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The 'Now Habit' by Fiore & GTD

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  • The 'Now Habit' by Fiore & GTD

    Hi all,

    I just finished reading 'The Now Habit' by Fiore, trying to find a cure to my procrastination. and yet as GTD-er, I thought of asking you who read it for advice on implementing it right.

    1. Planing to use the Unschedule, one of the main principles should be not to work on your main project more than 20 hours a week. Well, I am a free-lance computer consultant and have a family to support, so I need around 20 billable hours a week to make it. Which means that on weeks where I have more duties, like fixing a bug for somebody, spending time preparing a complex qoute, or a long administrative task, I will be unable to allocate enough billable hours if I want to count these duties as unintrrupted-quality-work as well.

    2. There are next actions on my lists which I have the tendency to put off.
    now, the long project I am into, I can, as the book suggests, devide into half-hour chunks and reward myself with a pleasant activity afterwards, but what do you do with the short ones? (maybe I should do phone calls, for example, in an alternating order: Dreadfull one, nice one, unpleasant one, nice one).

    3. During the morning I get a lot of incoming phone-calls, asking for a qoute for a shelf product, or seeking support for a software they already bought, so naturally the proper time for programming is the afternoon, but if I devide my programming work to half hour chunks, with time for reward after each, I am afraid I will not be able to start early because of the phone calls I have to answer, and wan't have enough time to finish my qouta?

    Did you implement 'The Now Habit' strategy and the Unschedule?
    Can you share your insights and learnings with me?

    Thanks in advance,
    Mic
    Last edited by Mic; 05-09-2009, 02:20 PM.

  • #2
    Important details

    Mic,

    Thanks for providing specifics on what you do and how you spend your time. The devil is in the details with this stuff.

    I have a couple of questions for you. The first: are you currently generating 20 billable hours a week? If so, how are you accomplishing this? In large blocks of time? Small blocks of time? At the last minute? And, if you're not generating 20 billable hours a week, what are you managing?

    Second, can you define the problem a little more clearly? What is the specific outcome you want? Procrastinating is preventing you from achieving this outcome in what way specifically?

    I enjoyed our conversation about your gigantic Someday/Maybe list, and I'm looking forward to our conversation about this.

    Dan

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by Mic View Post
      1. Planing to use the Unschedule, one of the main principles should be not to work on your main project more than 20 hours a week. Well, I am a free-lance computer consultant and have a family to support, so I need around 20 payable hours a week to make it. Which means that on weeks where I have more duties, like fixing a bug for somebody, spending time preparing a complex qoute, or a long administrative task, I will be unable to allocate enough payable hours.
      I haven't read The Now Habit, so I may be confused about the terminology, but I'm not sure I understand this.

      Fixing bugs and preparing quotes are not part of your "main project," so the time spent doing these things doesn't count toward your 20 hour limit. Your "main project" is (presumably) billable work for a client.

      Katherine

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by Mic View Post
        1. Planing to use the Unschedule, one of the main principles should be not to work on your main project more than 20 hours a week.
        It's been a while since I've read The Now Habit, but I really did enjoy a lot of his advice especially with respect to keeping fears of failure in perspective. I don't think that the way Fiore accounts for hours should necessarily be applied to how hours are billed in your business. In the Now Habit you cannot count towards your 20 hours any stretches of work less than 30 minutes, nor work that was previously scheduled (meetings and such). You're "allowed" to do this kind of work, but it can't be counted as "unschedule" work - yet it is still billable time.

        2. There are next actions on my lists which I have the tendency to put off.
        now, the long project I am into, I can, as the book suggests, devide into half-hour chunks and reward myself with a pleasant activity afterwards, but what do you do with the short ones? (maybe I should do phone calls in an alternating order: Dreadfull one, nice one, unpleasant one, nice one).
        Or do them in batches and consider the entire batch a task. When you've done 30 minutes worth of "unpleasant" phonecalls then stop and reward yourself.

        3. During the morning I get a lot of incoming phone-calls, asking for a qoute for a shelf product, or seeking support for a software they already bought, so naturally the proper time for programming is the afternoon, but if I devide my programming work to half hour chunks, with time for reward after each, I am afraid I will not be able to start early because of the phone calls I have to answer, and wan't have enough time to finish my qouta?
        Again it's been a while, but I do not remember Fiore saying you have to reward yourself every half hour. The unschedule means that you schedule fixed things like meetings beforehand, as well as some fun leisure activities (reading, talking a walk, whatever) and then use the time in between as much as possible for uninterrupted quality work. You can only count as "uninterrupted" work that you've been doing for at least 30 minutes - so as I understand it you are "allowed" to work for longer stretches but can take breaks if you're psychologically resisting the task.

