation, is a Dual-core schedule:

dualcore

Eating correctly is important to follow these schedules. This includes abstention of caffeine, alcohol, and sugar in the hours before bed time.

My plan includes 4 meals, A, B, C, and D (because I don’t know how to call them anymore):

A: ~2 am, half a can of sardines.

B: ~8 am, oatmeal with milk, vegetable soup.

C: ~12 am, vegetable soup with lentils, one banana and almonds.

D: ~6 pm, 4 meatballs, cheese, 2 boiled eggs, almonds.

As much water as I want, and I allow myself one or two cups a day of decaffeinated coffee, although I know it contains a bit of caffeine.

Guidelines for meals are to be found here (skip to the very end if you want to find a pre-made nutrition schedule, which is the one I took as a guide).

Adds

The body reacts to blue light and red light differently, to detect whether it is night or day and adjust our inner chemistry to prepare us for sleeping. This is explained in more detail here. The take home message is: use blue light during the day, and red light at dusk, about before 2 hours before dusk sleep. Unfortunately, computers are by default blue light emitters (well, they just emit in the entire spectrum of visible light). That’s were the app f.lux comes in handy, and it is totally for free. This app allows you to adjust the “blueness” of your screen. Even better, it automatically adjusts it during night time. Helping your body to enter into a sleep-ready state.

Problems

For all this text, now I address what I meant to from the beginning. My issues on adapting to a polyphasic schedule. The main problem is that after a 3.5 h sleep, I’ll turn off my alarm and go back to bed. This will happen if I lack motivation, and I am finding it particularly difficult also during the summer (well, almost summer) with such warm temperatures which make me feel really sleepy.

Tips to overcome these issues are discussed here.

Things that may help:

  • Remind myself about why I want to do it (e.g. with a post-it next to my alarm).
  • Drinking water: drink 1 L water 30 min before core sleep, so that I’ll need to urinate when I wake up.
  • Increase my body temperature immediately after I wake up. Enter in contact with cold water (e.g. cold shower, eski filled with icy water next to alarm).
  • Use blue or white light (e.g. from the computer, from a flashlight…). A very easy thing is to sit in front of the computer.
  • Pavlov’s conditioning: adopt the habit of an after-core routine (e.g. sit in front of the computer instead of going to bed).

Another thing with which I struggle sometimes is going to bed early when I am not sleepy. I found (in the same link above) that a possible solution is to “sedate myself” with alcohol (some strong drink, like bourbon) before a core. Although it should be used only spuriously.

Things that I will try next:

  • I will drink water (maybe not 1 L) before sleep.
  • I will sit in front of my computer (with f.lux disabled) and do some non-work stimulating activity, such as playing videogames. I am in the middle of Half Life 2. No. I do not want to use the extra time to play, but if it proves to be a good tool to keep me awake, I’ll use it for some time.

This is not easy at all (less with these hot temperatures), wish me the best!

Luis

Hey guys!

In this post I’ll point out the main things about the “review” habit and what will be my focus on applying it to my life.

But first, I’ll talk about how the habit #6: Organize, is working for me.

Organize is about keeping stuff in its place. What’s the place of the stuff? Well… wherever you decide. Don’t think much about it, just put it in that place consistently.

I’d say for me it was pretty easy to keep everything organized. What I focused on is, putting things back wherever their place was, after using them and/or changing activity. This is all that thing about paying attention to the transitions. In the end it is very simple:

  1. Set up a new activity.
  2. For this activity, I need a certain material, e.g. a book.
  3. Take the material to the working place and complete the activity, or work on in until I stop.
  4. Before beginning the next activity, put the material back to where it was, e.g. the shelf.
  5. Besides the material that I used, is there something else in the working place that is misplaced? If yes, put it where it belongs (and decide “where it belongs” on the fly if needed). For example, I keep putting my notebooks inside my handbag all the time, whereas before they would just randomly lie on top of the desk at all times.

This was a really little change which however helped me to keep things cleaner.

Another thing that I paid attention to is: keep flat surfaces clean. Now my desk is completely empty of papers just lying around -much more comfortable.

Ok. Now, let’s move on.

#7 — REVIEW

Reviewing is about keeping you on track. It’s easy to get out of the way and mess up, a weekly review helps to go back to where you want, to do the things that you want.

Modus operandi:

Do a Simplified Weekly Review.

