Henry Miller's Commandments for Productivity

While developing Personal Edge, I had many frustrating days when my productivity was next to zero.

It wasn't that I was avoiding work. If anything I was working longer hours.

Sometimes I struggled to find a way to bring together my research in a coherent way. Other times, I knew what I wanted to say but I just couldn't find the words. Or I would become fixated on a minor point and a quick Google search would turn into hours of clicking on links to try to gain some new insight.

Then I came across Henry Miller's Commandments, developed while he was writing the Tropic of Cancer. It was reassuring that a genius like Miller also struggled from time-to-time and needed 'rules' to work effectively. I now have an edited version of his rules on my office wall and any time it feels like I am wading through treacle, I re-read them.

Here are my edited Commandments:

  • Work on one thing at a time until finished
  • Don't be nervous. Work calmly, joyously, recklessly on whatever is in hand
  • Work according to the program and not according to mood. Stop at the appointed time!
  • When you can't 'create' you can 'work'
  • Discard the Program when you feel like it – but go back to it the next day
  • Think only of the work you 'are' doing.

How do you get in your own way – and what do you do to get back on track?

Miller's original rules are here.

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Face-to-Face Training may not be so effective …

A typical face-to-face training session consists of a presentation by a facilitator, followed immediately by an activity to apply the learning. There is little time for reflection or deeper analysis and, as a result, activities intended to deepen learning, like role plays, tend to be superficial. There’s a quick debrief and then on to the next topic. No chance to go away and experiment in the real world in situations where there is something at stake. At the end of the training day, you’re exhausted and any learning from earlier in the day is rapidly fading.

There is a limit to how much knowledge can be crammed into the human brain in a single day.

And then, when you return to work, you have to catch-up on all the stuff that accumulated while you were away. Often, you don’t even try to apply your learning – you’re too busy getting stuff done and within days the training is a fuzzy blur.

What a waste of your time – and money!

Face-to-Face Training is Expensive

The online content in each edge course, if delivered face-to-face, would normally require 2 to 3 days and cost several times our individual and group courses. Plus, if delivered off-site, there would be additional travel and accommodation expenses and time away from work.