Productivity, habits, and hacking— oh my!
Today’s Sunday Mālama came from talking story with an Alaka‘i Manager who had followed my writing during I time when I was deeply into productivity hacking. It can get to be quite an addiction! This manager had also participated in a pilot project I led for the Ho‘ohana Community, which integrated GTD with Stephen R. Covey’s 7 Habits of Effective People, so we had quite a history to compare notes-since-then about. If you are unfamiliar with it, GTD stands for the Getting Things Done philosophy authored and coached by David Allen.
In our conversation, the manager shared what he felt our project had solidified for him in his productivity habits. He then asked what my core habits were now, and I told him about my daily routine with Ma‘alahi Mornings and Mahalo Nights, defining them briefly for him.
There is an innate drive to organize in every good manager, and there is never really an end in sight with the productivity hacking we do. We tweak constantly, and Alaka‘i Managers seek to Ho‘omau and Ho‘ohana their way through their hacking— they persist, and they passionately personalize for the intentional work they love. That’s part of the fun and games within any obsession, don’t you think?
Similar to what we covered earlier this month, in regard to self-managing before presuming to manage others, submitting management processes to productivity hacking will invariably key in on individual habits, daily routines and their effectiveness on whatever you seek to accomplish. This may also sound familiar to you: You are Your Habits, so Make ‘em Good!
I love order.
Without it, even a semblance of order will do.
Anaïs Nin said, “In chaos, there is fertility.”
I can see that, for I can visualize the creative potential when there is an abundance of just about anything. What I naturally start to look for in chaos, is some kind of pattern, or some kind of connection.
If chaos is fertility, order is birth.
As Friedrich Nietzsche said, “You must have chaos within you to give birth to a dancing star.”
I was born with the gene of obsessive organizing, and my parents doggedly nurtured it in me. I’m their eldest of five, and they needed my help in corraling the behavior of my younger siblings.
With management my career path of choice, my obsessive need to organize everything turned its sights on whatever workplace culture I happened to be in, to the great relief of my brothers and sister, with habit-building and the value alignment of fostering healthy workplace culture my desirable, and hopefully more predictable deliverables.
My stint with productivity hacking occurred after Managing with Aloha was published and my entry into the world of blogging began. The web has memory, and to this day I still get traffic from a 2007 Zen Habits reference to MWA as one of “The Top 50 Productivity Blogs,” on which number 3 was awarded to Lifehack.org, a site I wrote eighty different ‘management hacking’ articles for, including I believe, the very first iterations of the self-management and self-leadership affirmations we are now calling our Alaka‘i Batch 24.
I love good habits for their predictable rhythm.
The rhythm of a productive working routine creates momentum. I also love good habits for their zooming effect. Once you decide to adopt new learning by specifically designing that learning into your chosen habits, you no longer need to deliberate or think much more about them, especially when your habit design has included value alignment. You just do them and move on — you zoom.
To ‘hack’ the zooming effect even further, you make it a daily habit, and not an occasional one. That’s where Ma‘alahi Mornings and Mahalo Nights come into play for me. They are habits which frame each and every day for me like bookends.
Sidebar: I think the greatest single lesson I took away from GTD was using @context to batch my ‘occasional’ habits with relevancy. If you’ve read Getting Things Done, you know what I’m talking about: Vocabulary and Language of Intention factor into all culture-building philosophies and not just Managing with Aloha.
The Ma‘alahi Morning is my version of what some people call “miracle mornings.” It value-aligns with my Pono preparations for each day.
The Mahalo Night is my version of what many people do as “gratitude journaling” each night. My practice is more of a Mahalo curation of my day before I thankfully and appreciatively succumb to a good night’s sleep.
In our Glossary, Ma‘alahi is defined as, “A word we’ll often use to describe the feeling of contentment and personal well-being associated with the value of Pono. Ma‘alahi is a pervasive persuasion toward calm, peace, and serenity.”
I’m someone with lists upon lists of what I want to accomplish, and my Ma‘alahi Morning is designed to calm me down and point me in a timely direction with the right focus, resulting in the Pono alignment I want to zoom ahead with that day.
