Lets talk about getting more work done without burning ourselves out.
Cranking is a helpful tool in the form of a mindset that we can use to “turn on” our ability to be very productive when it is time to get work done. We start out by understanding the concept, then later we turn it into a “muscle” and finally we engrain it into our productivity style as an unconscious habit that we don’t have to think about most of the time. We want it to become our “inclination”.
Cranking is the mindset we tap into when it comes time to “shut up and get to work”. It is the mental muscle we “flex” that puts us into an overdrive state of focus that allows us to be very productive. Essentially it is our work ethic muscle.
The goal is to get out of our heads and into our work. We want to be able to channel our ideas directly into “actions”. To get to this point, we have to first practice with short periods of uninterrupted and focused productivity. Starting with five minutes at a time can build a firm foundation to build on. It also helps if you can use a timer, either an an actual timer or a digital one will work as well.
To do this successfully, there has to be a specific task you are going to focus on for the full five minutes. It could be practicing an instrument, an art project, writing a story, writing an email, updating a slide on a PowerPoint, reading an article/book, learning a language, writing a line of code, prepping materials for a sales meeting, practicing a sales pitch, analyzing/updating a spreadsheet, etc. You can only do one task during the five minutes.
Start the clock and start working by focusing on the task at hand through your actions instead of through your ideas. When you have an idea or thought, put it into action immediately. If you are doing a more passive activity like reading, make it more engaging by reflecting on what you are reading, writing notes down, rereading sentences, etc.
A helpful way of explaining what this looks like is with the writing process. Especially writing that is done in a flow state. When you write, you are in the midst of the creation process.
What we are attempting to do with the process of writing is to produce organized ideas that others can understand. Whether our intention is to express ourself, our opinions, or knowledge, it helps if the ideas are organized.
Good ideas need a channel to flow through if they are to become alive. Entrepreneurs are especially good at taking ideas and bringing people together to take action on those ideas.
Action is the most important variable.
Each time you “crank”, or write as in our example, you create neurological pathways in your brain that become engrained, and then when you write more, the pathways become even more engrained. Eventually what this turns into is a sort of “writing muscle” that you can “flex.” You set the intention of getting your good ideas out on paper. However, we don’t necessarily do this by letting only our good ideas come out. In fact, we often don’t even know what a good idea looks like until we are deep into the writing process.
What we do instead is to put our best effort forward towards getting all of our relevant ideas on paper. And if we are really having a difficult time, we just simply write out all of our ideas and pseudo ideas and thoughts and feelings and anything else that wants to come out.
“Table is fun to set drinks on.” “I like the way the chair screeches across the floor.” “I think that wood tastes funny”. “When I pour lemonade into a glass, it makes my insides go woo hoo hoo .”
Yes, it is weird, and it is often what is needed to get started and bring about newfound creativity.
Writing your thoughts out in this silly manner is like warming up with 5lb or 10lb weights. This helps entrain and engrain your brain to be more conducive to good weight lifting technique and support your process for strength gains as you increase the weight in later sets. In the same way, the practice of simply just getting started helps to set you up for a mindset that is conducive to producing good ideas.
Another way of stating this is “experimentation”.
Now as many of you hot cats have figured out by now, this concept does not only apply to writing, but it applies to many endeavors, and is especially useful for getting work done.
Part of this process is stepping away when the blocks hit, or the fatigue starts to set in, but then we come back refreshed. Sometimes we need to leave the project for the day and come back in the morning.
Where many of us get stuck is waiting for the good ideas to come to us before we get started with the writing process.
Even the greatest musicians don’t typically have the luxury of knowing exactly how a song is to be constructed before they play it and write the music out for the first time. It is by far most commonly done through a process of trial and error that resulted from simply just getting started with ideas, both good ideas and bad ones.
Over time, we can trust that the breakthrough ideas will come more naturally in quick bursts, but until then, we simply embrace the process.
Cranking encompasses two things, getting started and getting work done for a specific amount of time. In the early stages, we set small goals to accomplish. We start out with five minutes at a time and work our way up to 20 to 30 minutes at a time. This time is dedicated focus to the task at hand and continual forward progress majority of the time.
Building up this muscle means that we will be able to get a lot of work done when we are able to have 2-3+ hours of total crank time. It also means that we will have more free time to devote to the things that make life important, people. It allows us to automatically be more efficient with our time since we can get the majority of our important work done in the set focused periods of time. We don’t need to waste time
With writing there are two phases, the writing process and the editing process. The writing process is the easy part, the organization process is harder. Being organized from the beginning helps organize the editing at the end but often we don’t know what we are trying to say at the beginning so it presents challenges that we have to learn how to overcome. We learn how to overcome them by embracing the learning process.
Developing a mindset like this does not have to be stressful. We simply start by trying it out for five minutes once a day and work our way up to where we have an accelerated ability to turn on our “crank” machine and maximize the amount of work we get done.
Instrumental music can help us get in the zone, so put on the Sandsoy already and get to work.
Crank hard, crank often.
There is only so much that you can get done in a day, go home/quit at your set time as frequently as possible. Trying to get too much done, especially at obscene levels, ultimately leads to getting less and less done, at least in terms of quality. It also often leads to burnout. Being uncomfortable is okay, but if you are stressed, take a five minute break and come back to try again.
Using instrumental music that ends at a specific time (5, 10, 15 minutes, etc.) is a good way to go into the flow state and be brought back out once the music stops for a period of reflection. Then, take a point of feedback as to what worked during the past five minutes and what did not and then restart the process if you are up for it.