Probably the biggest battle for productivity is fighting the barrage of psychologically manipulative social technologies that have been designed to make us feel we are not enough, have missed out and need to keep clicking.
I have always struggled to harness the never-ending stream of thoughts and ideas that course through my brain. Social media bombards me with even more ideas, thoughts and feelings I could live without.
I also have a very distorted view of time and reality. This means that I feel like I can tackle every single one of those ideas all of the time. While this is exciting and most of the time I feel that anything is possible – it is a disaster in terms of actual productivity and output.
I also I work from home in a very remote part of the world so I rarely meet other humans outside of my own immediate family. All of this has meant that I have become more and more isolated from others, an extreme case of a self-employed isolated daydreamer.
Until lately, I had begun to feel that technology was something that was only fuelling this isolation but I have started to find some excellent resources that are helping me to re-connect.
My issues with distorted time mean that I am not great at setting realistic goals. I dream too big and struggle with chunking those goals into smaller more achievable tasks. This is where the practice of ‘body doubling’ or tandem working for accountability comes in and so far it has been one of my most successful productivity experiments.
Essentially, I log on to a website every day and connect with others all over the world for focused co-working sessions. Each session is 25 or 50 minutes and we both state our goal for the session at the start and if we achieved it at the end. I like to leave my camera on but my sound off so I don’t have to worry about annoying my partner with my ridiculously loud and fast typing. As I write this article, I can see my current partner meditating on a small screen at the corner of my browser so I feel her presence and am motivated to complete my stated goal.
This is making me focus on seeing every single project in terms of either 25 minutes or 50-minute time frames instead of specific outcomes that almost always took longer than planned. The result has been phenomenal productivity and focus – I don’t allow myself to check my email, messages or even run to the loo during these sessions because I am accountable to someone else. This works so well for me because people-pleasing is such a strong personal motivation for me.
The website is https://www.focusmate.com/ – I have no affiliation but am happy to recommend it as it is an incredible service at a crazy affordable cost of $5 per month. It has been a game-changer for me in terms of productivity. I have worked with students, playwrights, YouTube stars and other entrepreneurs and I am not long on the platform. I feel so much more expansive and connected to other humans as a result of this one simple concept beautifully executed with technology.
Remote personal training
One other connection source I am using is an app called CoPilot for personal training. I am 4 months postpartum so I wanted to start building up some bodily strength again. I’ve tried so many exercise routines, apps, videos, memberships – you name it over the years but I always flame out. I am nearly two months using CoPilot now and am still sticking to my plan because I have an actual personal trainer that I am accountable to after every session. We message through the app, arrange one to one calls and send video messages. She also adjusts my sessions based on feedback and progression goals.
These two services are excellent examples of creating something from the perspective of the user instead of the perspective of profit margins. It is always more expensive to create a service that provides human to human connection. An automated exercise routine that is the same for everyone is easier, a notification or planning system for productivity sessions is easier than facilitating two humans to connect to help each other achieve their goals in short bursts.
Both of these services make me feel hopeful for a more meaningful future where instead of inflaming the worst of our natures, technology enhances the best of us.