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by Dan Owen View Post
          I have a couple of questions for you. The first: are you currently generating 20 billable hours a week? If so, how are you accomplishing this? In large blocks of time? Small blocks of time? At the last minute? And, if you're not generating 20 billable hours a week, what are you managing?
          Well, some weeks I do generate 20 hours, or even more, but with difficulty, and usualy I manage doing it because I passed the deadline and am anxious enough of the possibility that the client will cancel the job. Till now, I usually did it in big chunks (and after delivering the job, I may suffer a few days procastinating on anything...)

          And some weeks I generate much less, like 10 hours or even less than that.

          Originally posted by Dan Owen View Post
          Second, can you define the problem a little more clearly? What is the specific outcome you want?
          I am trying to procude enough billable hours, but out of perfectionism and maybe low-self-esteem and fear of failure I procrastinate on jobs that I could do well. Furthermore, when I do some creative piece of programming I can work for hours and hours with no problem, but when its just boring, onerous and hard job - I just don't feel like starting with it.

          Originally posted by Dan Owen View Post
          I enjoyed our conversation about your gigantic Someday/Maybe list, and I'm looking forward to our conversation about this.

          Dan
          Thank you Dan for the encouragement, I also am looking forward to your reply.

          Mic

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by kewms View Post
            I haven't read The Now Habit, so I may be confused about the terminology, but I'm not sure I understand this.

            Fixing bugs and preparing quotes are not part of your "main project," so the time spent doing these things doesn't count toward your 20 hour limit. Your "main project" is (presumably) billable work for a client.

            Katherine
            Your are right, these things are not billable and are not part of my main project, but yet they do demand a long uninterrupted-quality-work, therefore, the way I understood it, the strategy of 'The now habit' recommends you should refrain from gathering more than 20 such hours a week, which in my situation, can be a problem.

            Mic

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by mackiest View Post
              As I understand it you are "allowed" to work for longer stretches but can take breaks if you're psychologically resisting the task.
              That is exactly my question. If I feel hard resistance to the task a hand, and feel I have to stop every 30 minutes to breath, and maybe do something I see as rewarding, or at least easier, it may strech the programming hours beyond the free of calls time (my afternoon).

              Maybe I should better start doing half-hour chunks of programming earlier, and then, if I get interrupted, that's OK (and it's a break!), and if I finished the half-hour (and many days it can succeed) - OK, even better.

              Mic

              Comment


              • #8
                The time issue is something that can often hinder me. I often work on large complex projects that require concentrated, focused work. The more laborious and complex the task, the more I noticed myself watching the clock. It's a real distraction.

                What has helped me tremendously is not watching the time. I don't mean throwing out your schedule, instead I actually physically mean "don't look at the time." I will set an alarm to notify me 10 minutes before my next scheduled event (or how much time I think I'll need) and then I hide any hint of the time. The alarm let's me relax and only focus on the project at hand instead of calculating how much time I've spent or how much time I have left. I have actually worked longer and more concentrated.

                I don't know if this in any way relates to what you're asking and if it doesn't, I apologize. This also doesn't address other distractions. For that I tell people to not bother me, which I can do unless it's a special circumstance.

                Comment


                • #9
                  I like Fioreís writing, because he emphasizes the importance of understanding the deeper emotional reasons why you procrastinate. Tips and tricks are fine, but self-awareness sets the stage for building new habits that capitalize on your strengths and work around your ďweaknesses.Ē

                  You describe the kinds of tasks youíre resisting in a few places: ďdreadfulĒ phone calls, ďunpleasantĒ phone calls, and ďboring, onerous and hardĒ projects. Iíd spend some time thinking hard about each of these items and trying to identify very precisely what it is about them that gives them these qualities Ė dreadful, unpleasant, boring, onerous, hard. This is the first step to devising strategies that strip these tasks of these problematic qualities.

                  Iíll give you an example from my own work. Part of my work involves estimating how long a job will take and making a proposal to a client that includes that estimate. When the actual task takes longer than I estimated, I may procrastinate doing ANYTHING having to do with that job because I want to avoid breaking the news to my client that my estimate was wrong. My anxiety around this kind of confrontation can sometimes be almost pathological: Iím capable of procrastinating so long and to such a degree that I create the very outcome that I dread the most.

