Category Archives: Productivity

How To Analyze A Project

When you start something new, whether it’s a marketing project or a habit, it’s helpful to see why and how everything turns out the way it does. Analyzing starts before you launch and ends after you finish. It’s impossible to ever know exactly what happens, but the frames below give you a good idea:

1. What is the best case scenario? [5 sentences]

2. What is the worst case scenario? [5 sentences]

2. What do I think will actually happen? [5 sentences]


3. What actually happened and why? [5 sentences]

This exercise roots you in reality. You can never get predict the future, but this is as good a system as any to attempt to.

Changes Since September

Here are some of the new things I’ve started since moving to San Diego

1. I wake up at 5:30am during the week

2. I meditate for eleven minutes five to seven days a week, usually right after I wake up

3. I am active (run, gym, surf, yoga) at least six days a week

4. I write three to four days per week

5. I read one to two books per week

6.  I drink/party way less than I did in college.

7.  I am taking improv comedy lessons

8.  I use the 4 Hour Chef to cook more

The things I want to change

1. Instead of bingeing TV shows on sites like coke and popcorn, watch one episode at a time

2. Eat more food. I am not making the most of going to the gym

3. See a therapist. Not for anything serious, just to have an empathetic listener who knows how the mind works to listen to me

4. Find something with coffee-like effects so I can drink less coffee. In only drink two cups a day, mostly for saving money

5. Save more money

6. Meet more girls

7. Post here more



The Simplest Way to Form a New Habit

1. One thing at a time, make it easy, and be specific. No matter how many things you want to change, you can only change one thing at a time. Period. One thing. I’ll say it again. One thing. No matter how special you think you are, how smart you are, how mentally tough you are, your success rate will be zero percent if you try to do two things at a time. Momentum is a big factor in this, so your first habit must be easy, so easy you can’t fail. Whatever you think is easy, make it twice as easy. If you want to run more, tell yourself that you’ll run for 5 minutes a day. Sounds painfully easy, but you have to start small for this to work. The alternative to adopting a small, simple habit is no habit at all.

2. Identify a trigger action. This is something you already do everyday. It’s the tripwire for your new habit. When you carry out your trigger action, you then perform your new habit. Example: I wanted to write more. I know that every day, when I get back from work, I walk into my room and set my bag on my desk chair in my room, get a glass of water and generally do very little work for the rest of the day. I’ll surf or to the gym, and when I get back from, I eat dinner, read, and go to bed. So my trigger was pouring a glass of water. I told myself, “When I come home from work and pour myself a glass of water, I’ll write at least 200 words in a WordPress draft.” All it was was 200 words of whatever came out. Very little was special, but at least I was sitting down and writing. Identify your trigger action that will guide you into the new habit you want to form.

3. Buy a big calendar. I got this part from Jerry Seinfeld. When you complete your habit, make a big X over the that day’s date. The motto is “don’t break the chain.” After a few days, those Xs will feel as good as reaching the top of mountain or finishing a book. My calendar is above.

4. Every three weeks, choose a new habit  Since I put this this calendar in my room in August, this system has worked better than anything I have ever tried. It keeps you honest and you can clearly track your results as you progress.  Instead of moping about the things I haven’t changed, I now wake up with no snooze every weekday, write at least 200 words everyday, smile more, and regularly go to the gym.

If you slip up and miss a day, just keep going. Finish the three weeks and start a new habit. If one habit was too hard, be honest with yourself about it. Don’t make excuses about why you didn’t do it. You failed and that’s fine. Just pick an easier habit the following session and keep your momentum up. After you’ve adopted a few habits, you’ll become confident in the process.

The hardest thing here is not starting a new habit, it’s making it normal, easy part of your life. It’s common to watch some TED talk or a youtube video and get inspired and excited to change your lifestyle. The idea of changing habits is awesome,  but it’s psychologically draining when you make lots of changes at once. You will stall and relapse into old habits and not even know why. Take this smart, slow approach, and start building real habits, one at a time.

Going Harder

When you’re comfortable, feeling good about what you’re doing, laughing to yourself at how lucky and amazing your life is, that’s awesome. It also means you need to work harder. When you’re stressed, pressed for something, and feel like you’ve slipped up or failed, you can get the fire burning  under you and easily to get back on track. When you’re on your game and feeling good, that’s when you’ll start to slip. Your ego tells you that you’re smart, you’re doing it right, you made it! But it’s wrong, that’s The Resistance. Push harder now, because you’re going to fall again, and if you’re not always moving forward, you’ll fall harder.

