The Anti-Schedule and MIIMIO Productivity (or Behind The Scenes Of The War Room)

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By “war room” I mean whatever room (or park or beach) on this great blue Earth I’m currently working out of. :)

I really do feel like I’m fighting a war. My enemy is normality.

Ever since I was a small child I’ve done things a little bit differently, sometimes on purpose and sometimes not. Whether that was playing with weird chemicals that I probably shouldn’t have been playing with at age 8 and creating a stink bomb in a test tube (which I subsequently smashed in our front yard), mowing an Anarchy symbol in my Parents’ lawn and calling it a day at age 13, or quitting my very last job (in the Business School of Wayne State University) when I was 19 and getting fired an hour later. (That’s a funny story for another day.)

Where I’m going with this is that we all have different processes for doing whatever we do. I like reading about how other people create and I think that’s probably why I love reading autobiographies. It’s cool to get personal insights into how and why people do what they do.

With that all stated, here is my creative process. It has changed over the years and continues to change, but here it is at this very moment:

Don’t Force It, But Force It

I’ve mentioned it many times already, but before this blog started I spent 30 days writing at least 1,000 words every single day. It was my way of forming the habit and getting into the flow of writing blog posts. Nowadays I don’t work like that. Sometimes I write 5,000 words in a couple hours because they keep coming and sometimes I only write a few hundred words in a few minutes and stop.

I don’t force anything. When inspiration comes I grab hold and go along for the ride. That mofo might take me places I didn’t expect to go or it might drop me off exactly where I was expecting in a timely fashion. Whatever happens, I stick around for the duration.

I force everything. Because I’ve honed inspiration in such a way, I know it will come. So in a way, it’s almost like I forced it. A better way to put it may be that I ordered it to pay me a visit. This is part of going pro. Once you tell yourself you’ve gone pro, a mental shift happens in a way that I can’t explain unless it has happened to you.

It’s important to force it until you form the habit. Then you don’t have to force it anymore. Remember when I quit drinking last September? Since that time I’ve had a few drinks, but the habit of not drinking is in place and I don’t have to force it anymore. You can do the same, with literally anything.

The Anti-Schedule

I dislike schedules and I don’t use a calendar. But I do have a work schedule. It’s this: every day (for as little or as much as I feel like that particular day). I may not stick to it gung-ho 365 days/year, but I do work on something most days. Here’s the kicker: it’s not because I have to. It’s because I want to.

When I was in high school I worked at a car dealership doing all their computer stuff. To everybody else at that dealership it was rocket science. To me, it was like 1st grade math. In other words, I’d get a week’s worth of work done in a day. Instead of sticking around (and getting paid more) I’d leave and play guitar or hang out with friends. Why? Because I hated that work. I just wanted it to be over.

What I do nowadays keeps me up at night with excitement. It’s not work when you love it.

Even if you’re currently working a dreaded day job you can actively seek out projects and a way of life that you’re passionate about. (That’s not an affiliate link. Use code ‘freedom’ to get 25% off for a few more days.)

MIIMIO (Most Important In Most Important Out)

Now I’m getting all computer-sciencey and coming up with acronyms based on data storage algorithms. Shoot me. (Please don’t, unless it’s with a water gun, in which case, I challenge you to a duel!) If you’ve had a math or computer background you’re probably familiar with FIFO: First In First Out.

My take on FIFO is MIIMIO, Most Important In Most Important Out. That is, I have a most important task that I need to complete and everything else is ignored until that’s done. BUT, and there is always a BUT, that doesn’t mean I don’t work on other things. Huh? Whatchyou talkin’ bout Karol?

For example, my current most important task is getting How To Live Anywhere finished (almost done, I’m loving it!). But I still have blog posts I want to write and awesome people to interact with (that’s you) via comments/e-mails.

What I mean by MIIMIO is that I don’t take on another big project while I’m already focusing on a big project. Do I have ideas for other big projects? Yes. Can they wait until this project is done? Yes.

Do you take on too many tasks at once? Don’t worry, most people do. Just remember MIIMIO and you’ll be golden.

Is There A Better Way?

Yes. Whatever works for you is the better way.

That’s where you come in. I want to know, what does your creative process look like? How do you structure (or un-structure) your days?

Photo Credit

{ 14 comments }

Abhishek

Finish that book!!!

I am totally familiar with FIFO, LIFO and FEFO (first expiry first out). I use it designing warehousing solutions.

