November 13, 2015

Writer's Block

An Ongoing Series on Productivity:
Writer's Block
I'm something of a productivity geek, mostly because it's such an edifying way of procrastinating. It might also be because I'm an optimistno matter how much I procrastinate I always think I'll discover some way to overcome my bad habits and accomplish something worthwhile. So I like to find tools, tips, and tricks to help myself become more productive. This is the first post in a series on this topic.
I'll start with a tool I'm using to write this post called Writer's Block. It's a free writing app I recently downloaded. Yes, I'm publicizing an app but that's because it's revolutionizing my productivity. It's simple: 1) start the app, 2) enter in the number of words I want to write (I usually go for 100-500) or the time I want to work (I've never done this because it doesn't work for me), 3) start the writing session. Everything else on my computer remains locked until I complete my task. I can't exit the program until I've reached my goal.

Since starting a task is usually the hardest part for me I like to start a simple writing task of 100-200 words which is easy enough even for a master procrastinator like me to start "Psh, I'll burn that out in 2 minutes and be on my merry, time-wasting way. " Once I get going I often exceed my minimum because I want to get a few more thoughts down. It's called inertia and for me it's just as powerful in productive mode as it is while procrastinating. All I need is a slight impetus to reverse the trajectory of my inertia and I'm off and working.

I have two tricks that help me actually start a task. Procrastinators are oh-so optimistic about tomorrow or some other time. All I need to do is harness that optimism. So I start the program right before putting my computer to sleep. When I go to the gym or run errands, even when I go to bed, I start a small task and then press the sleep button. I feel good about it because I don't have to do any work right now, "I'll do it later." Later comes and when I open my computer in order to procrastinatebecause with few exceptions that's the reason I start my computer, pathetic I knowthen I burn out some text first. I'll free-write, jot down ideas, make a to-do lists, write emails, or tackle something specific. I wrote this entire blog post just to shut down this stupid (read: effective) program so I can watch Sherlock online. And the required task was only 200 words which I easily exceeded!

Fortunately, now that my computer's unlocked I can head over to my favorite streaming site and discover that it's blocked for the next few hours with another free app called Cold Turkey or a browser add-on called StayFocused. Well, now that there's nothing to do I guess I'll do some reading for my thesis.