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Set place – What You Think About Becomes Who You Are

05/16/2012

in Make Money, Productivity, Travel

One thing that I’ve noticed is that everyone has a set place, a default action that people tend to reset to. Think about it–when you’re not working or executing something on your calendar, what do you spend your time doing?

You might think you have no predefined place, but dig deep. Do you find yourself tending to default to Facebook, maybe television? What do you spend most of your wasted time doing?

For me, I know that I default naturally to email or Facebook. Both of these are negative ‘Set places.” By watching my successful friends, I see extremely stark differences between the successful and the average

The average person defaults to passive, distracting activities. The successful, however, default to an activity that furthers their mission. My photographer roommate spends his free time taking photos. My musician friends spend their free time producing and practicing music.

The major thing to take note of is the time requirement of excellence. Malcolm Gladwell says that it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert. For people who have a set place as a passion, they’ll approach and achieve that goal just by doing what they normally do.

So, lets look at how you can diagnose your current set place…. and how you can replace it with one more in line with your goals.

Diagnosing Your Current Set Place

- So what do you spend your time doing now?

1) Install RescueTime on your Computer

RescueTime is an incredibly sleek, simple app that sits in your system tray and measures exactly how much time you spend on your computer; sorted by application, website, and level of productivity. For example, if I spend 4 hours on FB and 4 hours on a Word document, RescueTime will give me a 50% efficiency rating for the day.

This application has some pros and cons. Pro: it doesn’t require any work, other than simply installing toe app and waiting. On the negative side, because it is so easy to operate, it doesn’t tend to induce change- it just monitors what you’re already doing.

RescueTime will show you which web sites which apps you are using the most. To actually monitor what activities you’ve installed as a set place, you need a Time Log.

2) A time log

The best way to diagnose your current set place is to do a time log. For at least one full day, track everything that you do. Every time that you switch tasks, or check Facebook, or get up to grab a snack, jot it down.

I recommend the app Klok for this.

Two things will happen-first, you’ll start to become cognizant of what you’re doing to waste time. Secondly, you’ll notice that you’ll resist those urges because you won’t want to jot these notes down.

This is a great example of Peter Drucker, the famous Management scientist, and his statement of ‘that which gets measured gets managed. If you start tracking your time, you’ll naturally manage it better.

How can we improve?

So now that you know your set place, we need to figure out how to adjust yours to help you achieve your goals.

Achieving a new set place is the same process as creating any new habit. Let’s look at the form a normal habit takes, and the process to change a habit.

Habit

Trigger -> Routine -> Reward

Currently, something causes you to do something at a certain point in the day. Perhaps whenever you feel stressed, you smoke a cigarette. Whenever You get bored with your work, you switch on Facebook. Whatever it is, there is a trigger and a consequence.

Our goal then, is to break the bond between trigger and non-desired Routine.

But, just like breaking bonds between electrons and atoms, the trigger cannot exist in a vacuum. The trigger must instead be set to induce a different, desired consequence.

In order to instill a new set place, we must substitute our current set place for another.

What is your dream goal? Is it to become a musician, or build a business, or get in serious shape? What activity, if you were to practice it for hours a day, would help you achieve it?

Now you actually have to focus on making this action your go-to action. This part is just pure focus. Set specific goals, and find someone to hold you accountable.

Then, every time you find yourself off task, or distracted, instead of switching to your old outlet—the previous ‘set place,’—make a concerted effort to either return to your work, or do the new set task.

One example of this is Leo Babauta of Zen Habits, who told me that whenever he had an urge to smoke, he would do ten pushups instead. By recognizing triggers pushing him to negative habits, he managed to substitute positive ones in their place.

If you want to be a music producer, make an effort to replace your standard Facebook set place with Ableton Live instead. Every time you catch yourself distracted, either return on task, or work on music.

When you are done for the day, instead of relaxing with TV, go back to your new set place. You’ll need to force yourself for the first month, and that is okay. After a few weeks, your new set place will become a habit, and if you consciously monitor it, you’ll be able to induce a new set place—and build automatic success.

