While on a recent run I realized this lesson, mostly accidentally.
My goal was to run for two hours and listen to podcasts while my Nike+ app tracked my distance. Things started out fine but around the one hour mark I noticed that my battery percentage was hovering around 50%. “Hmm,” I thought. “I can’t let that run all the way down.” I’m the primary contact for my daughter’s school and to tell my wife that she had to leave work because I was listening to Mike Vardy wasn’t going to be good. If I thought I was in a lot of pain from running – oh boy – I’d have a lot to learn.
I turned off the podcast and slogged away the final hour in silence, thinking about why the battery ran down so quickly and making a mental note to check on that.* Arriving home I noted that there weren’t any background apps that were running, that the GPS signal had been strong, and that there was nothing to note in the podcast. I let it go, assuming there was some technical specs I was just missing and that my long runs would be silent runs – at least in the second half.
Fast forward to a week later, another long run, and another half way point. I noted that then that my battery life had only gone down to 85%. That didn’t make any sense to me.
And then I realized it. The screen had been off.
My app sequence during my first run was podcast then Nike+, which leaves the screen on for a runner to see their distance, pace, and other metrics. This second run I did things in the opposite order: Nike+, then podcas,t and the screen turned off. My initial equation of GPS + audio = low battery was amended to be GPS + audio + screen = low battery.
So what does running have to do with productivity?
It matters because if we aren’t measuring the right things (and all the things) we get erroneous conclusions. Take for example, your email productivity. If you have a system think about what makes that system work properly. If you don’t consider this, what would happen if you processed all your email at once. If you switch from a Groupon advertisement for frozen yogurt to one about a work attachment you’re probably missing some efficiency. David Allen talked about this with Mike Vardy on The Productivityist Podcast.
“Your brain cannot multitask and your switching costs are absurdly detrimental.” – David Allen
In that interview David Allen is talking about multitasking, but that body of work rests on the same chassis as anything. You could measure how many emails you get through in a day or how many pages of reports or how often you submit an assignment but you need to make sure it’s comprehensive to the things that matter. If, like me and my runs, you miss one of the key ingredients, then you may miss the real reason.
On my iPhone I mostly knew what could be using the battery but in work it’s a bit harder. You need to think about your core work, those most important things that need done as a form of measurement.
*Note: I’ve since started using the GTD philosophy with Todoist and made a note later in the day.