Day 1 (Sunday) – Earned 1 point, for running outside (5k, as a walk-run).
Day 2 (Monday) – Earned nothing, ended up watching TV all day.
Changed the rules at the end of Monday, to add new points: 1 point for turning on Rescuetime’s distraction-blocker for the morning, and then another 2 points if I turn it on again in the afternoon.
Day 3 (Tuesday) – Earned 6.5 points total (3 for using Rescuetime in AM & PM; 1 for working on my paper <4hr; 0.5 for starting with organization). I did a lot of “productive procrastination,” doing some housework and playing around with an idea that I have for a hobby. Obviously, using rescuetime doesn’t automatically translate into getting work done on my paper. But “productive procrastination” is better than watching TV online.
Day 4 (Wednesday) – So far I’ve earned 1.5 points: turning on Rescuetime in the morning and starting with organization. My goal for today is to earn the extra 2 points for rescuetime, and to earn the 5 points for 4 hours of work on my paper. I really want to watch 2 hours of tv, and I think I’m going to let myself do that – but I’m really focusing my willpower to make it *only* the 2 shows, no more. Unfortunately, that means I don’t get any points for avoiding tv.
This system is working for me. I think it will take a little while for me to settle on a reward system, but that’s ok. I am giving myself a week to adjust the system as needed, and then I will stick with it until I earn my first reward. After each reward, I can tweak the system to better match my goals and abilities.
Everyone always suggests that time management is a simple system of breaking big tasks down into little tasks and then spreading out those little tasks over the time you have.
Sounds easy. Sounds logical. Sounds painless.
Except that I’ve never been able to do that. I just don’t get those little tasks done according to the timeline that I had set for myself. And then I feel like I have to “catch-up”. And then I fail at the catching-up. The stress just snowballs. The end result is invariably the same as if I hadn’t set up the plan in the first place: at the last minute, I come up with a bare minimum plan and then I systematically complete each section as best as I can.
Recently I tried to do this again with one of the projects that I need to complete. And it played out exactly as I’m used to. My good intentions were for naught.
So then, this past week, I changed the rules. I sent out emails to a bunch of friends asking for help. My friends are going to be my deadlines. They are my external clock. This is how it works:
- I create the schedule, I break up my project into smaller pieces and I set deadlines for each smaller piece.
- For each deadline, I pick a friend to send my work to.
- The friend looks over the work and gives me some feedback. Not a ton, because I don’t want this to be a huge amount of work for them. Just something simple that keeps me thinking.
- The rule for me is that I MUST meet that deadline. If the work isn’t finished, then I must send it anyways and deal with being embarrassed. Once I select the timeframe, it is unmovable.
So far, I’ve set and met one deadline. (Success!) And I have another deadline coming up next Tuesday. I’m trying to keep them pretty frequent, but I’m also trying to plan around other activities so that I don’t feel guilty for going to a family dinner or doing other non-work things.
I’m also not planning all of the deadlines up front. I want to have enough pressure to keep me thinking of the next deadline, but not too much pressure that I feel “paralyzed” by all the deadlines that are looming. It’s a slightly lighter load than I think I can handle, but I think that slowly building success is the most important thing for me right now.
Two weeks ago I gave myself a plan: at 10am each morning, I would open word and start working on one of three projects that I need to do. The idea behind this was to start creating a routine for myself.
At first I thought that this was a total failure. I just couldn’t get myself to do it. And then I felt guilty and stupid for setting myself up.
But on the Friday of the first week, I changed my definition of “work”. I let myself count emails as work – specifically: productive emails. At first I was a bit annoyed at myself for this: it seemed like cheating. But then I decided that it was an ok change. After writing productive emails, I found it easier to start working on my actual work. So yes, emails aren’t as productive as my actual work, but they were like a ramp for me: making it easier to be productive.
So this last week I’ve been playing by the new rules. I just need to be doing work at 10am. It doesn’t matter what type of work. But after doing easier work, I then need to open word and do work on one of the three projects that I have outstanding.
This is a system that I can do. And I think that this is system that I can build on. If this is my wall push-up, then I think that after I while I could turn it into a knee push-up: making it a little harder. But first, I will focus on the wall push-ups.