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Photo by SaZeOd

{ 18 comments… }

Gina October 14, 2012 at 4:50 am

I dropped Facebook two years ago and never looked back. Recently Twitter required my password for the first time on my phone — which is the only way I interacted. Of course I have no idea what it is. Oddly – Twitter doesn’t allow you to retrieve or make a new password from the phone app — a programming glitch?? Regardless – and to quote my brilliant father — it was like getting out of prison. I still appreciate Twitter – my source for current events and inspiration. But I am loving the break. If and when I return – I will use principles of minimalism to manage who I follow and what I tweet.

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Anne August 28, 2012 at 8:45 am

Hi Maneesh. What a great post. I actually procrastinate and waste time at my desk in front of my iMac. It has email and all my “admin” files on it and it is where I keep in touch through Facebook and LinkedIn. I can make myself extremely busy without achieving anything in this place – most of today has been spent in this mode.

I have taken the somewhat excessive step of buying a lap top which is my “work” place. I sit anywhere with it, in the garden or on the sofa and I get lots done, only using the internet for research and no access to email. But it is difficult to force myself away from the iMac (which I am on now…) to the workplace.

In order to achieve what I want to I need to write – assignments for my degree and posts for my website. I am working on 50 minute bloacks right now – I work for 50 minutes without being distracted and when the timer goes off I have a break. It works quite well, I feel my mind wandering at about 48 minutes!

Thanks for your site.

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Valerie July 31, 2012 at 12:34 pm

This is a really timely post for me to find (through your guest post, though I read here all the time since I discovered your blog last month). I am currently working on replacing my set habits of time wasting. Sadly I don’t need any tools to track where my time is going. I know my own set place quite well.

Have you experimented with website blocking apps? I hear that is a good way to limit time on wasteful websites, but I haven’t implemented one.

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maneesh July 31, 2012 at 7:04 pm

The best app is getfreedom.com Freedom. Because it simply blocks your internet. Incredibly powerful :)

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Andy Haynes May 17, 2012 at 2:25 pm

Sadly, I default to my iphone which, like most people I presume, is just “email” “facebook” and one or two other websites that I can waste time on while waiting around.

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Agota May 16, 2012 at 12:55 pm

Dalius – > Lithuania represent, yo! :D

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Agota May 16, 2012 at 12:52 pm

“Set place” is definitely an interesting concept.

It’s probably an answer to a question that was on my mind for the past few days.

Long story short, I felt that I was spending way too much time on Facebook, so after reading Cal Newport’s take on that, I decided to give a 30-day “No facebook” trial ago. Those 30 days were April. I haven’t logged in to Facebook since, nor I’m planning to go back to it.

The only reason why I’d go on Facebook now is that I have a lot of contacts there that I don’t have anywhere else, so if I’d need those, I’d have to log in.

Problem solved, right?

Wrong.

I might have solved the FB problem, but then I find myself wasting time somewhere else, like watching videos on Youtube or simply watching way more TV episodes than I should.

It’s really easy to drop Facebook. It’s not as easy to drop the whole behavioral pattern of wasting time on low importance activities.

I thought that this is some underlying major problem, like “I don’t know what the purpose of my life is” or whatever, which obviously is correct, but how do you solve problems like that, really?

Sounds nice in self-help literature, but isn’t very practical in real life, since I’ll figure out things like that eventually (hopefully), but I need to get the job done and get results now, not after seven years in Tibet.

This “Set place” concept seems to provide a solution:

The reason of bouncing back to destructive behaviors (asides lack of purpose in life and such) is that the destructive behavior “wasting time” itself is a “set place”, so once you get rid of one manifestation of it, another one pops up, unless you clearly define what positive behavior you’ll replace the negative one you just dropped with.

I’ll try changing my set place and see how it goes.

