Revamp and renewal of my approach to work

My organization system went through a revamp last weekend. The revamp was coming because of three reasons (i.e. the “why?”)

– I was running out of capacity to work on projects I really cared about – a sure sign that something is wrong
– I was beginning to feel my current style wouldn’t be sustainable once I stop being a bachelor (i.e. in 2 months) – a sign that I needed to change the way I thought of work and these inspiration projects
– I felt I was getting caught in the “busy” trap for way too long. I’d have to go back more than a year for a weekend when I just chose to do nothing and recharge – another sure sign of something being wrong

There were a bunch of insights that formed the foundation for this change.

Bursts vs drip, and remarkability. Cal Newport had a very good post on his blog on a potential link between bursts and remarkability.
Ties in with my recent observations that exceptional knowledge work happens only when you have plenty of downtime.

Stillness and wisdom. I blogged about this a month back.

Need for reflection for 2nd level insights. The learning lies in the reflection. I wasn’t setting aside enough time to just reflect. There’s no point repeatedly doing something if you aren’t  taking the time to learn and focus on what matters.

Building skills at work deliberately vs unintentionally. I realized I was building skills at work unintentionally instead of deliberately. This means I was relying on working on the right kinds of projects to get better rather than having an agenda of my own that I was deliberately working towards.

Work flows and costs of switching. These are recent observations that seem to support the work in “bursts” way of thought. I’m beginning to sense that switching between tasks takes a lot more out of me than I initially thought.

That drives me to the point of creating work flows where you bunch together similar types of thinking activities to make getting things done a smoother process. I intend to explain this in detail one of these days.

So, what has changed?

Start of tracking skills at work. This is in early stages of experimentation. The steps taken so far have been to put together a set of specific skills that apply to a consulting Associate (structure/break down a complex problem, synthesis/boil a vast amount of information to it’s specifics, Excel, PowerPoint, and presentation). I’ve started working on creating some learning and training schedules for each of these skills.

In addition, I’m beginning to believe in the fact that there need to be general skills that help anybody in any knowledge work – Communication and a great work process. These are the sort of work skills we gain in our first internships. This is still a thought-in-progress.

Downtime focus between Mon-Fri. Downtime. Stillness. Reflection.

I schedule nothing aside from admin tasks and daily must-do-habits. I used to inevitably crunch through my task list whenever I found time. This has radically changed the way I view a working week and I’m loving it.

Sunday as a burst day. Sunday was always effectively a working day. This just makes it into a day of “bursts.” The idea going forward would be to do this on 2 sundays every month – let’s see.

Saturday as a day of fasting. Intellectual fasting i.e. no email and work. I managed to pull this off for a while in the first 3 months last year and never managed to do it after that. I’m not ready to do it yet but is something I want to get to. No tearing hurry to get to this as yet.

What about the daily gamification system?

I still keep my daily points/gamification system. The main focus of this system has now changed to ensuring I get basic habits sorted – 20 mins of meditation, 20 mins of exercise, 30 mins book reading, and 8 hours of sleep.

Additionally, I have my morning “work flow – blog related (i.e. blog post + good morning quote) and email, and an evening flow involving studying writing and clearing email.

As far as work goes, I am now focused on deep skill work I’ve done in a day. I’m still working out a way to measure this. So, the only thing at work measured for now is that I stick to 3 hour gaps between accessing the web for google reader, email, etc.

This is a new experiment. I am really excited to see how it goes.