The Grid - a productivity game changer (AMA)

Jon

Administrator
Staff member
#1
Let me introduce you to something that has had a transformative effect on my life. It is tried and tested and not just theoretical. It really does work, for me at least! It revolves around the assumption that your habits are essentially the drivers of what you do. Without the habit, you are left to chance or "willpower". There has been much research in recent years around the topic of "willpower". The general consensus seems to be that it is a limited resource, and (Oxford comma Bee?) as you use up your allowance throughout the day, your willpower will start to decline. (Late night binging on snacks, anyone?)

Given the above, it pays to not rely on willpower, which is glucose hungry and energy inefficient. Instead, rely on habits. These help preserve your willpower to be used for other tasks, such as forming other habits!

So to The Grid...This is a method of drilling your routines, making sure the essential stuff gets done every day. Since I work for myself as a self-employed thingymajig, my day has zero structure unless I impose it. That is where The Grid comes into play. There is a well known management principle that "things that aren't measured don't get done." Taking this further, if you track the essential tasks, they will get done!

Therefore, every day I refer to The Grid and tick off the items, in order if possible. Each tick gives me what I like to humorously call a "Micro-Thrill!" (Get a life Jon!). By accumulating these throughout a day, I know I am on track. Yet also, keeping the sequence going is also highly motivational. Some smartphone apps have this "streak" feature. You don't want to break the "streak" of X days doing Y. When you do, you feel negged out. Whereas each tick gives a Micro-Thrill, leading to a slight dopamine rush. It is similar to what programs us to keep checking our smartphones. You get a notification and these trigger dopamine. Then you are addicted!

Let me give you an example of my Grid.

The Grid v2.png


I have a slightly more relaxed routine at the weekends (which I love!).

An interesting thing to observer is that it motivates you to a) complete all the tasks vertically, and b) horizontally. The end result is all essential tasks done for the day, and they are then done consistently. When I get a white box left in there it really annoys me!

If you have any questions or comments, fire away or Ask Me Anything, as they say!
 
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Jon

Administrator
Staff member
#3
Essentially, the spreadsheet is like a third-party who holds me to account. I want to keep the green streak going so it motivates me. The mere measurement also helps too. A couple of years ago, I was using a spreadsheet to self-account. But I didn't use the colour green. I stopped using the spreadsheet for a couple of months and everything went haywire! I stopped taking my vitamin pills, my gym schedule went to pot, I wasn't getting things done. After restarting, I got back on track. I added the green colour if I put a Y in the box. The contrast was a stronger visual cue that showed I was getting things done. It worked better than not having the green.
 
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Insane_AI

Founding Member
#4
I may have to try this trick myself then. I find if I have to answer to someone else, I will get things done faster and more reliably. When it comes to doing things for myself, I find that I do things to solve problems first then if I have any stamina left in the day, I will work on those things.

It may be interesting to discover what I'm actually doing all day if I were to log it then use that to create a checklist like yours.
 

Jon

Administrator
Staff member
#5
My recommendation would be to start with a very short list. Then, once each of these daily tasks become habit, slowly add new ones. When something is habitual, it takes up very little physical or mental energy. Habits help you preserve willpower for other stuff.

I use conditional formatting in the Excel cells, so if I put a Y in there, it goes green.
 

Jon

Administrator
Staff member
#7
People generally try to do everything in a big hurry. Then it becomes incredibly hard at outset and the temptation to give up is great. I am guilty of this plenty of times myself, but all my research into the theories behind willpower and habit formation suggest for long term change, start slow.
 
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Jon

Administrator
Staff member
#10
Thanks for showing others your grid. I will be interested to see if a) you stick with it, and b) how it evolves.
 
#11
It's going kind of well so far, it made me make sure to finish chores I normally wouldn't (folding all my clothes and washing all dishes) as well as making me remember to do certain things I would normally forget, like using the journal. I think what will make this go much better than previous habit tracking is that habit tracking made me focus on doing everything perfectly, so finishing the easy stuff and the hard stuff. On the days I felt I couldn't do the hard stuff I'd end up breaking easier habits too. Looking at it like it is now will make it easier to focus on individual streaks and on working on harder habits over time.
 

Jon

Administrator
Staff member
#12
The more you use it, the easier the routine becomes. New habits take a cognitive load to get started. But then they tail off and less energy is required.
 
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