What to do if you don’t have more time to sleep

Sleeping Boy, Philippe Laurent Roland, 1774, jegornagel.com

Sleeping Boy, Philippe Laurent Roland, 1774

I am sleep deprived.

Usually my longest sleep period during working days lasts about up 6 hours with magnitude from 3 to 6. Falling asleep doesn’t take me longer than 5 minutes, laying my head on the pillow is always enough.

The official Multiple Sleep Latency Test (MSLT) say that it takes between 10-20 minutes to fall asleep for a healthy person. Any less than this and you are probably sleep deprived as I am. Any more than this indicates sleep onset insomnia, which means you have problems with falling asleep.

Minutes to fall asleep
Daytime Sleepiness Risk
0–5
Severe
5–10
Troublesome
10–15
Manageable
15–20
Excellent

Figures from Multiple Sleep Latency Test (MSLT) — Wikipedia

Sleep is essential to keep us alive and fully functional.

Sleep deprived people prove to be less productive, gain weight, tend to be moody, have cognitive impairment, and worse health overall.

The easiest and the most obvious advice for sleep deprived is — sleep more — which includes getting into bed earlier and waking up later. But, if you can’t allow yourself this luxury, you have to try to improve the quality of your sleep.

Prepare technically

Everything you know about preparing children for sleep works for adults too. Thus, it’s easy as it is:

  • Develop a ritual of falling asleep. It can be anything, but it must be repeated. For example, dinner, reading, warm shower, sleep.
  • Do not eat before sleep.
  • Change your pillow and mattress. They should be comfortable, but properly support your neck and body. Good mattress, silence, nice bed linen should set you to sleep.
  • Make your room cold. 18’C is just the right temperature to slow down the heart rate, digestion and help you fall asleep.
  • Remove any blue screen gadgets from the bedroom so that you can not physically read a little-Reddit-before-the-night-oh-my-god-it’s-already-three-in-the-morning!
  • Consider physical load during the day so that not only the head but also the body gets tired by the evening.

Turn off your body

Now you need to relax the muscles. To do this, consistently move your attention from one part of the body to the other. Begin with feet. Feel them, and then let the muscles relax. Raise attention to the body: relax the lower leg, hip, pelvis, lower abdomen, lower back, chest and back. Mentally “turn off” the body in parts, deliberately put it into sleep mode. When you go to your hands, carefully walk on each finger. Finish with the neck and head.

It takes about 7 minutes to complete this step, but you are not in a hurry — you want to prolong the falling asleep process. Which is already better than 3-5 minutes.

Keep it consistent

There is no better way to prepare your body for sleep than keeping a stable sleep schedule.

Why it’s important to store all your ideas

Hundreds of ideas cross my mind every day. Everybody is the same: always running and never stopping brain generates many concepts on a variety of things. I think about solutions to my tasks, ponder on ideas for new ads campaigns, and reflect upon the details of new projects. Though, the majority of those things stay unsaved, which means they are lost forever.

To prevent this inevitable loss, I created a special list in Trello app, where I put absolutely all ideas. This list includes absolutely everything without filtering or labeling ideas as “wrong”.

My philosophy is that interest is the best form to express respect. When I put my ideas on the list this means I listen to them.

Simple rules of storing ideas

So the rules are simple:

  • Write down all the ideas;
  • Do not throw away any idea;
  • Write add-ons to ideas if they come to mind;
  • Check the list of ideas during every half year reviews.

I can add details to cards of some ideas and develop them if I have additional thoughts. Thus, if I am ready to work on the idea or use it in any project, I will have some details, as I had already thought about it. Perhaps someone else will need an idea that I have already worked out, so I would be able to share.

Reasons to respect your ideas

I found it useful to store ideas, but here are some reasons to do so:

  • Ideas are nice to re-read in the future;
  • I will never forget about an idea that I may want to return to;
  • I get food for thoughts about what attracts me;
  • The process of describing the idea is the first step of implementing it to real life.

