In addition

I’m thinking a timer — a digital one, not the one on my phone — might be something I need to help me be more productive.

If I know that I only have 5, 10, or 17 minutes, it’s amazing how productive I can be. I just sit down and get it done. If I give myself several hours, it’s amazing how little gets done.

In addition to my “fake numbers” for a scorecard, I think another important element is faking the amount of available time to reach a goal.

For example, I told myself that I wanted to get 1,000 words done today (the goal). Now, I admit that I did wake up a little early today — not by my choice, but just the way it happened, so by the time I got ready for work, I had 5 minutes to get some words in. I took it and probably got in around a hundred words. Then, after work, I sat down for 17 minutes and got in just under 400. I prepared dinner and put it in to cook, and got another 400 done in the 15 minutes it took to cook. After dinner, I had about 150 words to right. I was done before 7 o’clock.

If I hadn’t used those “timed sprints” to get words done and the goal of getting 1,000 words done, I might have just sat down to see how it went. I undoubtedly would have only gotten 100-200 words done before putting dinner in and then I might have gotten another 200 done while it was cooking. I wouldn’t have taken the 5 minutes before work (nope, I would have just drank coffee or taken Merlin out again).

I have been paying attention to myself this year in regards to how I handle time. If I don’t set that firm goal (I will write 1,000 words today) and if I don’t set a time limit (I will do that in one hour), I will only do a little or it takes me forever. But, if I’ve set that goal and limit myself, it gets done. Yesterday, I had the goal of writing 1,200 words. I hit that goal, but since I hadn’t planned my time to do it, it took me 3 hours (or so) to complete. I let myself get distracted by everything until I was frustrated and said, “Okay, get it done, now, by 4 o’clock.” Literally, that’s what I said. Strangely enough, once I did that and started doing the 17 minute sprints with a timer, it got done.

Right now, I’m writing this blog to a timer. I even had to get up to go outside to breakup a cat fight, but kept the timer running. I currently have 7 seconds left on a 20 minute timer.

Okay, well, that went off, but look at what I did in that 20 minutes, including going outside and making sure that my adopting cat was okay — she was so happy that I came out to protect her. She loves me. Won’t I just take her inside?

So why do I say that I want a digital timer when I have one that’s on my phone (or even using the one on my computer)? At first blush, I want to answer that they make it too easy for me to look at and see how much time I have left. But I suspect it’s something more than that. I do like to use my phone for research while I’m writing on my computer that’s not connected to the Internet. I’d be too tempted to pause the timer while I’m looking something up and that could lead to a rabbit hole of lost time. My watch can also set a timer for me, but then I know I’d always be looking at it. Is the purpose of a watch to keep track of time? Why else look at it? (There’s some 1970’s training for you!) Besides, a digital timer would allow me to put it in the other room. When it went off, I’d have to get up and go turn it off. It would break my habit of going over once the alert has gone off. I mean, just look at this. I’ve already clearly written past the alarm going off. I shut off the noise and put my fingers back on the keyboard. The bad thing is that I didn’t get up to take a short break and stretch. I know, some people go for 45 minutes before a break. I’m not sure that always works or is good for me.

Now, I’ve also been known to get up and play/dance with my dog and the cats while on a timer, especially if I have music going. It’s amazing how fast I can write when I’m in a fanatical frenzy of having fun with my pets and writing when I’m also on a timer. I still think that’s why I blazed through the beginning of Arlyn’s book.

Well, I feel myself slowing here and I know I’ve gone past my time, so I’m moving on to the next task. I hope these posts help someone else find a way to structure themselves to get more done. It’s certainly proven to me that I need constraints, like the bumpers they put in the gutters of bowling alleys (grin) to keep me going straight down the line.