  1. Review the single long-term goal, and the weekly short-term goal. The short-term goal should synergize with the long-term goal, so that you make sure you’re advancing toward the latter. Is the short-term goal finished? Yes: choose the next short-term goal that pulls you closer to the long-term goal. No: What minitasks you should do to complete it? The book encourages you to choose one and only one long-term goal for the year, since focus is the most important component in achieving a goal. I believe that this one action is important.
  2. Review your notes. Do a quick scan over your todo list, completing unfinished tasks that can be done fast.
  3. Review your calendar. Things need to be moved forward? New tasks triggered? What are the upcoming tasks next week?
  4. Review your lists. Update to-do list, cross off completed items. Scan your other lists (someday/maybe, errands…).
  5. Set short-term goal and plan Big Rocks. This is actually included already in the Minimal ZTD. I am setting Big Rocks for each week and taking my MITs for the day from there. However I didn’t set any “yearly goal” yet, within the frame of the Minimal ZTD. Yay! I am thrilled!

I had set up my Big Rock review on Saturday (that is, today), so I’ll just substitute that for this habit.

How do you approach the issue of “keeping yourself on track”?

I kept the Minimal ZTD for a few days, and it’s simplicity is just elegant. One Inbox list, one Master todo list, one MITs list. That’s all you need.

I’ve been also keeping a BIG ROCKS list, and an @Errands list, for convenience. So that’s basically how my Evernote shortcuts list looks like now:

Evernote shortcuts

 

The numbers are for me to keep the notes ordered in a particular order, because I order them by name.

I didn’t keep track of anything, but I am happy and confortable about how it works now. Note that by having the @Errands list, I include something from the Simple Trusted System (Habit 5, read more). I’ll only add more things from this habit if I see that I need them.

Tip: Only add these habits that you know you need. If you don’t know, try them out and figure out.

I am jumping straight into the next habit. Enter number 6, ORGANIZE. Yeah.

Organize, consists on having things clean and ordered. Having “a place for everything, and everything in its place”. There are some things about it that I already do, like putting incoming stuff in my inbox, having a simple filing system, labeling stuff…

Some other things I only partially do and could be improved:

  • Find a home: Everything should have a place/home where it goes. If something has no home, create it.
  • Put it away immediately: Don’t leave put things in their home for later. Do it now. I’ll need work on this…
  • Pay attention to transitions: Use the time between one action and the next (“transitions”) to put things away.
  • Keep flat surfaces clear: Speaks by itself. It implies the desk, the couch, the bed…

I’ll leave a week to assess this habit.

Did you try this habit? How did it work? Any tip? How do you organize your stuff?

See you next time.

 

During the next 7 days I’ll apply the minimal ZTD. This is a minimalistic version of the ZTD habits, with only the essential for the system to work. Read the original blogpost by Leo Babauta to know what it is.

To accomplish this I have to do the following:

  • I have to fast process my lists into a master to-do list. My lists right now have like hundreds of items, so for the sake of easiness, I will file them and ignore them for the time being, which means that I’ll start with a pure clean empty master to-do list of love and joy.
  • I’ll have to keep my inboxes clean, emptying them at least once a day. If not, I get eaten by angry purple weasels from Thailand.
  • To empty my inboxes, I have to process them. And DELETE is the default option. I must put myself into this, since it is so difficult to delete my own ideas. But I don’t do anything with them in the end, so what would be the difference, right?
  • I have to plan my BIG ROCKS (once a week) and MITs (once a day, either in the beginning of the day, or in the end, for the next day).
  • I have to do the MITs, of course. This is actually the most important thing, far above the rest. The whole purpose of a productivity system is doing what you choose to do.

Hopefully this is simple enough that I will follow it. I believe that procrastination is my greatest final foe now.

-Ties a headband to his forehead, fits in his boxing gloves- See you in one week.

Hi all,

For the last weeks (or months…), I have been neglecting to put in practice the ZTD system (or the habits I had went through), which does not make me feel confortable.

I think that the main problem which led me to the current situation is having to many lists, too many things in my lists, and too many daily things to do with my lists. As a consequence, I ended up losing focus, and I became more and more loose in applying the habits.

Incidentally, talking about applying habits, this blogpost by Leo Babauta is pure gold.

Piles and piles of things to do have been gathering dust in my lists for ages now, I hardly ever pay attention to the daily activities regarding these lists (e.g. review them) that I set on my google calendar account, and the whole thing seems to be completely messed up.

That’s why I decided to restart. Yes, RESTART. I’ll do it however slightly different than before:

  • I’ll apply one habit, not per month, but per week.
  • I’ll being with the minimalistic ZTD (more about that in next blogpost). I will consider this my first habit to apply. Edit: Actually, everything about the minimal ZTD is here.
  • I’ll learn the habits in the way which is most useful to me. What I need most critically now are the habits of doing and planning (in particular, allocating a time frame to my actions), so that’s what I’ll be doing first.