So, whenever you have an idea, put it on a list. Respect for personal ideas is proper self-respect.

Ways to clean Inbox and uncluttered life

clean inbox philosophy jegornagel.com

I have a principle: Clean Inbox.

Inbox is a list of tasks, unread letters, grocery list, list of problems, unclosed tabs in a browser, opened apps in-tray, etc.

They distract you, eat your creative energy, waste human potential and inhibit the rotation of the Earth.

The Inbox must be cleaned. We have two ways:

1. Remove all at once

Select all letters and remove, close all tabs in a browser, delete all unfinished lists. Frightened? I am. Though, if there was something important in one letter, people will find another way to contact me, or they’ll send it once more. If not, it wasn’t important.

2. Work through little by little

Open the first tab and work though it. Finished? Then close it and open the next. Open the first letter, write your answer, then open the next. Quietly, step by step, little by little. Soon you’ll discover that cleaned your inbox. You’re great!

I recommend the second way.

Kanban as the way to organize life and give up multitasking

Attention is a limited resource. Tasks, people, responsibilities, and deadlines all compete for your attention daily. Add Facebook, articles, movies, and you’re totally lost in a vast flood of distractions.

Here I am not going to give a productivity system that will change your life. I’d share something that worked for me, that’s easy to learn, keeps you organized, prevents you from multitasking. That’s personal kanban.

Kanban (看板) — literally signboard or billboard in Japanese. Originally, Kanban is a scheduling system for lean manufacturing and just-in-time manufacturing (JIT). It relies on cards, on which you write information, and a board, on which you arrange your cards.

Wikipedia

People are not manufactures, but the system can be applied. Personal Kanban, is a simple system for managing your to-dos. Even more, it’s a philosophy of self management — of tasks and time.

Keystones of Personal Kanban

There five general as well as my personal principles of kanban, which help me to use the system:

  1. Three-bin system — one bin is all the list of to-do tasks, the second bin is for the one task in progress, the last one is for done tasks. It’s the most important principle, which should be used in every kanban. No matter how many bins you use and how you call them, you want to move tasks from “to do list” to “done”. You should preserve this.
  2. Visualize.
  3. No tasks are made without a kanban. The result is 100% kanban tasking.
  4. One task at the same time.
  5. All tasks should have a category.

This is the end of the introductory part. The rest you won’t find on the internet.

Here is a simple way I use kanban for managing my life

You can use tags in Trello to organize cards. Tags are called labels here. Long ago I found that all my tasks and goals fall into 5 categories: health, wealth, relationships, self-mastery, art. I call them “Life Pillars”. Whenever I add a task or idea to the board, I label it with one tag. This helps me to:

  • Keep balance working on tasks aimed on different parts of life — e.g. I don’t let myself being stacked with tasks from “wealth”, ignoring “relationships”;
  • Organizing my kanban board — e.g. if I need to filter all “art” tasks, I go to filters and quickly find cards I need;
  • Clearly visualize the board, so it’s not cluttered with gray cards.

Having 5 labels, I wanted the board to represent my work with them. Gradually, I came to the Multipotentialite Planner v.3, which is actually the 7th version of it, because I had several 0.1, 0.3 versions. Now my board consists of 7 lists:

  1. Scanner diary
  2. List 1
  3. List 2
  4. List 3
  5. Done List
  6. Long-Run List
  7. Dead List

Kanban Trello board to organize life -- Jegor Nagel -- jegornagel.com

Or look at the publicly available template in Trello. You can easily copy it to your Trello account and start using.

Let’s dive into what every list means and it’s rules.

Lists of Kanban board to organize life

Scanner’s Diary

Here a store all my crazy ideas which pop up in my mind. I put all ideas here without filtering them. The philosophy under this is that I allow my mind to wander and generate ideas. I accept everything I think of and don’t try to mark thoughts into “bad or good ideas”. I simply put idea on the list.