This is how I feel now. I moved to San Diego six weeks ago (more on why later) and it’s not easy place to do hard work. It’s 75 and sunny everyday and I’m always within 20 minutes of the beach.  I just start laughing to myself at how ridiculous it all is. It was my plan to come to California after I graduated college. But it’s so much better than I expected. I know the east coast is starting to bundle up for winter, and it was an unseasonable 85 today. I am laughing at how crazy the ways things have worked out. I am working in the exact environment (more on that later) I wanted with an all-star team, and we’re working for a mission that I actually believe it. I am emotionally attached moral fibers of the company. Even as I’m typing this I am fucking laughing at how ridiculous it is. Still, I know the hard shit will come soon. But I’ll just surf off the stress on the weekends.

Learning Theory and Organizational Methods: College vs Cubicle

50 minutes on, 10 off.

This is classic learning theory. Most human brains can tolerate two or three repetitions of 50 minutes of focused, active learning followed by 10 minutes of walking around, push ups, checking email, or getting water. I like to track my learning at school with toggl. I have experimented with many internet activity tracking tools, but toggl seems to work the best. I like that I can press the start button and see the clock begin. Toggl also provides utility in the work place. I have a dual screen setup, so the timer one one screen reminds me that I am clocked in and need to work on one project at a time. Nonetheless, I have retired to 50 on, 10 off cycle for cubicle life. After my first few weeks as an intern at Organic Valley, I realize that distractions, new projects, and unexpected tasks prevent even 30 minutes of uninterrupted work.

Daily Schedule/To Remember Schedule Method.

It’s hard to find a rhythm in college, so one needs organizational tools that complement a mutable lifestyle. Cal Newport’s method is the one that I have found to be the most suitable. It requires that you define a rough schedule in the morning for about ten minutes. On the left side of an 8 1/5 x 11 or any scrap piece of paper you write, “Schedule” and on the right, “To Remember.” I like to record mine in a moleskin. You follow the schedule during the day and capture any to-dos in the “To Remember” column. The next morning, you add whatever you didn’t complete from the previous and the new to-dos to the “schedule.” Rinse and repeat. This works well in the office. It prevents the scattering of forces that often happens when emails come in and one starts working on five things at once. When the mental multitasking urges begin to simmer, one can refer to the “Schedule” and get back on track. The main difference between college and work is that to-dos or problem sets are called “action items.” I think this is funny for some reason. Probably because action seems to be the last thing anyone is doing in an office. I like this method and will continue to utilize it.

Memory Palace

This is a method of memorizing information that provides little utility in the office. There are no exams, so there is little need to memorize things. The memory palace theory of learning is one of the earliest methods of memorization, used before things were compulsively recorded in ink. It involves first visualizing a familiar spacial location and a path within the location. It could be a palace, or a childhood home, or a familiar street. If you want to remember a grocery list, for example, you begin in the first place, hence the expression “in the the first place” and you imagine the item in a crazy, lewd, outlandish situation. Suppose the first item is socks. You create in your mind’s eye a pile of socks the size of a car, the rotting smell of clothes taken from a gym locker you’re cleaning out after two months, and even some of the socks are crawling around, like maggots. That’s an image you probably won’t forget. The whole point is to take the banal and turn it into a memorable image. Anyway, the time this is useful in the office place is when you need to memorize a speech, otherwise it’s useless.

Brown Noise

On a spectrum of focus capability of 1 to 10, 1 being a caffeinated child and 10 being a caffeinated law student, I am probably a 4 on the dullest scientific papers to a 9 when working on Prezi. I think I have the focus capabilities of a normal college student. I have always subscribed to the 50 minutes on, 10 minutes off studying routine. On an uninterrupted afternoon, this method with provide three hours of focused work in before fatigue sets in. Nonetheless, there are nights that demand even more hours of focus to study or write a paper and sometimes deadline anxiety isn’t enough to maintain focus.

A friend recently introduced me to Simply Noise, a site that provides ambient noise tracks. The three basic ones are white noise, pink noise, and brown noise. It is helpful for light sleepers and people who have Tinnitus, but it also amplifies focus such to allow two plus hours of writing or studying. I tried it out. Like magic, the temptations of email, facebook, and stumbleupon were drowned out by brown noise, for me, the most agreeable track.

I have always read that the ability to focus is a result of mental conditioning and discipline, so listening to white noise and acquiring an artificial focus I thought must side-effects. I looked around google and google scholar and could not find anything substantial. In infants, it can lead to memory and focus problems, but there is no literature on adverse side-effects on adults. However, one of the studies discussed the effects of high levels of caffeine and auditory hallucinations. The study had participants listening to white noise after consuming caffeine. They were told that spliced into the white noise track was the song “White Christmas” and that when they heard the song being played, they were to signal the instructor. “White Christmas” was never put into the track, but many participants signaled that they heard it. So, one possible side-effect of Simply Noise for college students is your mind inserting arbitrary songs into your study session.