Lessons from a Productivity Recharge Experiment

A little over a month ago I returned home from a month-long road trip with the family. 28 days of rewiring my brain for living out of a van. After several attempts at doing something that could produce income, I started a productivity recharge experiment.

The structure was based on a concept from Charles Duhigg’s The Power of Habit: that by curating a small, good habit, we will beget other small, good habits, which of course add up to a great deal more in the grand scheme of things.

Note: I have not read The Power of Habit yet and owe this inspirational idea to Done By Forty, who is full of useful tidbits. Check out his blog here.

Being a Type-A from childhood, I of course crammed four small, good habits into my experiment rather than really testing whether one would beget another within that timeframe. I was a bit desperate to get the ball rolling uphill again.

My habits that would hopefully procreate to create a great abundance of productive output included exercising, reading non-fiction, investing in positive relationships, and completing one high impact task first thing every day.

I tracked my activities in Google calendar as an accountability method. After a month, I have experienced some enlightening results and learned a few lessons:

  1. If you share space with someone, it’s a dang good idea to get them on board with the new habits. Always better to hold one another accountable rather than fend off invitations to squat on the porch for “just a few minutes”.
  2. It’s probably better to start with one small, good habit rather than four. The whole concept is to allow your momentum from an impactful habit infuse into the rest of your day, which allows for a lot more flexibility. By the end I found myself focusing on 1-2 of the four areas each day, rather than trying to check off the list.
  3. The most interesting and effective new habit was the one I was least likely to develop without a structured plan: investing in relationships. I tend toward productive isolation. The focus on relationships resulted in 12 new connections, being hired to coordinate a book launch, and the start of a Tuesday writing session with a former colleague, which has spurred much book progress.

At least for me, the concept holds water, a lot of it. I have accomplished more in the past month than most months prior to the trip and my efforts were more targeted and efficient, meaning I did much less but accomplished more.

This result manifested despite loose adherence to my plan after the first week and plenty of down time. I also read a great deal less than normal, succumbing to a few completely unhelpful but delicious summer televisions series that I missed while living in the VW.

Next Up: In building off of this momentum, this week I have outlined two high impact tasks that take an hour or less for each day: one to complete by noon and the other to complete by 4 PM. The idea? Even if I blow off the rest of the day after completing those two tasks, I will have accomplished more for my career and life than 8 hours of busywork.

What are your best kept secret habits? Did you have to painfully nurture them or are your best habits those that came more natural? 

  1. great idea! I’m going to try this a I seem to be stuck in the swamp at the moment; I like the one high impact task before noon and before 4. I think I can do that and then have something to point to as effective that day.

  2. Emily,

    Thank you so much for the mention! And congratulations on the renewed/new relationships, that are already bearing fruit. The work with a book launch sounds insanely cool. I have no idea what goes into such a thing but it just sounds neat, to help produce something & bring it to the public.

    Here’s to hoping the snowball rolls up hill & picks up momentum. Cheers!

    P.S. – following your lead, I will do one critical thing today by 4:00 pm: I will prepare myself for my professional certification test by studying one chapter of the ISM textbook.

  3. I love trying your different methods out for myself! Points noted – will be incorporating better sleeping hours as my small good habit!

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