Heads up and see you soon! 😀

Hi, Luis here!

I completed the mini-challenge that I announced in December, with christmas in between! This definitely helped me to have a bit more control on my MITs. I also began applying a simple schedule to make sure that I don’t get lazy on that. If you just want to read about the schedule, scroll down and skip the result of the challenge.

Initial MITs/Final MITs

Day 1: 2/2(2*)

Day 2: 6/2(2*)

Day 3: 5/2

Day 4: 5/1(1*)

Here I took a few days of doing NOTHING, and entirely ignoring any productivity system. Not really what I had thought to do though…

Day 5: 4/2(2*)

Day 6: 4/4(1*) Played videogames this day, example of what you should not do. Well, perhaps you can have a biweekly “mess up” day or something…

Day 7: 4/3(1*)

Total: 30/16(8*)

The end result is not incredibly bad, but I still feel that I need to improve a lot.

What I found that helps me TONS, is to define specific time slots to do things. Not something like, at 10 am I do this, at 11 am I do that, and so on. This is a problem, because if I for instance oversleep, I mess things up completely.

What I adopted is a schedule similar to this Pomodoro thingie.

SCHEDULE

My schedule gives plenty of free time (so one does not get into the “I feel like a slave” mood) and structures working time independently of the hour of the day, so no matter what time you wake up, or where you are, you can always use it. This is as follows:

– Wake up

– 30 min Shower + breakfast

MIT TIME:

– 1.5 h MIT1

– 30 min batch

– 1.5 h MIT2

– 30 min lunch

– 1.5 h MIT3

NON-MIT (“free”) TIME*:

– 2 h Batch+TODO

– 30 min snack

– 5 h Batch+TODO (and somewhere in between dinner)

– 1 h consume**

– Sleep

*I can follow this schedule or just do something else. I defined a sort of structure for my free time because I want to have some idea of what I want to do during my non-MIT time

**By “consume”, I mean watch movies, read fiction, play videogames… whatever involves obtaining entertainment, in opposition to “produce”.

This schedule assumes two things. I do 3 MITs every day. And I can do one MIT in 1.5 h. Both are just reference assumptions that are far from being written in stone. In fact, most of the time I need more than 1.5 h for one MIT (which means that most of the time I don’t complete 3 MITs every day).

In each 1.5 h slot I have a break of 10 minutes in between. So it’s not really 1.5 h, it is 1 h and 40 minutes. It goes like that:

– Work in MIT for 45 minutes.

– Take a 10 minutes break. Get away of the computer or whatever you’re using. Usually I make myself a tea, or drink water, do squats, walk a little bit…

– Work again in MIT for 45 minutes.

This schedule is not constrained to a certain hour of the day, which is perfect for me, since my waking up time tends to fluctuate, and I don’t have a fixed starting hour for being in the office (good things of doing a PhD!)

And that’s what I learned during this mini-challenge!

Soon the second mini-challenge (of 3) will come.

See you around.

Ahoy fellas!

Today (first post in a long time) I’ll set the ground to a number of mini-challenges to redress my usage of ZTD.

I have had big problems, in particular with the DO habit.

The COLLECT and PROCESS habits I perform quite well (they’re perhaps the easiest).

In the PLAN habit I stumble a bit. The main problem is that I set the alarms for tracking my BR and monthly goals via my GoogleCalendar, they get mixed with all my other emails, which I tend to ignore more often than not, and as a result, these alarms get also ignored sometimes. The thing is: although I could set a different gmail account for my GoogleCalendar, switching between gmail accounts is a pain. I could maybe use some other tool, but I have everything set up in my GoogleCalendar already… I’ll see how I tackle that. Maybe as one famous entrepreneur says,the best is to “let little bad things happen”.

I fail the DO habit, having one same item in my MITs list for the day during days or even weeks. If I managed to empty that list everyday, I’d be a happy man. Today, I want to set a mini-challenge to try to tackle that.

I’ll do a one week version of the challenge I did for the DO habit. I’ll track the number of MITs that I set for the day, and the number that I have left at the end of each day.

I should fill the following lines:

Initial MITs/Final MITs

Day 1:

Day 2:

Day 3:

Etc.

I’ll start tomorrow!

Note: Sometimes, it happens that I couldn’t do a MIT that day because I had to wait for another thing to be complete, which didn’t depend on me. If that happens, I’ll mark a number with a *. Example: Let’s say that I had 3 MITs, I completed 2, but one of them I was unable to complete for external reasons. I’ll mark it as: 3/2(1*)

Hope to report in a week!