For now, I have about 60 cards in this list. Will I work on all of them? I doubt 🙂
Organizing life with Kanban. Jegornagel.com

List 1 — broad planning list

This list has 5 huge tasks that I decided to work on for a long period, such as “being healthy” or “being marketing hacker”. Each of these tasks represent only one label of Life Pillars, which makes me work on different tasks. Tasks here will give birth to subtasks for the list 2. Mainly, if the task is on this list stayed untouched for more than 3 months and I haven’t completed any of its subtasks, then I turned it back to the Scanner’s Diary.
Organizing life with Kanban. Jegornagel.com

List 2 — 1 month planner

This list consists of the tasks from the list 1. They should be SMART and reflect to my Life Pillars. This list can have a maximum of 10 tasks from. If a task needs details or can be divided into subtasks, they go into the List 3. If the task is on this list for more than 1 month without changes, then it needs to be rewritten and it’s value reevaluated.

List 3 — “do it now” list

Here I can find all tasks I need to do during a week after adding them to the list. List is always prioritized, having most important tasks on the top. Every Saturday, I review all tasks to find out which tasks were blocked and what should I do to accomplish it. If I can’t do the task for more than 2 weeks, I modify it or remove it.

Done List

Clear title is clear title. After completing a task, I move it to Done List, except those tasks which can’t have a clear finish date.

Long-Run List

This list can only get tasks that require a long work, such as changing habits or developing mental toughness. Roughly speaking, this list consists of my decisions, on which I have to work constantly.

Dead List

If I decided that I can’t solve the task or don’t even want to accomplish it because my wishes changed, I move it to the Dead List. I write a short comment to the task about the reason of moving it to the Dead List, which will help to remind in case I turn back to that idea. For example, I have “Nanowrimo” in this list. For years, I tried to finish it, but failed for different reasons. This year I decided that I don’t want to spend time and effort on that anymore, moved a task to Dead List. Thus, in a future, if I think about participating in Nanowrimo again, I will find the card in Dead List, read my comment about the reasons why I shouldn’t take part and probably will not take part in it then. Profit!

Conclusion

Personal Kanban gives me mental clarity about what I want to do. It enables me to visualize the big picture and take my life philosophy into action. Surely, what works for me might be a blocker for you. I don’t insist that the way I use kanban board is perfect. The only thing I know, kanban helps me manage my life, it’s simple and visual.

 

Build a geeky database with tags in Evernote

I think Evernote is my digital brain. It’s a backup base. It’s a reference base. Especially this helps to become paperless.

I use it as my default bookmark, webclip app, note taker, recipe box, receipt box, repository of all my reference material, diary, meeting notes and so on. It’s great to have all the information I need indexed and searchable.

There are all features you need to organize data: notebooks, tags, image and PDF scanning, browser web clipper. Evernote has one big advantage over other tools: the more you add, the more useful it becomes. Though, if you don’t have a system for notebooks and tags from the start, these useful tool will become cluttered and messed up. The system shouldn’t be complex. I don’t recommend making system for the sake of the system itself.

The problem with notebooks

When I started with Evernote, I organized everything with notebooks, organized into stacks to create a hierarchy.

This was huge. Additionally, I’ve met with 2 greatest limitations of organization system based of notebooks:

  1. A note can be nested in one notebook only. I always have more relationships for every note. If you want to include a note in two or more notebooks, you have to duplicate the note and put a copy in each notebook. This doesn’t sound like a good system. You’d say that adding tags solves this problem, but actually, it’s not a solution. If you organize notes in a hierarchy of notebook and add multiple tags, how would you search by tags effectively? Over a short period my tags list grew to over 200 and I simply forgot about the most of them, using just the simplest. Having a hierarchy for tags separately is more work than it’s worth.
  2. You can only create a hierarchy of notebooks that is one level deep: a stack with a group of Notebooks. You can’t nest notebook in the notebook which is in notebook. I want to be able to organize things in multiple levels.

