Hello, dear neglected blog. How are you?
Way back when (about a month ago), I mentioned that I am rather fond of techniques for motivating oneself and increasing productivity. And so, as we start a brand-new week, I thought I’d share a couple that I use myself in hopes that you might find something to add to your arsenal—and that you might share other such things for me to add to mine.
The Draw-Out List (or Roll the Dice)—This technique came to me from Susan Vaught. It is nothing like rocket science, nor is it a real game plan. It simply removes all rationalization and avoidance from the process as you get started on a day, as long as you respect the sanctity of the random choice.
You take a to-do list—or an editorial letter—and number the items on it. Then you use a randomizer to pick which one you do first. You can write numbers on little pieces of paper and pick them out of a hat, get out the ol’ D&D dice and roll (not that I, erm, know anything about that…), or let your iPhone choose (that was no endorsement, by the way; I found it by Googling and that is the extent of my knowledge of it). I prefer the little-pieces-of-paper method, because I can leave out the piece I just drew instead of “accidentally” losing track of the number.
The Pomodoro—I learned this from Audrey Vernick, who was introduced to it by by a wise, prolific, bestselling author friend. It is called the Pomodoro, which is Italian for tomato, which was the shape of the egg timer owned by the man who invented the technique. It’s intended to be much more of a big lifestyle sort of thing—an entire organizational system—but that’s not how I use it. It was not written with authors in mind, but Audrey’s friend wisely saw the potential in it, especially for getting first drafts done.
The basic concept, as it was explained to me, is that you can do just about anything for 25 minutes, even if you hate it. You take an egg timer, and you set it for 25 minutes. You remove all distractions (I recommend Freedom to turn off the Internet). You have a blank piece of paper on hand (and something to write with) and then whatever you need to do your task. You hit the egg timer, and off you go.
You work in obligatory—and I do mean obligatory—25-minute chunks, followed by 5-minute obligatory breaks. If you think about anything you need to research online, add to your to-do list, ask a friend about, or anything else, you write it on that blank sheet of paper and go back to your task at hand. You do not let yourself stray from that task no matter what, because if you do, you don’t get to count that Pomodoro. And after you try this, you end up setting goals for yourself in terms of how many Pomodoros you’re going to get done this morning, or this day, or this week. If you really commit, you get a longer break for every four Pomodoros you finish. There’s a much more complicated thing about logging the Pomodoros, but I don’t get as into that. Your mileage may vary.
I’ve heard the old idea that if you are avoiding doing something, just commit to doing it for fifteen minutes and then you can stop—but by the end of fifteen minutes, you usually are fine to keep on going with it and finish it up. The Pomodoro Technique takes that idea and pushes it just a bit further—not just ten minutes further, but more-solid-commitment further. It’s also a pretty effective motivational technique, I find, and works well in concert with the Draw-Out List.
I have one more to share, which I’ll post next week. Meantime, how about you? What techniques do you have to share?