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Things I’ve learned from MIT’ing

March 6, 2010

Thanks Airlia Day.

“Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.”
Sun Tzu quotes (Chinese General and Author, b.500 BC)

Over the last twenty four days, I have learnt a lot about productivity. All of it valuable. To summarise here is what I have learnt:

  • We overestimate what can be done in a day.

This is has to have been the greatest lesson that I have learnt. I thought that just by writing the things I wanted to get done that day, that it would effortlessly get them done. This has not been the case. In fact, I have got a lot less than done than I have hoped.

  • Routine is vital.

Some days I get, I’m refreshed, I feel good, and I just get on with them. However, if I don’t, I’m in a hurry, and I have lectures, soon enough the morning has gone  and I no longer am working productively.

  • I’m most productive in the morning, most creative in the evening.

There is a big difference between productivity and creativity. I hate working in the evenings. I absolutely detest it. I feel so much better when I’ve got the things done that I said I would, and am ready to take on the rest of the day.

  • Lectures are largely a waste of time.

This is something I have suspected and written about in the past however, I really thing that unless we each have a clearly defined agenda of what we want to get out of lectures, they become mostly a waste of time. You probably only learn about 10% of all that is said. Personally I don’t think that is worth my time.

  • Learning by doing assignments is far more effective.

I have found that we learn far quicker by doing tasks set to us, then working out how to do it, rather than finding out how to do it, then going and working on it.

  • Working in 30-40 minutes intervals followed by a 10-15 minute break is fantastic for productivity.

I tried this procrastination hack on the blog Zen Habits and it really is phenomenal how much this helps to getting things done.

  • Work Smart, not hard.

This has probably been the overlying theme of all of this. Its the idea that working smarter, experimenting with your own self will do wonders in the end, rather than going with the herd. I have found that it really is only productive to work 4 maybe 5 hours a day. No more.

This reduction in time forces you to focus, and do only the essential to getting the job done. After about the 4 hour mark, unless I’m truly loving what I’m doing, I get bored, and begin to waste time.

For instance, today, I had three things that I wanted to get done. However, I went rowing first thing this morning, and didn’t get up early enough to even start any of my MITs. This you could say is due to laziness that I am now writing this and not doing the tasks, but my argument is, that why work when you’re tired, uninspired and just don’t feel like doing it? The quality of the work probably won’t be that good, and I always much prefer to work whilst alert, and willing. Why put yourself through that? Life is supposed to be enjoyable, well that’s what I’ve decided at least.

That is pretty much the main bulk of what I have learnt over the last few weeks and I think this has been seriously valuable to me. I suggest that you make it a habit of writing down just three things that you want to accomplish the next day (or first thing in the morning right after you get up).

So what am I going to do with these lessons learned?

Next week, I am not going to go to any lectures, or meetings of any kind (except rowing) until I have completed my three tasks. After all they’re all based on getting assignments done, I didn’t remember there being any prerequisite that says in order to pass the course you have to go to lectures.

So, next week I am going to be questioning the assumption that you need to go to lectures to learn the course, and testing to see if this strategy works. I will keep you posted!

AC out.

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