The solution is in minimization of notebook usage and building a wide hierarchy of tags, nested into several groups. I know that it might sound strange, but the system based of tags has some advantages:

  1. Notes can have multiple Tags, which means that a note can exist in multiple containers without duplication. For example, if I’m working on a note for a blog post about building personal brand in social media, I can tag it “blog draft”, “personal brand”, and “social media”. In this way, I can see this same note in different stacks, regardless of the tag I am using for search.
  2. Tags support multiple hierarchies. This allows organizing tags in a way better than notebooks.

How I use notebooks in Evernote

Notebooks in Evernote
Here’s how I use each:

  • Inbox — this notebook is used as place to put a note, which I don’t currently have time to categorize with tags and need to process later. Simply put, if I clip an article from web and which I want to read, but don’t know exactly which tag to appoint, I send it to the Inbox and review it later.
  • Cupboard — this is where I put notes I have processed and want to keep. All these notes have completed compulsory cross-tagging.
  • Diary — the name says for itself. I created it just for the sake of convenience, because I write noted to the Diary almost every day.
  • Sprints-17 — The place to store Unihost marketing team’s notes on SCRUM morning stand-ups. It’s here just for the sake of convenience as the Diary notebook.
  • Trash — this is where Notes go when you delete them. Until you “empty the trash,” you can restore them to another Notebook.

It’s much easier than I used before. Earlier I used almost the same notebooks as tags nowadays.

How I use tags

I created a hierarchy that reflects how I think about my life and business.

Tags in Evernote

Collections of tags in .what collection

These top levels are all collections. I begin each tag collection with a special character — a period, a carat, or a tilde. When tagging a note, this helps me know that there are more detailed tags under “.productivity” tag, thus I have to go deeper and find more precise one. Plus, special characters help me organize my tags. The best thing is that I can nest these tag collections as deep as I want to go.

For example, under my .what tag, I have nested five additional collections. Under .work , I have seven collections. Under .marketing , I have a set of collection 9 collections. Under .content marketing I have 22 notes.

In the .when collection, I have collections of .future events and .past events. Under them go tags for particular events, which are private and I’d like to restrict myself from showing them on the screenshot.

In the .who collection, I have a tag for each of my teammates and relatives.Tags in evernote

They start with ^ sign, because this helps in searching and tagging. When a note includes something on Anton, I simply start typing ^a in search and result is here without overlaps with other “a” letters:

searching in evernote

In the ~miscellaneous collection I have three tags:

  • !templates — here I keep reusable notes. For example, I have templates for Incident Response, Ideas & Inspiration Collection, Interview Score Card,
  • .checklists — here I store all the Employee Orientation Checklist, Personal Security Checklist, Meeting Notes Checklist, and more.
  • read later — that is my Pocket app. I clip posts and articles that I want to save for later reading. I can get to all these by simply searching for this Tag. The difference with the first notebook — Inbox is that notes with “read later” tag should already have tags.

My system is not perfect, but it works for me.

How I quickly search for notes

I know what you might think, “How does he find note with this ton of tags? Don’t notes with multiple tags appear in many searches which lowers the efficiency of search?” Yeah, agreed. It might be tough to find a note if you don’t know how to find. Here goes Evernote’s advanced search syntax.

Let’s look at some examples. If I need to find notes tagged with my wife’s name, I’d type:

tag:^alyona

Adding complexity, if I need all noted tagged with ^alyona, created during last week, but the note shouldn’t be nested in “.future events” tag:

tag:^alyona -tag:".future events" created:week-1

That’s useful, but you need to get used to it.

Conclusion

The key to Evernote is to commit to it and jump in with both feet. It’s pretty rotten if you’re just using it for a few isolated tasks, because absolutely, it doesn’t do any one thing perfectly and it’s not as fast as other apps.

So, if you want to give Evernote another shot, try putting everything in it that you want to hang onto. The more you add, the more useful Evernote becomes.

 

Resources and other materials to read on tags:

Remember Everything with Evernote: 30+ of the Best Tips and Tricks

How to Use Evernote Like a Pro

How to create a checklist and make routine tasks thoroughly

For routine but infrequent tasks there’s no way of remembering all the important steps. Human brain is great, but it can easily forget one little step in a consequence of dozen of others. Checklists are powerful tools that we all need to use. They are not a panacea, but if you use them, your productivity will boost.

