Becoming a Rapid Learner, Part 2/6: Productivity

Reading time: 6 minutes

Last week I started with Scott H. Young course Rapid Learner.

Rapid Learner is a course that guides you through a strategy for learning almost anything as effectively and efficiently as possible. Great for any student or a professional who wants to deepen their knowledge about a certain topic.

In my first post, I explained how Rapid Learner is structured and what you can expect from it. Make sure you catch up on that first. In the same post, I also reviewed the first week’s module and how I would improve it.

Week Two: Productivity

One thing is having a plan. But following it is a whole new matter.

This week tackles the problem of procrastinating and spending time unproductively. It introduces two fundamental productivity systems. These are made to help you know precisely when and what you should be doing at any given time.

Productivity systems are for everyone. They are especially useful if:

  • You have a plan, but don’t know how to start or continue.
  • You are often overwhelmed or have feelings of guilt and burnout.

A sound system will help you identify the steps you need to take every day to reach your goal. Once you can identify bite-sized tasks, the system will tell you exactly when you should and shouldn’t be working. Productivity is important, but if your system doesn’t take rest into account, you will burn out and quit. We want a system to help us achieve goals and not overwork us to an early grave.

What Exactly Is A Productivity System?

Broadly speaking, a productivity system is a framework of limitations you impose on yourself.

  • Finishing your work by 5:30
  • Having a checklist to do before you call it a day
  • Using a Kanban board

Within this framework, you typically have habits and methods.

A habit is a reoccuring activity that helps you stay on track. This could be planning your work the day before, turning off your phone while working, or even eating well and exercising.

Methods are tricks to help your brain focus on the task. For instance, one straightforward method could be the Pomodoro technique. Methods could also be bargains like rewarding yourself with 15 minutes of video games for every hour of study. Or they could be grand gestures like going to the library even though you could study at home.

Content In This Module

The core lesson and the quick guide of this week teaches you the Weekly/Daily Goals productivity system and how to implement it in your life. Everything else is taught in auxiliary lessons.

  1. The first auxiliary lesson is about the Fixed-Schedule productivity system. Scott recommends you try them both. You can even create a hybrid system.
  2. Improve Your Energy: Scott teaches you all the ways you can improve your energy in your life. Some of the things are rather basic, and some are somewhat advanced. It is similar to what I have written in my post about Purpose Lock.
  3. Kill Procrastination: A few methods for how to muster your willpower and start working.
  4. Make Productivity a Habit: Why do productivity systems fail? Scott presents three main reasons and how to fix them.
  5. The Calendar Look-Ahead Method: A way to upgrade your weekly/daily goals system.
  6. Troubleshooting Weekly/Daily Goals: This section answers some of the most common questions regarding the weekly/daily goals system.

Review

The module was informative, though not as replayable as the first week. Creating new habits is crucial for productivity systems to work. Because of this, it might take you quite some time to see the benefits of your system.

The Good

  1. Productivity systems can get complex. They can become rigid and overly-specific, thus useful only for certain situations. Luckily, Scott kept it simple. He presented only two systems that are comprehensive and applicable to any type of work. You can later use them as a backbone to build more specific systems.
  2. Anticipating and mitigating bad days. There are days when you simply aren’t as motivated and productive. The course teaches you a few methods of how to turn these bad days into average days, and average days into good days.
  3. The course also touches on how to make a habit out of your productivity system. Building a new habit is hard. The module makes this proces much easier, even though the course guidelines are rather simple.

The Bad

There is only one thing I disliked in this module: not enough focus was given on resting and relaxing. Although it was briefly mentioned that you should take “smart breaks” while working, no principles were given for how I should structure my time outside of work. Having deep face-to-face conversations, playing board games, or going on a hike is a better way to rest and relax than it is to watch TV series or play computer games. The way you rest influences how you work. I’ve explained this in-depth in my article here (available on 7.5.2020).

Potential Improvements

  1. I would include more productivity systems. From my understanding, Scott only uses these two. Still, having a dozen more presented could help some people find the one that really works best with them.
  2. I would also describe principles of how to productively spend your free time. A productive free time doesn’t mean you actually work during your time off. It simply means that you return to work in a better shape than when you left it. A lot of people do this part wrong. So I believe having some guidelines for what constitutes a proper downtime could benefit this module a lot.

How it Helped me

Going in this course, I was already familiar with productivity systems and tactics. Still, I managed to find some bits of information that are useful for my current situation.

Overworking

My main problem with productivity was overworking. I generally don’t have a problem logging in the hours and staying focused. However, I always neglect the work-rest equation and eventually come crashing down. This is not good for long-term productivity.

I gave Fixed-Schedule productivity a try. It is still in the experimental phase, but I love the idea that my day has a clear stopping point. Beyond that point, all work is forbidden. This introduces time-scarcity.

For instance, I value making good blog posts. I like to take my time polishing them. However, once I introduce a deadline, I only have a few hours to write and refine my posts. This forces me to stay intensely focused on the task at hand because I know I don’t get a second chance. Once the timer is up, the post goes online.

This opened up more time for me to work on my other passions. Drawing and composing. Activities that I otherwise love to do but often get pushed aside because of my ambitions.

The main problem I have with fixed-schedule productivity is that I can’t implement it most of the time. I am a student who works part-time as a software engineer. On the days that I work or study, I pretty much have to log in 12 to 14 hour a day to finish everything that I want. It is simply not possible for me to work for 8 hours, study, do writing exercises, craft blog posts, and still have free time.

Mitigating Bad Days

On some days, I just don’t feel like working. I still do – but I am lazy, and the work is either not as good or takes me too much time to complete. To shift these bad days to average days, I now use some of the methods that this module taught me. With their help, I can combat unpleasant emotional states and distractions more easily. They help me muster my focus when the focus is scarce.

Then, there are moments or tasks where I am in a state of deep procrastination. When I simply don’t want to do the activity because I don’t value it. Scott briefly touched on deep procrastination. But I go more in-depth in my post about four deadlocks of productivity.

Smart Rests

Resting while working can get very problematic. Done incorrectly, a break can completely neutralize your flow and introduce new distractions in your work. Though I have already written about this, Scott gave me a few new ideas to try.

Conclusion

This week focuses on two main and fundamental productivity systems. Essential if you are just starting with productivity. These two can be used by anyone. A creative professional, a student, or even a stay at home mom (or dad). Scott also mentions some ways you can alleviate the initial discomfort of starting to work, as well as some ways you can make your productivity system a habit.

In the end, the productivity system is nothing more than a few limitations and a set of questions you ask yourself every day.

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