I like MIIMIO. I informally use it to schedule tasks in projects when several projects are due. It is an informal schedule. I hate task lists and to-do lists. My tasks are written on flash card sized paper (other people’s waste printouts cut in quarters held together by a small binder clip. I don’t print). At any point two or three such flash cards with tasks sit on my ‘Action’ tray next to my screen. I pick them one at a time and finish them based on which project is due sooner, not which project is larger in revenue etc. Deadlines of responses are important.

If interrupted by tasks of another project, if I can finish it in under 2 mins, I do it right away or it goes into the action tray. I also do only one task at a time. It keeps my work at a higher quality level.

Once the task is done, I throw the corresponding flash card into the trash bin and move on to the next action item. The goal is to have an empty action tray.

Tasks at home are unstructured. Other than cooking, washing dishes and cleaning, there isn’t much that needs to be done. Having a small apartment and only a few possessions help. There is a couch cover that needs mending (my dog ripped it, that bitch!). I have been procrastinating it for a while. Other than that, I have no outstanding tasks.

Karol

:) The book part is done. It’s the multi media stuff that I’m finishing up!

Thanks so much for your productivity techniques Abhishek! I love the Action tray idea. I may steal it…virtually. :)

Abhishek

I started with an Inbox tray, a Review tray and an Action tray. Most people seem to use my empty desk as an inbox tray, so I merged it with the review tray. Also, having a clean and empty desk prevents people from leaving papers on my keyboard or chair!

I keep a review and action folder in all my email accounts (work and personal). They have a suffix of undrescore or number to keep them on top of the folder list.

The rule is to process every email into an less than 2 minute action or pass it into one of the folders.

Immediate action tasks go to the action folder only.
Anything that requires a lot of reading goes to the review pile.

I also use instapaper as the blog/news “review” folder.

Maybe an extensive plan.txt (http://www.calnewport.com/blog/2008/11/11/plantxt-the-most-effective-productivity-tool-that-youve-never-heard-of/) will help you maintain the action folder virtually. Do share how you achieve that. I am searching virtual systems for home computing.

Karol

Thanks Abhishek, that’s great! My process for e-mails is to process them once (either reply or archive/delete) as opposed to the folders. It helps keep the inbox at zero or almost zero.

Moon Hussain

You just had to bring out LILO, FIFO, LIFO, FILO. Haha. I’m trying to instill the habit of doing something productive every day. But it’s a lot to handle before the move.

Enjoyed your post and MIIMIO.

Karol

It was my sinister plan to find out who here is a computer/math nerd like me. ;)

Ivana Sendecka

Greetings from war room in Slovakia to war room in Poland;-)

My creative process is 24/7 – 365 days – event. Even during my sleep I dream of things, which are related to an exciting journey I am on for last 10 months, when I have switched from 9 to 5 life to 24/7 life;-)

Sometimes I “ship” 15 hours a day, other days I am offline and getting inspired by being outdoors or just hanging around with my parents. What is important is that I am focused on the moment I am in and I am trying to see the meaning behind every event or dialogue I am part of or which I witness. Noting down my thoughts are the main dots, which I am connecting then, when I am “shipping” new blog, creating new slide-deck for my gig or recording video blog.
;-)
Happy “passionate shipping” guys,
Karol is certainly a great source of inspiration;-)
i.

Karol

Thank you Ivana! Being outdoors usually gives me tons of inspiration myself. Today I went on a bike ride in a forest after it rained and got my only pants dirty. It was awesome. :)

Srinivas Rao

As a non computer science guy some of this language is like greek to me :). But, I get where you are coming from. As far as my own productivity, I find that I get in a zone during certain times and I find it’s best to do as much work as possible while I”m in that zone. Working on a post about it right now :).

Karol

HA! I didn’t use too much jargon. ;) Just enough for the nerd in me.

I think we have similar work techniques. I get in the zone and work until I’m out of it. Whether that’s 10 minutes or 10 hours. :) Looking forward to your article!

Mara

“fifo” is used in food service, and means the same, first in, first out. pertains to food and ingredients in stock and making sure the existing stock gets used before the new stock gets used.

“miimio” is a good non-planned plan, keeps things flexible. projects and people alike fluctuate, needing more attention at some times and less attention than at others. cool.

Karol

Thanks Mara. It makes sense that FIFO would be used elsewhere. :)

henk

hey Karol!
To the top sentence,
I can so relate to that. my dad is this trying to be as standard as possible guy wich honestly annoys me alot. I decided not to live my life that way though;).

about the planning, i try to get all the important things in acces 2007 database. for the rest i just kinda try to goof around and do what i love. i want to enjoy life as much as possible <3

Karol

Thanks Henk! :)

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