Checklists proved to reliably improve the quality of work. My view on checklists is influenced by Atul Gawande‘s book “The Checklist Manifesto.” Gawande comes to the checklist from the world of surgery where mistakes cause lawsuits, injuries and death.

How checklists can help

According to Gawande, there are two categories of problems we face in getting work done.

  1. Ignorance – we simply do not know what to do.
  2. Ineptitude – “making sure we apply the knowledge we have consistently and correctly”.

We all make mistakes and forget steps even in tasks we’ve been doing for years. Checklists are great reminders of what tasks we need to do, in what order, plus they free our mind from having storing all these steps.

The checklist is a simple, numbered list. Printable or nor depends on what you prefer. I don’t use printable materials, thus organize my checklists in Evernote. For any routine tasks you can write the name, the date/time you usually do it, and a list of the items.

checklists organized in evernote

My checklists organized in Evernote.

How to make a perfect checklist

To make a checklist you’d naturally have a checklist:

  1. Step 1: Identify “stupid mistakes” that cause failure.
  2. Step 2: Seek additional input from others.
  3. Step 3: Create simple “do” steps.
    1. Try to be as specific as possible, even if a step seems mundane or “obvious”.
    2. It’s the obvious things that often get overlooked.
    3. Record what you do, not what you think you should do.
  4. Step 4: Create simple “talk” steps.
  5. Step 5: Test the checklist.
  6. Step 6: Refine the checklist.

Initial steps taken from the Projectmanagementhacks website.

To evaluate your checklist answer these questions:

  1. Is this step necessary? Why is this step included?
  2. Is this step in the right place? Should it come sooner or later in the list?
  3. Are the steps clear enough that I could give this checklist to another person without explanation?
  4. Is each step a concrete action that can be completed and checked off?

A good checklist is precise, efficient, and easy to use even in the most difficult situations.

You may have trouble believing that something as simple as writing down the steps of the routine tasks you do every day, evaluating them, and then codifying them into a readable checklist could be that revolutionary and productive. Hopefully, there is only one way to prove it for you: get started and see for yourself.

What tasks need their checklists?

I try to make checklists for every task which happens often and includes more than 10 steps and for every task which happens so rare, that I would surely forget to do all right. Here are some my checklists that you might apply:

  • Networking: follow up with new people you meet, adding them to your contacts list, following them on social networks, and more.
  • Stress relief: when stress comes, I can’t control all the steps to do to bring me back. This checklist is saving haven.
  • Admin: completing reports, backing up important files, and other tedious tasks not part of your daily job.
  • Financial: tasks like reporting tax, scanning receipts, and reviewing spending
  • Security: a list of accounts to change passwords regularly, and backups to check on (when you need a backup is not the time you want to realize it stopped running).
  • Social media: a checklist of steps to make a post on Facebook as checking link, proofreading, looking for image credit.
  • Death checklist: it should be called “funeral checklist”, but I included steps on financial, utilities, and household tasks, which made the list into the full actionable model in those hard days.

To find inspiration and checklists made by others, visit the Checklist website. Some items are great, but I mostly used this for looking for ideas. The content of checklists there doesn’t fit me.

 

Resources and other materials to read on checklists:

The power of checklists — The art of manliness

How to use simple checklists to boost efficiency and reduce mistakes — Zapier blog

How to start using procedure checklists for flawless task execution — Lifehacker

Something small every day

Daily action builds habits. We all know this, but when it comes to reality, we hate practicing monotonous work every single day.

We grew up with a persuasion that billionaires became rich overnight, businessmen developed their astounding ideas in a day, and scientists make discoveries after an hour of research. Yes, we are not stupid. We know that this belief is a lie. But it’s nice to believe in it. It allows us be lazy, justifies idleness, calms inner pushing voice.

