Give yourself a “should-less” day

Even I read that and think it says “shoulderless”, as in strap, but it’s a day in which you do not do things that you should. That’s not to say you need to spend it robbing a bank or having a tryst but all that stuff on your plate, all those bloody tasks you should be doing, don’t do them. Just for a day. Just for a single should-less day.

This isn’t my idea, though I love it. Instead, it’s actor Ellen Burstyn who originally said it on the WNYC’s Death, Sex and Money show. It was picked up by Science of Us in New York Magazine like this:

I have what I call should-less days. Today is a day where there’s nothing I should do. So I only do what I want to do. And if it’s nap in the afternoon or watch TV and eat ice cream, I get to do it. I had that kind of day yesterday.

Should-less days, I recommend them. Because what I figured out, is we have wiring, I have wiring in my brain that calls me lazy if I’m not doing something. God, you’re so lazy. … And that wiring is there. I haven’t been able to get rid of it.

But what I can do is I can put in another wiring. I can put in should-less days. So when that voice goes off and says, You’re being lazy, I turn to the other wiring in my brain that says, No, this is a should-less day, and I’m doing what I want.

Give Yourself a ‘Should-less’ Day — Melissa Dahl, Science of Us, New York Magazine (undated, probably 31 October 2014)

Read the full piece. Also, hat tip as ever to Lifehacker for finding it.

Who makes this stuff up? Annual Clean Off Your Desk Day

It’s a thing. Apparently. The second Monday of January is Clean Off Your Desk Day and I’m prepared to call that utter bollocks but for how I was thinking of cleaning off my desk just about around then.

I learnt about this just now on ProductivitySOS since I am coping with a sluggish day by reading productivity advice. I see the irony. And, I see the irony.

(I’m reading instead of doing and I’m also running a productivity site, so.)

Mind you, last year the same day coincided with National Rubber Duckie Day and I wish I were kidding.

Ironically, we miscounted and missed Spreadsheet Day

Well, certainly I did. If you had a party and spent last Friday dancing on pivot tables, you are a far better spreadsheety kind of person than I am. But where it seems as if every day of the year is now a Day of Something, the fact is that you probably just thought yes, there’s bound to be a spreadsheet listing all those days.

Spreadsheets are used for lists, they are used for sorting, they are are used to create the most almighty huge cockups in history. But they are also used for numbers. There isn’t a company in the world that doesn’t have a spreadsheet. Microsoft used to run adverts for its spreadsheet with a strapline that went something like this: “Excel is used in 99% of companies. What are we doing wrong?”

Microsoft Excel is a weird one. Even though it has similar issues to Microsoft Word, it’s also clearly got different DNA. I think that it’s typical Microsoft that the company doesn’t care how one of its major apps works in a different way to another one – look at how you change size of the displayed page on screen – but it’s also a sign that the teams are different. Somehow I like that even as I don’t like it, it’s simultaneously sloppy and individual.

If you think that it’s ridiculous to project individuality and sloppiness onto a piece of software, well, there is nothing I can say to change your mind. Equally, if you’d told me 35 years ago that spreadsheets would become the power they are, it would’ve helped. I’d have invested in VisiCalc.

Sorry? Never heard of VisiCalc? You’ve seen its influence. You’ve felt its influence, both for good and bad.

On this day in 1979, a computer program called VisiCalc first shipped for the Apple II platform, marking the birth of the spreadsheet, a now-ubiquitous tool used to compile everything from grocery lists to Fortune-500 company accounts. And that’s why October 17th is Spreadsheet Day, celebrated by fans of the form.

Behold the awesome power of the spreadsheet, destroyer of worlds – Jason Karaian, Quartz (October 17, 2014)

As I say, before you celebrate by taking the rest of the day off, this 35th anniversary was last Friday. Look at the title of that piece celebrating it, though. Celebrating. With the words ‘destroyer of worlds’ in the title. It’s not as if Karaian is kidding, either. Read the full piece.

Exactly how long you should work every day

Twenty-four hours.

Sorry? Sleep what?

Recently, the Draugiem Group, a social networking company, added to this growing body of research. Using the time-tracking productivity app DeskTime, they conducted an experiment to see what habits set their most productive employees apart. What they found was that the 10% of employees with the highest productivity surprisingly didn’t put in longer hours than anyone else. In fact, they didn’t even work full eight-hour days. What they did do was take regular breaks. Specifically, they took 17-minute breaks for every 52 minutes of work.

“Turns out, the secret to retaining the highest level of productivity over the span of a workday is not working longer–but working smarter with frequent breaks,” wrote Julia Gifford in The Muse when she posted the study’s results. Employees with the highest levels of productivity worked for 52 minutes with intense purpose, then rested up, allowing their brains time to rejuvenate and prepare for the next work period.

The Exact Amount of Time You Should Work Every Day – Lisa Evans, Fast Company (15 September 2014)

Madness. But okay, maybe persuasive madness. Read Evans’s full feature for more – and particularly on what those most productive 17-minute skivers do during their breaks.

Free (and paid) week planners for creative people

The site Productive Flourishing makes a good point:

After years of struggling with the planners designed for and by office workers, I figured out that it wasn’t me that was the problem: it was the design of the planners.

Creative people approach their work differently. Most of us don’t work 8–5, and we don’t have projects that we can plan to get done during the same times each day. The limiting factor for us is not the amount of time we have available, but rather the type of time we have available.

One size does not fit all when it comes to planners. Check out the planners below to see which ones best relate to what you’re trying to do, and give them a try!

Free Planner – no credited author, Productive Flourishing (undated but July 2014)

And here’s an example of what one such plan looks like. This is a month’s action plan:


The full article contains very many such free planners but also links out to a set of paid premium ones.