A matter of time

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Photo by Icons8 team on Unsplash

Sometimes, I really have a difficult time getting work done. I don’t think I have an attention deficiency. I think I’m easily distracted. Maybe, I would be more focused if I didn’t have internet access, but it’s not an experiment I’m willing to run.

 I enjoy writing. In fact, when I leave the house, I tell my kids I’m going to work, but when I write, it doesn’t feel like work, it feels like play. Still, despite the enjoyment of it, when I sit down to do it, it takes me a while to get to the point where I’m actually productive. Why? Well, first, I probably need a fresh cup of coffee and then a snack, something sweet to munch on. I tell myself that I’ll use the sweet thing as my reward for hitting writing goals but that doesn’t happen. I don’t have self control. Then, I have to see what’s going on facebook and twitter. Once I pull myself out of that hole, then I usually find myself researching answers to questions I had thought of over the last few days. 

Questions like:

  • Can a person die of a sinus infection?
  • What is the best way to poach an egg?
  • How do I fight the spotted lantern fly invasion?
  • How far can two average sized people ride on one horse?
  • What kind of winter are we going to have this year?

From there, I might segue into some online window shopping, or I might indulge my voyeuristic side by looking at real estate listings. Sometimes, I end up on YouTube watching old SNL skits. The whole time this time suck is happening, I am yelling at myself: Stop doing what you’re doing and get to work!

That’s when I set a timer and start doing sprints. I work in loops of fifteen minute writing sessions interspersed with five minute breaks. Five minutes where I can waste time doing whatever I want as long as when the alarm goes off I jump right back into writing. I learned how to do this because it’s also how I approach exercise. When I exercise, no matter how tired I may be, I always can convince myself to go one more minute. I can really push myself because I know that it’s just a minute and you can survive a lot of things if it only lasts one minute. Incidentally, this was also my approach to childbirth. After all, contractions only last for one minute and surely you can survive that long. To be honest, that approach only worked for about the first ten hours of labor before I decided that no, I absolutely could not survive another minute of pain and begged for an epidural.

I also use timers when I do housework. If I look around my house and it’s trashed and I think there’s no way I can do anything about it, I set a timer for ten minutes and run around to see just how much I can accomplish in that time. Sometimes, my kids help, but their idea of helping is running around frantically trying to look busy while I put everything away. 

With writing, it helps me stay focused. When I find myself drifting away to ask questions or look at house listings, I remember that at the end of fifteen minutes, I have five minutes to do that, but for now I’m going to work on this project. 

I told my husband about it, feeling very clever about my time management.

“Oh,” he said. “Pomodoro timers.

Yeah, apparently I’m not the first person who discovered what timers can do for getting things done. It’s been around since the 1980’s. 

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