                  Fiore advocates thinking backwards from the outcome you desire and compiling an action plan that gets you to that outcome. His argument is that you should worry if you feel you must, but donít stop with worrying: compile a plan and then execute it. (This goes hand-in-hand with one of his other principles: persistent starting. He advocates finding multiple, ďthree dimensionalĒ starting points and not letting the fact that you havenít yet started stop you from starting at any one of these points.)

                  You have two ways of moving against a task youíre resisting: you can execute a plan after youíve got a problem, or you can execute a plan before you have a problem. Whatever you do, itís helpful to write down the outcome you desire, the tools youíve got to execute the plan, and then each of the next action steps Ė the plan. (This is, by the way, pure GTD.) Then, as you begin to procrastinate, the work youíre resisting is no longer amorphous: itís specific, actionable, and concrete. You have multiple entry points for re-engaging if you chose to re-engage. Youíre free to worry and get caught up in all of the negative feelings that fuel procrastination.

                  Fioreís half-hour rule was not strong enough for me: when Iím in serious procrastination mode, I break my time into 15 minute blocks. I set a timer and I write down on a time sheet what I did during the previous 15 minute block every time the timer goes off. This is a tool for focusing my attention on the process and not getting lost in any activity. If I get engaged in the real work Iím trying to do, and no longer feel the pull of the activities I use to procrastinate, then I may keep working through successive 15 minute blocks, but only if my concentration is robust, not fragile. Iíll often keep a tally of how much time Iíve spent on real work. I write down my plan in checklist form, crossing off items as I complete them so that my progress through the list helps incentivize me. Sometimes I will take my Next Action plan and subdivide each next action into 15 minute blocks and cross THEM off the list as I complete them. These are powerful tools. They never fail to move me off the starting block.

                  One of the things Iíve discovered by creating very concrete plans for attacking projects Iím avoiding is that it is often only one small part of a project that Iím resisting. In a project with thirty next actions, I may be happy to do twenty-nine of them. (In the example above, itís writing the actual e-mail that breaks the news of the cost overrun to my client -- or, more precisely, not writing the e-mail but pushing the Send button.) In that case, I get to work on the parts of the project I donít have a problem with, and then bring my most powerful tools to bear on the one task that I have a real problem with.

                  Thereís something that youíve said here that I want to warn you about:

                  On weeks where I have more duties, like fixing a bug for somebody, spending time preparing a complex qoute, or a long administrative task, I will be unable to allocate enough billable hours if I want to count these duties as unintrrupted-quality-work as well.
                  I think youíre using a potential problem with Fioreís solution to avoid implementing a solution to your problem. (I do this too.) The fact is, the way youíre working now isnít working: itís costing you money and preventing you from supporting your family. The fact that a new approach may not work isnít a reason to not try it. If you donít try a new approach, you absolutely will not solve your problem. Iím sure youíve heard it before: if you keep doing what youíve always done, youíll keep getting what youíve always gotten. It may be that by using Fioreís Unschedule you may not be able to generate enough billable hours, but youíre not generating enough of them now from what youíve said. Learning effective habits while not generating enough billable hours is preferable, in my opinion, to not learning effective habits while not generating enough billable hours. Itís often impossible for people who donít have a problem with serious procrastination to grasp this reasoning, but itís essential to building new habits.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Dan Owen View Post
                    Iíd spend some time thinking hard about each of these items and trying to identify very precisely what it is about them that gives them these qualities Ė dreadful, unpleasant, boring, onerous, hard.
                    You are right, and I did that.

                    Originally posted by Dan Owen View Post
                    I want to avoid breaking the news to my client that my estimate was wrong.
                    I identify with that so much ...

                    Originally posted by Dan Owen View Post
                    Fiore advocates thinking backwards from the outcome you desire and compiling an action plan that gets you to that outcome..... The work you're resisting is no longer amorphous: itís specific, actionable, and concrete.
                    100% right, and it is much more start-able too. (GTD or not? )

                    Originally posted by Dan Owen View Post
                    Fioreís half-hour rule was not strong enough for me: when Iím in serious procrastination mode, I break my time into 15 minute blocks. I set a timer and I write down on a time sheet what I did during the previous 15 minute block every time the timer goes off. This is a tool for focusing my attention on the process and not getting lost in any activity. If I get engaged in the real work Iím trying to do, and no longer feel the pull of the activities I use to procrastinate, then I may keep working through successive 15 minute blocks, but only if my concentration is robust, not fragile. Iíll often keep a tally of how much time Iíve spent on real work. I write down my plan in checklist form, crossing off items as I complete them so that my progress through the list helps incentivize me. Sometimes I will take my Next Action plan and subdivide each next action into 15 minute blocks and cross THEM off the list as I complete them. These are powerful tools. They never fail to move me off the starting block.
                    That's very interesting and thought provoking. I nevertheless would like to ask if you use the rewarding part of the Unschedule and how? did you apply the weekly hour limit?

