Helping Creative People Create

The 5 Day PM Computer Fast: Why I Got More Done In Less Time

Last week I mentioned that I would be going on a nightly computer “fast”, meaning that I would only be using the computer until I was done working (5-6pm), and shutting it down for the rest of the evening. And believe it or not, I actually did it. For 5 days I was able to keep my computer shut down from the evening until morning. But it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.

Being a web developer, I’m constantly on-line. I live and die by email, and the internet is my workplace. But the danger of having your “workplace” at home is a grave one. It’s way too easy to mix business with pleasure, especially when you use the same tools for both. I can easily let my mind fool me into thinking I “need” to get online to check my email, and pretty soon I’m cruisin’ sweet vids over at YouTube. The internet has done a beautiful job of seamlessly integrating all parts of lives into a keyboard, mouse and monitor; making it incredibly hard to stay focused and on-task while online. You have to have the mind-power of a ninja to get things done and be truly productive.

In case you haven’t figured it out by now, I’m not a ninja. That’s why I had to limit my computer usage at night. And here’s what I found when I did.

Less Is The New More

I read an article by Steve Pavlina about his theory on working less to get more done. Essentially, your mind will focus more if it knows that it only can work on something for X hours. When it knows that it doesn’t have the luxury of slacking off, it kicks it into the next gear and amazing results follow.

The same is true with my study. When I knew that the computer was going to be turned off at the same time every day, my productivity soared to new heights. Now that I only had a static, limited amount of time, I had to squeeze the most out of it. I had to plan, and only work on the most important things that had to be done that day.

By working less I also found that I was more refreshed and willing to work the next day. The anticipation of the things I got to work on was much higher. AND, I was able to plan more the night before about what I was going to do the following day. With the combination of meticulous planning and anticipation of what I “got” to do the next day, work was tons more enjoyable.

More Rest

One of the more obvious benefits of this “fast” is that I averaged almost two more hours of sleep a night. Two whole hours! I’ve written before on the benefits of sleep, but this really put the whammy on any doubts I had on its aide to my productivity. Sleep and productivity are like peanut butter and jelly, (or peas and carrots if you’re more into vegetables). They just seem to go hand in hand./p>

A Social Life?

Interestingly enough, I found that when I turned off the computer at a certain time, I was much more aware of my social life (or lack thereof). Because I knew that the ol’ compy was going to sleep at 6pm, I had about 4 more hours of true free time, without thinking about work. I could watch a movie, read a book, go to the coffee shop… whatever my little heart desired.

While this may seem like it doesn’t relate to being more productive, just hang with me for a minute. By having more social interaction or leisure time, your productivity does improve. The secret is in switching things up. By taking these much needed breaks, your mind has a chance to distance itself from the “job”. With our crazy wireless, interactive, never-turn-off-our-phones lifestyle, our work now follows us wherever we go. We are potentially always connected to everything and and everyone, including bosses, co-workers and clients. As a result: we’re less productive. By not allowing our work-life to distance itself from our personal life, our productivity goes into the fetal position and starts sucking its thumb.

Ironic, isn’t it?

Conclusions

I would recommend the PM Computer Fast to anyone. The benefits far outweight the drawbacks. In fact, the only drawback I could think of to this would be for employees or owners who absolutely need to know if something caught on fire. Otherwise, the majority of us don’t really need to check our email as often as we think we do. Most of the email I get late at night are crappy newsletters anyway.

This is really a bigger concept than just turning off my computer at night. This was my way of seperating my work life from my home life, based on the tools that I use. For others, this may mean not answering work-related calls after a certain hour. Or checking email. Just by making a conscious effort to un-connect yourself from work, you’ll immediately start seeing better results in your job.

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  • jacmgr

    Will you continue the habit? If not, why not?

  • http://www.toprankblog.com Lee Odden

    This is a great reminder to us tech heads that spend waaaay to much time near the computer. It reminds me of a conversation I had in an elevator with co-workers after meeting a client with an impending deadline. We talked about working into the evening a bit and I commented, “It’s not like I have other things to do”, and the other person in the elevator says, “You mean like have a life?”. That really hit home. Just like this post does. Thanks!

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  • http://sabotagemedia.com Josh Pigford

    So, when does ‘personal’ computing come in to play? ie, when do you read RSS feeds, browse del.icio.us, watch videos on YouTube, etc etc?

  • http://www.contrastandcompare.com Lake Denman

    Great Article. Very interesting. I think i’m going to start on today with this fast.
    Thanks.

