Wednesday, July 1, 2015

One Weird Trick to Improve Productivity

Much to my dismay, we're approaching the 2 year mark since Exodus was published, with nary a release date in site for Deliverance. At my most optimistic, a December or early 2016 release seem possible (but don't quote me on that ;D), far from my promise of completing this book more quickly than the last one. Deliverance is challenging me in a number of ways, but my biggest hurdle by far has nothing to do with its tangled, sometimes brutal plot. You see, I possess the innate ability to do less with more time. Yep. The more time I have, the less I seem to be able to do with it.

I've always been a sucker for organization, a complete office supply fetishist, a lover of to-do lists and planners. During one semester in college, I somehow balanced 19 credit hours, five part-time jobs, two campus organizations, and a relationship. And I loved it. Now, with virtually no obligations beyond my day job, I somehow let weeks go by without getting a single word on a page.

I don't berate myself. Those words aren't going to get written retro-actively, and the best I can do is find ways to make the most of today and tomorrow. Naturally, the Staples freak in me turns to to-do lists and various productivity models when I hit a wall, and I've recently resurrected one method that has worked for me in the past. Since I've found it so effective, I wanted to share it with any of you who are struggling to get shit done

It's called "Don't Break The Chain" and it's so simple you'll almost be mad that it works. I came across the method, which was apparently popularized by Jerry Seinfeld (weird), via this Lifehacker post. Basically, if there's something you need to get done every day, you get one of those year-at-a-glance calendars and stick it on the wall. For every day you do the thing, you mark a big X on that day. Eventually, you'll have a few X's all in a row, a visual representation of your momentum--and an incentive to keep going to avoid "breaking the chain". That's literally it. You can put up multiple calendars for multiple tasks. You can spice it up any way you want. There are countless Don't Break The Chain calendars available to print right from your computer if you want something a little more aesthetically pleasing, and pretty mobile apps of course.

I tend to do better at things when I physically put them together, so I made my own. My goals are to spend significant time writing (or editing) every day, blog once a week, and work out three times a week. So I made one grid representing every day left in the year for writing, and two more representing the weeks left in the year for working out and blogging. It's not a perfect system, and I've already broken my writing chain (hey, how could I write during this particular Pride weekend???), but I've found that it motivates me to get my butt in front of the computer (or to the gym) with serious frequency. Maybe it will work for you, too!

And hey, guess who already has her X for blogging this week...