First forget inspiration. Habit is more dependable. Habit will sustain you whether you’re inspired or not. Habit will help you finish and polish your stories. Inspiration won’t. Habit is persistence in practice.
— Octavia E. Butler, Bloodchild and Other Stories

It’s not a secret that daily actions build habits. Just do workout every morning for 5 minutes 100 days in a row and 101st wouldn’t be that hard.

Want to become an expert in a short time? Don’t study hard for one day, it won’t get you far. Learn little every day for a long and i will give you practice and will make you an expert. If you don’t break the chain, you’ll start to spot opportunities you otherwise wouldn’t. Small improvements accumulate into large improvements rapidly because daily action provides compounding interest.

Jerry Seinfeld advises a calendar method that helps him stick to his daily work. Put a wall calendar that shows the year. You can generate such calendar and print it. Write your goal on the top so it’s on the eye all the time. Each day, when finishing your work, cross out the day’s box.

Set your mind that your goal is just to cross out the day. Instead of just getting work done, your goal is to just fill a box. Your only job next is to not break the chain.

“What helps you persevere is your resilience and commitment.”
― Roy T. Bennett, The Light in the Heart

We have just 24 hours. If I want to do something I intentionally look for time. Schedule it, wake up earlier, go to bed later, miss the movie, don’t hang out, but find the time to do what  you want. It’s not that hard to find 10 minutes even in the most busiest life.

The rules for building habits:

  1. Set aside some time to practice every day.
  2. Set a goal just to cross out the day in a calendar.
  3. Don’t break the chain.

People have no goals

People have no goals.

People don’t know what to do.

99% of people I know want money, cars, house, gadgets. But they don’t have any goal.

They don’t know what they want to do in 1, 5, 10 years.

They don’t know whom they want to be.

They just want to own things.

Nobody really knows what they want from life.

Nobody really wants to think about such things. They are scared of this.

BUT!

If you want to be successful you must have a goal. Little, shitty, but one f*king goal.

You do not have it, yeah?

Come on!

Goal is a panacea of all diseases.

Don’t have time for something? Evaluate it against your life goal and throw it away!
Don’t know if you should do something? Does it contribute to the goal? It’s that simple: yes – do it, no – throw it away!

Conclusion: If you want to live a mediocre life, you should not set a goal. Be in the 99% mass who drools over expensive things, but having too little of brain and perseverance to set just ONE LITTLE GOAL.

Resting vs working

Stop bragging about your 15-hours working day.

Stop boasting your non-stop hustling from 5 AM.

Stop showing those photos as you’re superhuman who’s only working, working, working.

Stop insisting that your insane working tempo is a must for everyone. Don’t make people feel idlers and loafers. Let us be humans.

Don’t tell that you’re successful because of hustling. Try to be successful working 8 hours a day, having a healthy family relationships, taking care of your body and having several hobbies. Then I’ll believe you.

Resting is more important than working.

The art of resting is a difficult thing to learn, but have to master this skill.

Consistency beats ability

And constant work beats skill.

You can’t get everything at once no matter how much the social media and marketers tell us the opposite.

If you want to do something, write a book, learn new skill, draw, read, work on your character, workout… do little every day.

Break your big work into daily chunks.

Don’t say you don’t have time. We’re all busy. Busyness is a default state for everybody.

Find some minutes cracks between the big stuff — your commute, your lunch break, the few hours after your kids go to bed or wake up.

If this doesn’t work, then you might miss your favorite TV show, close the Facebook, avoid hanging out, but find the time to work if you look for it.

And a life hack to keep you going. Each day, when you finish your work, you should make a small celebration. It can be crossing out the day in the calendar or marking ‘done’ task in a smartphone app.

After a few days you’ll have a chain and will want to keep doing just to keep the steak. Then your only job is to not break the chain.

The easiest way to me is to get up early.

I get up to work for a couple hours on the thing I really care about.

When I’m done, I can go about my day.

My boss, my kid, my family can’t take my work away from me, because I already did it.

Just do something small, every day.