In yesterday’s post, I gave you some tips on how to make difficult things easier.
Solving the difficult problem is fun but getting yourself enough time to take on the challenge is where we struggle.
With enough perseverance, you’ll figure anything out if you keep doing it every day.
The easiest way to show up every day is to make sure you’re in the mood to work each day.
I covered why you need a good night’s sleep.
Without it, you won’t give your brain a chance to take on your task.
We then discussed food as fuel for your brain. I don’t have a diet recommendation, but how you eat affects how you work.
Before talking about the benefits of waking up early. No one will distract you at 5am.
Today’s post will explain how having:
- A quiet place to work
- A clean space to work
- Small breaks between blocks of work
- Three litres of water each day
Can make taking on difficult tasks so much easier.
Get a quiet place to work
I used to think as long as your ass was in the seat you’re making progress.
But this isn’t true.
You need to remove all distractions and have a quiet place to work.
The fewer distractions you have, the quicker you can achieve a flow state.
A flow state is what will determine the quality of your work.
Flow is where you get lost in your work. It’s that moment where you look at the clock shocked because an hour has went past.
There are a few ways I’ve noticed myself and others betray themselves with this.
One is having something on in the background while they work.
Some people like to put the TV on in the background
Even if you’re not watching it, the sounds and the images are still being picked up by your brain.
You’re getting distracted from solving the problem.
Having the TV on is a way to hide from facing the problem straight on.
Instead of wresting with your difficult task, you end up jumping around it.
It feels like you’re working, but you’re just disguised procrastinating.
Same with music. If your music has lyrics, it’s difficult to get focused and flow.
People not getting any work done even though they’re busy
In my university, there were people who would complain about always being busy and getting no work done. These people would go to social areas to study.
Places where people would talk.
In these areas you could tell yourself you had done work that day. But you’d spend most of the time talking to other people or losing your focus because of another person’s conversation.
You could say “Great, I did six hours of work there” but the reality is you were just in a room for six hours. You maybe only did half an hours work.
In offices, people love to play music over speakers to seem hip. But this kills your focus.
In a past job I brought this up, and I might as well have said I was a witch in the 18th century. It’s not cool to hate on the office speaker. But it stops people from working.
If we want to take on a difficult problem, we need quiet.
Give yourself a quiet place to work and you become a lot more effective.
Turn everything off and just have your work. In the beginning, it will suck. It’s scary facing your work head on. But before you know it, you’re time will be over.
One hour of work in a quiet environment is much better than four hours of working with distractions.
A practical tip for this is get a pair of sound proof headphones.
That way you can try to get some quiet even if your environment is mental.
You’ll wonder how you’ve worked with any noise at all.
A clean space to work
One of the big mistakes I made for the first month and a half of building Streakoid was working in a messy office.
I moved back from London to my parents and took over the front room in our house which has papers, documents and books everywhere.
Beggars can’t be choosers so I made the most of the space.
But sitting in their surrounded by unorganised papers and books makes everything seem hectic and out of control.
I was more stressed than usual and I couldn’t figure out why.
It was only when I moved into a different room with only a desk, my monitor, and a laptop that working on Streakoid felt more calm.
When I look back over my last five years, the state of my room has reflected how my projects are going.
When my projects were going well, my room was clean.
If I let my room get messy, my life felt messy, and this made the project feel messy.
Keep your workspace organised.
Like a quiet place, a clean place keeps the distractions to a minimum.
Small breaks between blocks of work
For the last three months, I’ve worked in two-hour blocks of undistracted programming time.
I did four two-hour blocks and switched to three-hour blocks in the last week.
I have a simple system of taking a break every two hours to get 750ml of water (the size of my water bottle) and a cup of coffee.
These breaks are important because if you push your brain too hard in one session it’s done for the day.
Two hours works for me because the timer I use Forest maximum time is two hours.
I find I’m restless by the end of that time, anyway. That’s appears to be my limit.
You might do more or less than two hours. Experiment to find your limit.
Break your day into blocks
When you’re concentrating on a difficult task and enter a flow state, your brain uses a lot of energy, so it’s nice to give it a rest to dumb out.
A good thing about these blocks is that it’s easy to know how much work you’re doing each day.
They also make building your routine easier.
It’s much simpler to add a two-hour block to your calendar than it is to add two 45-minute sessions and one 30-minute session.
Make your blocks of time as long as they can be. I’d recommend at least an hour to give yourself time to enter a flow state.
The good thing of thinking in blocks of time is that it forces you to figure out a way to get an undisturbed amount of time, changing your life to fit in a block.
There are a few things to watch out for here.
You need to make sure you stop when the timers up.
It’s tempting to continue working when you’re making progress. But if you keep going, you will end up not knowing when to stop.
You’re two hours will turn into three hours.
This ruins your routine.
You need to keep things simple. I like to take a note of what I was doing and take a break. Taking a note lets you get back to work quick during your next block.
Be careful with your breaks.
A problem I’ve had over the last three months is that I’m not strict with my breaks. I should set a timer but I don’t. Which often leads to me watching a YouTube video or trying to nap.
My brain clings to these breaks and keeps persuading me “just one more video”.
I’m most effective when I drink my water and have a coffee and then get back to work straight away.
The longer your break, the less likely you’ll be to get back to work.
Three litres of water
One of the big successes of Streakoid for me is that it’s got me drinking three litres of water each day for the first time in my life.
I’ve been wanting to drink water for years, but I never had a system to follow.
I’d say to myself “I need to drink more water” and for one or two days I would but then I’d forget.
But drinking three litres each day means my brain is functioning.
It’s only now that I’ve started drinking water that I realise how dehydrated I was.
To make sure I drink more water, I follow a simple system.
Before I start a block of work, I drink 750ml from a plastic water bottle, and I have a coffee.
I have four two-hour blocks for programming and one 45minute block for writing.
Which means I’m drinking over three litres. I don’t have to set any reminders or alarms. I know before I work I drink.
Because it’s so simple I can follow it.
The more complicated your system is the less likely you are to follow it. Don’t over-complicate it.
Everyday I track if I’m drinking water with Streakoid. I don’t want to break the streak of drinking water. I’m on 50 days now, which is huge for me.
I also do a team streak with my sister. A team streak is where if one of us doesn’t drink water we both lose our streak.
We’re on three weeks in a row. We’re both so afraid of losing the streak we send messages reminding each other to drink water.
A few nights I’ve found my sister in the kitchen in the evening slamming water because she didn’t get a chance that day.
You’ll pee in a lot when you do this. I’ve warned you.
Part 3 will continue tomorrow.