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October 11, 2005

Productivity Tip #2: ButterFly Stroke Productivity

I posted this over at http://to-done.com Oct. 5, and judging by the response, I hit a nerve! So, here it is again…


In my seemingly never-ending search for ways of Getting (more) Things Done, I’ve hit upon a pretty good method I call Butterfly Stroke Productivity. Now I will be the first to admit my swimming techniques look more like drowning than the Thorpedeo, but Butterfly Stroke Productivity (BSP) works and has been keeping my head above water for the past year as I juggle contracts, development and writing.

Here’s how it works. As you plan each day’s work, focus on the 2 or 3 things which you’re going to have to really work at for an hour or two each to get done. These should be things you want to reserve your best efforts for because they will make the most difference in your life.

Now, make a 60-120 minute appointment for each. You can make it an Outlook Appointment, a Task Appointment in the program I sell or an entry in your dayTimer. Leave time between these Task Appointments so you can come up for air, re-orientate and deal with other, less important stuff.

The goal for each of these Task Appointments is to get into the highly focused, creative mental state
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi defined as Flow. We’ve all had the experience of being so engaged in something that time flies by and we’re riding high; that’s Flow.

Since I make my daily bread writing code and writing words, I want to get into the Flow whenever I sit down to design an app or write. So, I start each Flow by filling in the basics of my Flow Form:


For the next 90 minutes or so, no email, no phone, no web, no anything that is going to be a distraction. I’m head down and pulling. I have a plan for what I’m trying to do; clearly restating my objective and the goals that furthers dampens procrastination and I know that at least for the next little while I’m going incommunicado to get some work done. Then I set my (physical) desktop timer and go for the Flow.

An hour and a half later, my concentration is fading out and I come up for air and wrap up the Flow with whatever notes I need, follow-ups and rating of how good I did. Then, like satisfying a sweet tooth, I check email, blogs, news web sites and decompress.

What really makes this practice work is repeatability. Starting it by doing the form, setting my timer, turning off my phone etc. “cues” my brain that its heavy lifting time. Give it a try, and if you use Microsoft Publisher or want to print the .pdf form of it, drop me a
line and I’ll send you free the form I use if that’s helpful.

There’s nothing more practical than a good theory!


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  • Who?
    Bob Walsh, (Author, managing partner of Safari Software, Inc. a micro-ISV)
    Exploring the intersection between Getting Things Done and building a micro-ISV.
    Live from Sonoma, California USA.
    Once or so a workday.
    Because there's a way to get everything done, I just know there is!
    Micro Internet Software Vendor, a self-funded startup company: See mymicroisv.com for information and resources.
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