Phew… the last weeks have been a complete mess… My habits are getting loose, some of them really, really loose… I’ll try to see it as a small break from self-organization. I hope that this boosts my motivation from now on. Let’s crush it!

I announced in my last post that I wanted to try a new approach to my job schedule.

My job allows me to have a flexible schedule. Often the problem for me is the absence of dead lines, so commonly days ended up passing by, many times feeling that I didn’t advance much. That’s why I devised an alternative approach to time organization of my working hours, that I called project-based schedule.

What is a project-based schedule?

In opposition to a time-based schedule, which would consist on working a fixed amount of hours every day, a project-based schedule sits in the notion of completing projects (or mini-projects) before moving on to the next activity, whether it is pure leisure, personal projects or more work (yeah, high-five all you workaholics!). Let’s say that I am writing an article (scientific articles need a loooong time…). According to a project-based schedule, I may decide to work as intensively on that as I can, until I finish it. Only after it is finish, I’d take some time (maybe several days) to relax or to do whatever I want.

What happened?

In brief, I tried the project-based schedule for about one week. It was a total failure. My plan was working as much as possible in the draft of my article until I can handle it down for review. It failed in that I just had to stop working at some point. After a certain amount of hours working, my brain would just reject working any more on the manuscript. It was fed up. I couldn’t follow the schedule, so for instance I ended up working less and producing less than what I would in a time-based schedule. For instance, while trying to work on Sunday, I ended up spending several hours playing videogames, and procrastination was in every corner of my day.

Why didn’t it work?

I can think of a few reasons.

  • The work that I had to do was unspeakably boring. I just hate writing scientific manuscripts, so at some point I just need a break. Maybe it would be possible with a more exciting activity. Sure it should work with having fun 🙂
  • I may have overestimated the time that I can devote to this activity in a row, i.e. I engaged in a project which may have been too long to make it without a good break in between.

There may be more reasons, but these two are the main ones that I can see so far.

Can it work?

Would there be a way to make this schedule work? Well, for sure. But the rules should change, and I see that in this change, the schedule would become something similar to the MIT based schedule proposed by the ZTD method. I assume that the main cause of failure, at least in my case, has been ignoring: (1) a need to rest my mind after a few hours of dull work, and (2) the overestimation of my will to endure long working sessions. So, what changes could be made to make the project-based schedule work?

  • Work on really short projects, mini-projects, that can be completed in a very short time. This would be equivalent to MITs.
  • Take regular breaks to rest, hang out, evade, as soon as the need to procrastinate is appearing too often.

And for heaven’s sake, enjoy your life and don’t work too much. Particularly if your work is not a matter of life or death for anyone.

Once I go back to my tracks with the current habits, I’ll come over here again to talk about the next habit.

So stay tuned 🙂

This is sort of an interlude post.

I’ll briefly address 3 points today:

  1. The 5th habit: SIMPLE TRUSTED SYSTEM
  2. What I’m doing to apply it.
  3. An experiment on how to improve DOING

First is first. The 5th habit of the ZTD system is all about setting up a good and effective system that allows you to use ZTD comfortably. What are the tools of the trade? How to use them best and in the most simple way? About the tools, several are suggested in the book, but as I don’t pretend to write a review, I’ll directly mention the ones that I’m using: For all the lists I use Evernote, which I utterly love and is the best thing in the world (I use it also as a database of all my stuff). For date-specific events I use Google Calendar, and to take notes on the fly, I always carry in my pocket a small post-it stack and a pen. Plain and simple. This is what I’ve been doing all along so in this sense there isn’t much of an update.

The new stuff for me here is the context lists. They are also an element in the GTD system, and they pretty much play the same role here. Instead of having all your to-do things in one single lists, you put some of them in separate lists by context. The point is, some actions can only be done at a particular place or time. I have lists for @work, @errands, @calls, @waiting for, @someday/maybe, and I have one context list for my next private project. The ones that I find most useful for the moment are the @work and @errands list, it’s so easy to check the errands list right before going shopping! And in the office I just take a look at the work list and I’m no more wondering what the heck I was supposed to do…

Still, the fight against cluttering my lists is neverending…

I don’t think I’m going to set a challenge for the 5th habit, since I don’t quite see the point. It’s not so complicated anyway, took me about 10 minutes to set up. In addition, every morning I check my lists and shift tasks between lists or erase them depending on what they are. That’s all that there is about this habit, in a nutshell… So eventually I’ll move to the next one.