                    Originally posted by Dan Owen View Post
                    If you donít try a new approach, you absolutely will not solve your problem.
                    I truly agree with you, and thought the same myself before posting. Yet, I thought maybe somebody else will come up with a solution, maybe I should be widening the limit to 25 hours a week? maybe I should do that, but only after a few weeks of implementing Unschedule to the letter? or maybe something else?

                    Mic

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      I nevertheless would like to ask if you use the rewarding part of the Unschedule and how? did you apply the weekly hour limit?
                      Yes: 15 minutes of work, 15 minutes of reward. I don't place any daily or weekly limit on how much time I spend on tasks I'm resisting, although I'll say that since I started paying attention to my own patterns of procrastination, I've noticed that I procrastinate very specific kinds of projects and tasks. It's not a system-wide problem, and they don't usually require even as many as 20 hours to finish or fix. I'm generally extremely productive, and I spend a lot of time working. But when I do procrastinate the effects are quite destructive. I've found that identifying and isolating the tasks I procrastinate serves to protect other areas of my life from the damage caused otherwise.

                      As I said, you can execute a plan after you have a problem or before you have a problem, and I spend a lot of time now executing plans that prevent the procrastination-causing problem from happening in the first place. So, for example, in the example I gave above, I've changed the way I track my time and communicate with my clients so that I alert them to the inaccuracy of the estimate much earlier, even before I go over the estimate. That gives us both more choice in how to address the problem. I've also changed my estimating protocol and the way I work in general. Identifying the kinds of tasks that I procrastinate doing has completely changed my focus. This is one of the problems with using Tips and Tricks to address procrastination: those tricks may be effective, but they're fairly superficial in that they only address symptoms and not causes.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Dan Owen View Post
                        Yes: 15 minutes of work, 15 minutes of reward. ... I've noticed that I procrastinate very specific kinds of projects and tasks.
                        I assume you use this 15/15 work/reward pattern only for those specific kinds of projects and tasks, is that true?

                        And for reward what would you recommend, easy tasks or leisure type of things?

                        Mic

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          The complete system of 15 minute blocks, with all associated tasks, is an extremely powerful tool for creating momentum. Sometimes I use it when I'm procrastinating, sometimes I use it when I want to move forcefully through a pile of work that I'm not procrastinating but want to make sure I get done.

                          For reward tasks, I use anything that I know I'll enjoy doing. They're usually work-related tasks, but they could be pure leisure, like reading blog feeds for 15 minutes.

                          Mic, try this tomorrow for four hours and report back to us.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Dan Owen View Post
                            Mic, try this tomorrow for four hours and report back to us.
                            Dan, I liked your idea and started trying it already yesterday...

                            So, After doing it for many hours now, I felt a few things:

                            1. The very fact that I recorded what I was doing in each 15 minute block made me stick with more devotion to my goals.

                            2. As you said, a timer that goes off every 15 minutes wan't let you get carried away with any incidental task/engagement.

                            3. Having the ability to go back and look at your day pattern is instructive. I can't yet point to a specific learning, but I am sure in a few days time I will.

                            4. And most important, after writing that you just have done XYZ, the very fact that you know that in 15 minutes from now you'll have to write down that you did the same, unless you right away turn to something better, I feel that had the strongest influence on me not to prolong breaks and ad-hoc tasks like phone calls, meetings etc.

                            Right now I am not sure I will obey to the Unschedule weekly time limit and stop any unintrrupted-quality-work when I think I reached 20 hours this week. I feel that the very fact that I unscheduled so and so hours for leisure, excercise, being with the kids, sleeping in a mannered patern etc. pushes me enough to use my time for the best.

                            Not to mention the rewarding system (to overcome less pleasant tasks), and the project plan you mentioned (cutting the difficulty into bits).

                            And yes, I will continue with the 15 minute timer, I like it.

                            Well, I'll give this all a try and will see.

                            Mic

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Mic, I'm very happy that was helpful. Update us in a few days.

                              Comment

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