Classic morning person to the extreme, I wake up before sunrise. In comparison, I’m pretty much brain dead once late night arrives, even if it looks like I’m still awake. So the often-touted productivity advice, which claims the best thing a manager can do is organize her day the night before, is ineffective for me. Whenever I’ve tried it, I look at my plan the next morning, and invariably think, “What in the world was I thinking?” and stop to plan all over again in my much clearer morning frame of mind.
That, my friends, is the hack you need to apply to all productivity tips: Ask yourself, “Will this work for me?” It’s the only example I can think of, where the hesitant response of, “Yeah, but…” may actually work in your favor and not be a possibility robber — if you’re going to speak those words, speak them to yourself in self-coaching, and seek to fulfill your own wants and needs.
My Ma‘alahi Mornings employ habit-stacking, where one action moves into the next without my even thinking about it:
- Wake about 5:30am with 5 minutes of stretching.
- Brush teeth, wash face etc… dress for the day.
- To the kitchen to prep my first cup of coffee. This isn’t about the caffeine for me, for I don’t need it. It’s about the routine of it all, which now includes pulling an affirmation from my Alaka‘i Batch 24 jar for the day’s inspiration. I’m usually looking out the window afterwards, having my coffee as I watch the sunrise with Ka lā hiki ola reverence.
- Let the dog out, and take a nature break in the garden with more stretching exercises.
- Sit to write my morning pages (the Julia Cameron practice).
- Do at least an hour of what I think of as my “other writing” projects, such as these blog posts, and my writing for Ke Ola Magazine.
- Work at least an hour on my most important task planned for the day.
Only when all that is done, will I check my email and answer phone calls, or resume with my first scheduled appointment for the day. For those of you who know I’ve long been a runner, that’s exercise I now prefer to do in the late afternoon or early evening, committing my mornings to writing more.
As for the business of Say Leadership Coaching, there is a lot of day left!
James Altucher, the author of Choose Yourself, describes his daily practice this way:
“Every day, work on physical health (exercise), emotional health (strengthening your relationships), mental health (creativity), spiritual health (solving “difficult gratitude problems” and cultivating compassion).
If I just do this every day, I know I will bounce back very fast from any hardship.”
When I first read that, I immediately thought of Palena ‘ole (number 9 of our 9 Key Concepts) for we speak of those same ‘unlimited capacities’ while leaving them open to personal interpretation. Spiritual health for example, can simply mean before-bed reading for someone. The four-fold capacities frame a good consideration to reflect upon, with how you might want to complete each and every day with the measure of completion which feels good to you.
I for one, have always loved the thought behind ending one’s day with a gratitude journal, and I wish that were enough for me. It’s not. I need to wrap up the day with a bigger bow, and with this nagging need I have to curate well: Curate, and Be Curated. I find it adds to Mahalo for me in a wonderful way, helping me to relish whatever accomplishment I achieved each day in a notebook I have titled My Book of Days.
My Mahalo Nights practice is a simple journal entry made in that notebook, with a template I adopted from Todd Brison’s suggestion regarding ‘micro-journaling.’ I’ve told you I get brain dead at night, but this I can manage!
- I write the day and date.
- I write the one thing I am most grateful for in that moment.
- I write a list of what I feel was good about my day. Simple list on what, and I don’t bother explaining why— I know why. It might be a list of 2 things, 5 things or 10 things, no matter and no forcing it; it’s whatever immediately comes to mind in fulfilling my need to capture it.
- I close my journal, and wrap my day with a bow, so to speak, with a gratitude prayer. My prayer often turns out to be something different from what I initially wrote down, for my Mahalo has grown just within the short process.
Lights out. Another day comes to a good close.
Related Reading, for the productivity inclined with more of Managing with Aloha in mind:
- You are Your Habits, so Make ‘em Good!
- Managerial Batching: 1, 2, 5 and 7
- Curate, and Be Curated
- Curating Value Alignment
- Banish Your Possibility Robbers
Sunday Mālama has been when I will share my off-the-workplace-highway scenic route kind of posts. Not as a normal weekly feature, but whenever they seem to be writing themselves. You can access the Sunday Mālama archives via this category link, also residing on the right-hand sidebar.