The last thing that I want to talk about is about DOING. That was the 4th habit, and yes, still, definitely and by far the most important. And sometimes I completely mess up with it, mainly due to procrastination. So I want to talk about an experiment to try to decrease the procrastination time and improve in doing things. In particular, I address the problem of procrastination at work and what it generates: massive loss of free time (because you’ll have to finish the work eventually, anyway, and if you need more time you’ll have to extract it from your free time).

I start with the assumption that a 8h/day is not necessarily the best schedule (laughs) and does not need to be followed. I also assume that there is an amount of enforced working hours (indentured time) of  at least 40h/week. With this we pretty much have the following simple possibilities:

  • Work 5 days/week, 8h/day
  • Work 4 days/week, 10h/day
  • Work 3 days/week, 13.3h/day

Of course, it is possible to envision many other more complex distributions of 40 h in one week, but let’s not get too fuzzy. The approaches up there are time-based. You set a certain time and once it’s finished you forget about your job till the next time. I thought of another approach, project-based, which might be more sensible. This is: you work in a certain project, until you finish it. It doesn’t matter if it’s work or private. Just keep track of the hours you’re devoting to work, only to be fair and make sure that you’re at least working the amount of hours that your contract demands from you. Still I didn’t figure out exactly how manage the times, but I’m tying this and I’ll see what is to be done. I just count the time I work (I use a simple and useful timer that you can find here)

I believe that the project-based schedule has the potential to promote effectiveness and reduce procrastination, because you’re no longer dependent on waiting for a certain hour to arrive to stop working. To get your free time, you depend on finishing the work, which looks much more powerful motivator to my eyes. It doesn’t matter if it’s 5 or 8 pm. You gotta finish the project and then you get a lot of well earned free time, to full focus in a private activity and again don’t stop until you finish it.

Of course, this may not be possible in every job (in mine it is, fortunately).

Possible advantages of a project-based schedule:

  • Strong motivation to finish your work.
  • Less procrastination (since procrastination, whose main “purpose” is to let time pass, is rendered useless).
  • More adaptable to your own lifestyle.
  • You free yourself of a dull and ineffective routine of working 8 hours/day.
  • Probably increased productivity and focus.
  • Less disruptive job, devote more time in a row to private projects without distractions.

Possible disadvantages of a project-based schedule:

  • May be impossible to apply in some jobs.
  • May result in a chaotic schedule which could get out of control.
  • You may end up working more than 40 hours a week.
  • Many hours working in a row could result really boring and tiresome

I’m not a project-based schedule guru or something, I’m just a guy trying some ideas, so if you can add something or give some suggestion, I’ll be really glad.

In one sentence, my idea was to adopt some schedule that focuses on finishing projects rather than risking prolongating them forever.

We have adopted an established working routine of 8 hours a day and 5 days a week. Why? Do you know? I don’t. Does it make sense? I don’t know, but like anything assumed as something natural, it is good to experiment with it. I bet that the 8-hours-day schedule is not the best possible schedule. I didn’t manage to adopt a 4-hour-week schedule yet, but give me time.

In any case, drop your thoughts below! 🙂

EDIT: I wrote the whole post thinking that the habit here discussed was the 6th habit, that’s why the web address has 6th habit on it. I apologize for that!

Boooh!

The result to my DO challenge is: 169 points! (check the original post here).

Far below the win goal. I don’t call it extreme failure, because… well, because I was trying. Anyway, it’s about half the way, which is not so bad.

But I still have to nail down a bit the DO habit. Particulary to what timed bursts refers. DOing is an art in itself, and is not mastered so easily.

This is what I’ve learned:

One must learn to do the minimum necessary to be effective. Yes, when things could be better, believe it or not it’s not about working harder, it’s about optimizing and reducing to the essentials (work smart). Carefully analyze what you’re doing. Is it necessary? In other words, will something very bad happen if you don’t do it? If not, don’t do it. Do exactly the minimum possible for things to come out right.

This is contrary to all what is commonly said. Work more, work hard, do more, multitask! I say that all that is moronic.

But doing the opposite is not easy. We’re so much inclined to waste time in futile work, and that is because we have 8 hours work days no matter what. Just to quote something that appears in the 4 Hour Work Week: How is it possible that every professional in the world needs exactly 8 hours every day to complete his/her daily work?

I say, be like a surgery knife. Cut exactly where you have to, do it fast, and get the fuck out.

That said, although I’ll keep on improving on DOing, I’ll be already checking the next habit, #5: SIMPLE TRUSTED SYSTEM (STS).

Where half the way! I’m excited!

See you over here.