the Spark and the Engine
In order to create a long lasting change in your life and your behavior, you need to understand the metaphor behind the Spark and Engine.
The Spark is the trigger that pushes you to make that first step and start doing something new, something better with your life. It could be getting of your couch and working out, it could be studying, it could be working to make more money, it could be taking on a second job.
Sparks can be internal or external, they are both useful but external ones can be planned more easily.
Internal Sparks are when you get fed-up with your current situation and take the first step towards change.
You are fed up with being overweight and decide to join a gym.
You are fed up with being broke and decide to get a job.
You are fed up with your 9-5 job so you start building a side business.
Usually you get angry, emotional, and say enough is enough and you break out of your shell.
Great job, but this spark won’t last long so read on.
External Sparks are when you are influenced by your environment, by something external. The greatest external impact will always be from the people around us, second from the people we communicate with online and third from the people we hear or read about from afar.
Everything starts with an internal spark first. You can’t get anybody else to make you fed up with your situation. But those come natural so you don’t have to worry about them.
You will naturally get fed up from being lazy, broke or fat. But external sparks are going to push you to follow through every day consistently, if you can manufacture them.
Saying that you lost 20 pounds by pure willpower, doing pushups at home every day and eating only rice and water might sound cool.
But the more practical thing to do is join a gym or hire a personal trainer even.
The gym is an environment where everybody else works out and the trainer is someone that will literally call you if you don’t show up 4 times per week.
This way you have set up reliable daily reminders (external sparks) instead of counting on your willpower and motivation (internal sparks).
If you want to start reading more, it’s good to go to the library, everyone else is reading there, you will too.
Productivity and success in your career
One of the few benefits that offices have over remote working is the productive environment. Sometimes offices can be chaos, sure, but when everyone else is working around you, that productivity will naturally rub off.
That is why co-working places are becoming more and more popular.
So when working from home, your major influence is your online social environment. Facebook is for everyday boring stuff and events in the community usually, Twitter is for debates, politics, etc, LinkedIn is for career stuff, recruiting mostly and Instagram is for lifestyle, stories etc.
However there is no social network where you can see people working on their projects, completing tasks and moving towards their goals.
That is why at FocusHub I’m building a productivity social network where people are sharing their daily accomplishments in their career, work, studies and side-business.
I’m hoping to provide that initial spark for people to get going, to start working towards their goals and build each other up to greater and greater heights.
The Engine are the systems you create within your life that will keep you moving forward after the impact from the Spark winds down.
In terms of productivity, which is my focus on this blog, there are millions of systems and apps which can be separated into two general categories.
Systems for organization and systems for execution. Let me explain a few of the most common ones.
These are the apps and systems that allow you to define your projects and tasks, label them, organize them, schedule them etc.
Apps like Trello, Todoist, Notion, Evernote belong in this category.
In this category are apps that help you work on your tasks better, could be time tracking apps, time blocking apps, extensions for blocking out distractions.
However, in terms of actually working on your tasks, staying focused and getting into flow, there are almost none that can help you. A good rule of thumb is to take a big task, split it into smallest actionable tasks and start doing those one by one or within pomodoro cycles.
The Focus Sessions module at FocusHub is designed specifically for being more efficient and getting into flow every day. It is a centerpiece of the whole platform.
One Focus Session consists of multiple Work Cycles with small breaks in-between.
On my programming projects like FocusHub or LifeHQ I work in longer work cycles early in the morning: 50min work, 10min break, this is my period for deep work.
In the afternoon I usually work in 25/5 cycles for replying to email, handling customer support or writing on this blog.
The magic of the Focus Session is that before each cycle you are prompted to think about your task a little more than usual and define: task itself, first steps and anticipated blockers. All of this combined with a time limit will push you to your efficiency limits, and then beyond.
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