Agota

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maneesh May 18, 2012 at 6:06 am

it’s true—you need to REPLACE it. but removing internet completely has some very interesting sideeffects–you get bored quickly on a computer with no internet what soever.

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Stanley Lee May 16, 2012 at 11:43 am

I spend a lot of time on Twitter, Facebook, and email as well, but I do manage to shut them off when I work on my virtual machine, or when I talk on the phone. I think these activities can be indulged on a rewards basis.

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maneesh May 16, 2012 at 11:12 am

Awesome! I used to live in Brazil :) Keep kicking ass!

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Angela May 16, 2012 at 10:01 am

Hey Maneesh

First let me say I’m super envious about where you’re living right now. New York is my number one place to visit!

This post was really cool. I’ve heard of the whole ‘set point’ theory before, but not in this context. Although now that I think about it, it makes perfect sense for this scenario as well.

I keep track of my time in Google Calendar. I find those bright colorful blocks both motivating and intimidating. They motivate me when I’m working in accordance with my schedule and serve as a scary reminder when I’m not.

I used to default to Facebook and Twitter, but the other day I hit on a strategy that seems to have improved things for me. I’ve stopped showing all my friends’ news feeds on my wall and I’ve drastically reduced the number of people I follow on Twitter.

There’s still lots of room for improvement though, so I’m going to apply some of the ideas you’ve given in your post and see how that works out.

Ang :-)

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maneesh May 16, 2012 at 11:12 am

Sometimes small changes make huge results. And Facebook/Twitter are major distractions :(

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dalius May 16, 2012 at 11:55 am

Maneesh,
Thank you for your time writing it and sharing good things with others…
I have reduced my time on FB by canceling my account and set up a new one, re-invented new me :) now I have only 5 friends, that I know in physical reality and I participate in one group (of my interests). that saved me lots of time.

I do not use twitter, do not like it actually. I spend my time just dreaming and searching (“for wisdom solutions”). That is not normal to me, i.e. I have a time waste problem at this spot.http://hackthesystem.com/wordpress/wp-admin/edit-comments.php?s=ttp%3A%2F%2Fdaliusvirsilas.lt&comment_status=all&pagegen_timestamp=2014-01-08+16%3A59%3A03&_total=0&_per_page=20&_page=1&paged=1&_ajax_fetch_list_nonce=d89060109d&action=-1&comment_type&action2=-1#comments-form

Thank God I have my kids and my daddy with whom I spend my most valued time.

peace

dalius from Lithuania

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Benjamin May 16, 2012 at 8:53 am

I noticed myself similarly wasting time recently. I’d find myself on Facebook for about 3 hours total every day (21 hours a week!), but chatting to mainly the same 5 people, and rarely having a meaningful conversation. So, I wrote to those 5 people, explained the situation, gave them my email address and suspended my Facebook account.

Fast forward two weeks and my productivity has sky-rocketed. I’ve done more work and enjoyed my leisure-time like never before. I have no intention of going back to Facebook until I’ve accomplished a number of life-goals.

Maneesh, could you maybe do an article about you studying electronic music? I’m also an electronic musician, and would really get a kick out of reading about how you balance your business with studying music (I’m working on becoming location and financially independent in order to focus on music full-time). Thanks! :-)

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maneesh May 16, 2012 at 11:13 am

Wow…giving up on facebook forever is serious. I should try it too.

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Jason Martin May 16, 2012 at 10:57 am

Great article. Tracking time really can open our eyes to show us how we’re really performing and what we think we do vs the reality of what we actually do.

A great free time tracking tool I’ve been using is called Toggl. Cloud based, works on any OS via browser, as well as iOS apps.

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maneesh May 16, 2012 at 11:11 am

I love the recommendations! Thanks Jason. Are you doing a good job in focusing on the right tasks?

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Coop May 16, 2012 at 8:30 am

I like using the iPhone app Eternity to track my time. I use a simple color code of red for wasted time and green for productive or healthy activities. I find that it’s a very simple way to review my day, plus it keeps me focused on one task at a time.

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