Thinking more and writing less is, of course, about all things content — the work we content folks do. It’s also about how we do that work. Sometimes, the “how” is content-specific; sometimes, you can apply it to anything. Productivity is one of those “hows” that you can apply to anything.
For most of the past four months, I’ve spent my “free” time focusing on productivity as a participant in Lifehack Bootcamp. For me, productivity has always been something of an obsession — new tools, methods, tips, and tricks attract me like a crow to tinfoil — and, as it turns out, almost as productively. I’ve perfected the role of “productivity scholar” — I know a LOT of stuff — without becoming much (if any) more efficient, effective, or happy… in other words, productive.
I have something of a reputation for “doing a lot of stuff” and being really “active” in a lot of things, so it was, frankly, with some amount of embarrassment that I entered the bootcamp. What attracted me? And pushed me over the edge? First, while I want to do all of the stuff I’ve been doing, I want to be better at it — more reliable, more effective, more efficient, and WAY less overwhelmed by all of it all of the time. Second, the bootcamp relies on an accountability model (a la Weight Watchers and other groups where you have to, for example, “face the scale” every week), which I suspected would work well for me.
Now that I’ve graduated, I want to share some of the things that I’ve learned –in this post, that real accountability works, at least for me. By real accountability, I mean sincere, truthful accountability. It doesn’t work if you lie to yourself and your accountability buddy or group — or whatever mechanism you choose to hold yourself accountable. But if you’re honest, and have even the smallest conscience, you’ll make progress if you find someone or something to “answer to.”
In the bootcamp, having an accountability buddy with frequent, regular check-ins made a big difference for me. This buddy was someone I didn’t know until we started our buddy calls. As it turned out, we were in a similar place in our journey toward productivity, so we could relate to one another’s struggles and (I think) be more supportive. We “met” (by phone) for ~5 minutes twice each weekday — yes, you read that right: TWICE PER DAY — to declare our intentions (in detail) for the day each morning and share a retrospective on our accomplishments (or lack thereof) each evening, including reflecting on what caused any lack and how we could overcome those the next day.
What made this work:
- Knowing I had to face someone improved my focus substantially
- It was a BIG commitment to make the calls, and someone (my buddy) would know if I didn’t follow through
- I was honest with myself and my buddy about my accomplishments AND my trips, slips, and falls
- Because my buddy was not “my friend,” he didn’t let me make excuses or “slide by”
- The short span of time between calls meant that I couldn’t get too far off track without admitting it to someone — thus I could make smaller, easier, mid-course corrections and not get completely overwhelmed by how derailed I was
The results of being held accountable are many — big and small — but the result with the most impact for me was habit formation. In the bootcamp, buddy calls are centered on accountability for completing morning and evening routines, and these routines are the foundation of focus needed for productivity gains. By “forcing” the regular practice of these routines, several habits have begun for me that help ensure my focus on doing the right things every day, one day at a time.
Now that the bootcamp is over, my buddy and I are establishing a new routine — twice-per-week calls — both of us feeling that the accountability we have enjoyed with one another is a key to keeping us on track.
I have a lot to say (rant about?) on this subject. I will take this conversation into the rant realm in a separate post.
In the meantime, take a look at Michelle Corbin’s post about technical editing. You will find it interesting.
I started this blog to separate my professional content from my personal content (primarily quilting, SCUBA diving, and dog training and enthusiasm — if you are interested in that content, visit ItsaBlog). As of today, I’m transitioning to this one for the weighty content, but there are still a couple of related posts on my other blog that might be of interest:
My goal is to get some conversation going, perhaps even to be a bit controversial and raise your ire a bit. In response, as Craig Ferguson (@CraigyFerg) says on The Late Late Show, I look forward to your letters. Or comments, tweets, blog posts, or whatever conversational form you prefer.
While most of my rants apply as well to any technical profession, I will state my opinions in the context of practitioners in the roles that (supposedly) make easier the lives of consumers of technical or specialized products, processes, or services. This includes technical writers and editors, information architects, content strategists, user experience professionals, and visual designers, as well as a plethora of additional job titles and role descriptions that I collectively think of as “technical communicators.”
I know that lots of the folks in these professions disagree with my categorization (I look forward to your letters/comments), but I hope not to degenerate too quickly into a discussion of what we call ourselves. I suspect, however, that the inevitable discussion of our seemingly perpetual identity crisis is coming… 🙂
You might be asking, “Why think more, write less when I don’t write?” Mostly because
Think More, Write|Design|Do Whatever It Is That You Do Less
seemed a bit verbose for a blog title. Think More, Write Less is much catchier and is not the old, standby “work smarter, not harder” aphorism. (I watch folks’ eyes glaze over when they hear that phrase.) Also, I do have a small bias toward the word-oriented practices within technical communication, so most folks who know me will associate me more with writing, I suspect.
Hopefully the posts to come will resonate with you, regardless of how you think of yourself and your role in the context of the user experience of technical and specialized products, processes, and services.