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Today I’m a bit sleepy and my neck and shoulders are already tight.  I know that if I spend all day at the keyboard today, I’m going to end up with neck spasms and a headache.  But I still want to have a productive day, so here’s the plan.  I’m going to work in 20-minute bursts, and I’m going to take my breaks AWAY FROM THE COMPUTER.  No PC gaming, Facebook or long personal emails today.

Ideas for breaks: Go for a walk, practice bass, do a little housework, gardening, (I’ve already done my exercise for the day), go for another walk…

I’ll be darting in, hovering for 20 minutes of focused activity, and darting away again.  I’m going to call today’s plan: Working Hummingbird Style.

If I can be disciplined about this, I can still get as much work done as in a typical day.  Only my Facebook friends will notice a difference.  😉



I’ve been sick with a nasty cold for the past couple of days.  I say that I’m too sick to work, but I still spend the whole day at the computer: doing all the goof-off things that usualy creep into my work days, only without the work.  I feel like I’ve fallen off the wagon; I’m worried that I’m practicing a bad habit, and that I won’t be able to focus on work when I’m well again.

I could spend all day, every day, signing petitions, writing letters and spamming my friends about important issues.  It’s important, but all things in moderation, right?  Making a living is important too.  So, what will be my strategy when I’m “working” again?

  • Use the timer for everything I do at my desk, starting right at the beginning of the day.
  • Prioritize non-work tasks.  Activism will have to compete for my time with all of life’s other demands.
  • If something really big and important comes up, that’s what evenings are for.

It’s too easy for me to put off work to do other “important” things – because I don’t like working!  If I have to balance those “important” things against other pleasurable pursuits (books, movies, games, getting to bed on time), then I think we’ll see some real prioritization.


Yesterday I had a good day, my first productive day in a while.  I made a list, I used the timer for everything, and I got shit done.  I even spent six 20-minute periods working on my top-priority project, the one I’ve been avoiding for two weeks now.  And I finished it!

1. With One Good Day under my belt, I now feel like I have a foothold, a beachhead in the realm of Productivity.  I have this imaginary momentum that I want to maintain.  I feel like it will be easier to have another good day, today.

2. Why, after weeks of being at sea, did I finally have a good day?  Who knows.  Maybe it was the new approach I tried of making my list for the day: I put EVERYTHING on it: work tasks, phone calls to make, “work out,” “shower and get dressed,” and I listed my top priority project four times.  The premise was that crossing things off the list feels rewarding, so the more things on the list the better! – and I wanted to spend several 20-minute periods on my top priority that day.  I even wrote “free internet time” on my list – and allowed 20 minutes for that (better than my usual 6 hours…).  I also want to get into the habit of NOT doing anything that isn’t on the list.  Anything new that came up went on the general TO-DO list for consideration tomorrow (unless it was too urgent to wait).

I’ll be using the same list technique today.  Wish me luck.


I need churchin’ up again. (#BluesBrothers)

Past few months, my productivity has been pretty poor, pretty “scraping by”.  I’m hitting the deadlines, but just barely.  And I’m not making ANY time for those other pursuits that I claim are so important to me.  And what do you know… I’ve gotten out of the habit of following The Now Habit.  Big surprise.

Today’s reminders:

  • I can focus for 20 minutes without self-distracting (I’m working my way back up to 30 minutes)
  • Using a timer, and recording my productive periods on a daily calendar, really helps
  • When in doubt, start.  Starting is a victory, and the first step to many more.

I’ve been all over the place lately, I need to check in with the local chapter of Procrastinators Anonymous.  That’s me and you.  This meeting shall now come to order.

What have I learned?  That:

  • when I stop using the timer and filling in the Unschedule, my work habits and productivity suffer precipitously.
  • I procrastinate when a project hits an unexpected road block, when a difficult decision is required, or when I discover that more work than I had planned on is required.
  • When “important” non-work things (like blogging about election issues) creep into my work day, they quickly become permanent additions to my routine (because they’re more fun than real work) and take up increasingly more of my time.
  • When I “fall off the wagon,” I can’t expect to just snap back to the level of productivity that I had attained before, I may have to start again at the beginning and work my way back up.
  • If I spend my “work” and “guilt-free play” periods all at the computer without getting up, I get lethargic and dopey and lose the will to be productive.  No matter what my guilt-free play entails, I should get up and re-invigorate myself every 30mins or so!
  • Daily exercise is great for avoiding headaches and getting quality sleep.
  • BEFORE I sit down at the computer, I should decide what I’m here to DO, and then start the timer (even for play).  Otherwise, I can waste hours on email, FB, newspaper sites and websurfing before I even look at my to-do list.
  • Important personal projects, if I’m going to get them done, should switch between “guilt-free play” activities and “work” activities depending on my level of enthusiasm/procrastination for them.  Most personal projects start out as the former and morph into the latter before completion.
Further thoughts:

  • When “important” non-work things come up and have to be done in the work day, I should treat them as either work or guilt-free play: in either case, using the timer, and taking care to balance priorities.  This will allow me to maintain those good habits, and not accidentally vasta the diem.  😉

Based on reader feedback, I think I should explain about The Unschedule, an important element of The Now Habit.

The theory behind it is this: ONE of the reasons that we procrastinate is that we feel like work is taking over our lives and leaving no time for fun.  We develop resentment for our work.  So, we “steal” back some fun time during the work day with personal emails, websurfing, games and the like.  But this is “guilty” fun time, and we regret it later when we turn back to our work and find ourselves further behind, and then work late to make up for it (self-fulfilling prophesy).

I have tried to solve this problem by brute force of will (“I will NOT goof off today!”), by using fear (“If I don’t finish this today I’m screwed!”), or by treating fun activities as rewards (“when I finish this project, I will play”), but these never work for me.  By the time I finish the project (that’s already late), I have to dive right into the next work task, and play-time gets put off, again.  The resentment builds, and I’m soon back to procrastinating.

The solution offered in The Now Habit is The Unschedule, and it works like this. Read More »