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  • Rich Williams

    I work in Tech support, and hence, I’m at PC’s all day. From time-to-time, I also take Internet college courses (when the subject matter is appropriate for the Internet, such as VB.NET programming, but not Philosophy).

    I slightly modify the rule of not getting on my PC after six p.m. The mod I make ties in with my Palm. I keep a daily running to-do list; what I don’t do that day carries over to the next day.

    When I think of something to do, I put it in the list, no matter it’s importance or unimportance. This means that I think of information I need to look up on the Internet and/or e-mails, I put that down on my running list.

    The point is, if I have it on my list, I can sit down at the PC and look it up, but no extra surfing (no, not even for pr0n!)

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  • dotnetguy

    hsein has more mental strength than ninja has.

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  • http://www.kellytadams.com Kelly Adams

    Did your power bill go down as well?

  • http://lifedev.net glen

    Josh: Personal computing (for me) is done on my breaks. I find that taking more breaks works better for my productivity. But if I’m working all day on the computer, I won’t take a break and read my RSS feeds. I’ll get up out of the chair and change the scenery a bit.

    Honestly, I don’t have a whole lot of time where I check my RSS feeds. I’ve found that if you follow 2-3 sites, you can get all the information you really need (as a general rule). Everything around the web these days is so rehashed anyway. You’ve read one, you’ve read ‘em all ;)

    Rick:  The running todo list (as opposed to the “daily” todo list) is a smart idea.  That way, you can shut down whenever you want, without feeling like you didn’t get all the stuff done you were “supposed” to do.  Nice point!

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  • Glen

    Thanks for the insightful article (link from GTD). I will fast this month, and see how it goes.

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  • Jaye Green

    I have practiced shutting off my phone for quite sometime as I found it
    is a disruptive element. With computers now…that would take a
    little effort…depending what’s on TV I shut down accordingly…
    but to actually set an off time….
    I think I will definately consider that….

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  • http://www.iranigroup.ir Abolqasem Irani

    MY COMPUTER IS VERY LOW….HOW I CAN MAKE
    IT FAST? VERY FAST.

    PLEASE INSTRUCT ME

  • http://lifedev.net/2006/09/computer-fast/ sumit

    its a wonderful site and artile…..it has helped me great deal to understand how to use my comp

  • Xxx Connie xxX

    I think the website is good but i cant get anywhere online that shows me what a study plan looks like so why dont you do that cos i have seen better pages xxxx

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    Risky theme. I think you’ve hurt someone’s feelings, but what’s for me – I like it. No matter what they say if your opinion is true.

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  • http://www.trvidcom.com.au Computer Rental Company

    Great article!

    Computers are made to ease out the loads of human life. Otherwise, its existence totally self-destructs. Some computer users tend to spend a lot of time in front of their computers, somehow forgetting the life outside of it. I, myself is guilty of this crime. But a good pm computer fast would be helpful in developing both my behavior as individual and as a professional as well.

  • mfarney

    I'm always online as well. I used to work from home and although business was very good I applied for a job at a desk because I really needed to separate work from my private life. People here don't understand it but they've had desk jobs all their lives. They never worked from home. When I finish work and I leave the building I don't open my personal computer unless I want to watch a movie on it. Otherwise I keep it shut. My life has changed. I sleep better, I eat better because I don't eat in front of the computer anymore. It was a huge step for me and I'm glad I took it.
    _________
    Mathew Farney – Web Hosting

  • mfarney

    I'm always online as well. I used to work from home and although business was very good I applied for a job at a desk because I really needed to separate work from my private life. People here don't understand it but they've had desk jobs all their lives. They never worked from home. When I finish work and I leave the building I don't open my personal computer unless I want to watch a movie on it. Otherwise I keep it shut. My life has changed. I sleep better, I eat better because I don't eat in front of the computer anymore. It was a huge step for me and I'm glad I took it.
    _________
    Mathew Farney – Web Hosting

  • mfarney

    I'm always online as well. I used to work from home and although business was very good I applied for a job at a desk because I really needed to separate work from my private life. People here don't understand it but they've had desk jobs all their lives. They never worked from home. When I finish work and I leave the building I don't open my personal computer unless I want to watch a movie on it. Otherwise I keep it shut. My life has changed. I sleep better, I eat better because I don't eat in front of the computer anymore. It was a huge step for me and I'm glad I took it.
    _________
    Mathew Farney – Web Hosting

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