My favourite strategy for tackling pretty much anything is to set a timer for 12 minutes, then race it. This is a great trick, because:
1. Even if you’re a bedbound sloth, you can probably motivate yourself to do 12 minutes of something.
2. Starting work is the hard part; once you get into something, you’ll often work longer without even noticing the time pass. Before you know it, you’ll be all done making that beautiful macrame rainbow dress you’ve always wanted, and you can head off to Burning Man knowing you look exactly like a shy librarian who’s trying drugs for the first time.
3. If you tend to get distracted (like I do! By super-interesting, important things, like this little bear that could not stop sneezing!), then the timer is a good reminder that OH YEAH BACK TO WORK even though somewhere on the internet probably there are other adorable things with allergies!
4. You can limit how long you spend on things you don’t really want to be doing. Sometimes I have to call people who talk a lot. I like to set a 4-minute timer so I can keep the whole call under 5 minutes. Not that I do that to anyone who reads this blog.
5. Most things take less time than you think. This morning I tidied up my whole apartment in 12 minutes, and the place was a total wreck when I started. It looked like hours of work but the timer proved, as usual, that it was easier than I’d expected. Now it only looks like a partial wreck; thanks, timer!
6. Once you start to figure out how long things take, you’re more likely to do them without quite so much fussing next time. I hated vaccuuming my apartment until I realized it takes me 6 minutes. Now I do it all the time, much to the delight of my neighbours (Hi, Nicolas! VRRROOOOOMMMM)
Usually I use a little digital egg timer stopwatch thing for all my timer-racing needs, but I don’t always want to bring it with me. So I downloaded this great free app called Minuteur (if you like it, you might wanna shoot the developer a few bones). It’s a little virtual desktop timer that’s really easy to set; it makes a gentle ticking noise that you can silence if it drives you bonkers, and when the time’s up it alarms and jumps to the front of your desktop and blinks at you. Bam. Easy as… eggs.
Thanks to Reuben for the tip (that link goes to an article he wrote that has some other good productivity advice buried in it).
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