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!