How I Get Shit Done

I read a surprising amount of stuff about productivity and time management. I think it comes from being self employed and prone to procrastination and distraction (or at least things that feel like distraction). A lot of suggestions, such as using programs like Freedom to shut down the internet, don't work when your job is to be on the internet. Through the years I've learned some things that help. 

One big thing was figuring out why I procrastinate. I learned a lot from Kelly McGonigal's The Willpower Instinct. I'll easily admit I read the book because I had to for work and I was not looking forward to it. It ended up being really, really useful to me and I had great conversations about it. I don't procrastinate for one specific reason and I don't procrastinate because I'm lazy. I learned why, among other things, I kept finding myself clicking over to the Facebook tab repeatedly (answer: dopamine). Knowing why you procrastinate (if that's an issue for you) is important because it helps you manage the negative self-talk you do in your head as well as to stop procrastinating (well, not entirely but it cuts it down a lot).

The other thing that really helps me is my timer. Yes, I'm talking about the Pomodoro Technique. Kind of. When I read The Distraction Addiction in 2014 it made me pay attention to how I was working. People like to say they are multi-tasking when what they are really doing is switch-tasking. There are times of the day when I am switch-tasking really fast because OH LOOK! SHINY! The ding of an email. The notification on Facebook. You know how it is.

I can't just shut down Facebook or Twitter for an entire day. I can't ignore blog posts and notifications. I can't shut down my email program. I work from home and those items are all important to my job. They are how I communicate. I can't close it all down for hours. But I can ignore everything for 25 minutes to focus on a single task. It's very rare that something absolutely needs to be addressed in less than 25 minutes. 

So I set a timer except I do it my way. A timer on it's own pretty much means nothing to me. I need another cue to make myself knuckle down so I turn to music. I'm kind of weird and I can't do really focused work to music with words. They distract me. Cleaning the house? Heck yes. All the words! Singalong time! Spreadsheets and writing? Nope. I end up listening to a lot of movie scores. Right now I'm liking the music from the Harry Potter movies. 

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Then I turn to the timer app on my phone and I guess this is my other personal twist. I don't set the timer to buzz. I set it to stop playing the music. I find it less jarring. If I'm deep in thought or on a really good writing jag, a buzzer pulls me out of it and then I need to refocus to finish. When the music shuts off I don't necessarily notice it immediately. I can generally get through whatever thought I'm on without being immediately pulled out of it. Sometimes I notice the music shuts of immediately. Sometimes it's a minute to two later when I've finished my train of thought. 

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I'm never going to be Chris Winfield and get 40 hours of work done in 16 hours. But on the weeks when my to do list makes me laugh semi-hysterically (Lee looked at my schedule this week and cringed) it helps me get shit done more or less within normal limits of a work day.