My work space has evolved recently due to the need to spread out at this rewrite stage and the desire to keep a computer out of my 15 year olds room. He’s using the desk in the living room and I was turfed out. It’s actually turned out well. I’ve taken over the dining room and we still have a bit of room to eat if we squish up at the end. This is also a great wall for my outline. This board is a simple bit of lightweight MDF that I painted with blackboard paint and hung it like a regular painting.
I’d love to see your workspace. I’m a huge voyeur of desks. I even watch youtube videos of desk set ups for fun.
In an effort to streamline and get some writing on the page, I’ve looked at parts of my day that can be devoted to fingers on keyboard in a positive way. Looking at catalogues that come into my email is a total time waster. I counted how many came in over just a few days and it was 27 of those little distracting pests. I’m not sure how I collected so many but they seem to find me in this wintery corner of the world. They worm their way and set comfy in my inbox and before I know it, I’m overrun.
It’s amazingly hard to unsubscribe. Have you noticed that? The unsubscribe link is always hidden away in – 4 font down the bottom of the email. Sometimes it’s so stealthy it doesn’t say unsubscribe. It requires a magnifying glass and a safari suit to find the secret passageway to unsubscribe land. Livingstone and sherpers couldn’t find some of them. When finally it is trapped and the link is clicked it took me to a site where a sad little message will greeted me.
Really! You’re leaving me? Why? I’ve been so good to you. I’ve given you hours of browsing pleasure looking at things you don’t need so you don’t have to write. Isn’t this a little harsh? At least take me out to dinner.
Just when I thought the relationship was over, a few of the more persistent – dare I say stalkerish sites – came back with a message.
We miss you. It’s not the same with out you. Here are a few deals to tempt you back.
Restraining order anyone!
I was ruthless. I even broke up with Booktopia – a bookstore in Australia. That one was hard. There is regret over that one.
My email looks less cluttered and I’m a minimalist at heart. My time is not spent on looking through online stores for things I have no need of but look pretty. Breaking up was worthwhile, even if my eyes did take a beating from looking for that tiny link.
No, not that kind, though the flying nun is habit-forming.
At the beginning of the year I wanted to turn some so-so habits that were kind of working into habits that helped me breeze through the day. There were things I was good at and some I was haphazardly hit and miss with. Writing every day was unfortunately falling into the latter category.
A book that helped me turn this around was Lifelong writing habits by Chris Fox. It’s a quick little book, it took me no more than an hour to read through the entire thing and there are some pointers in there that where easy to implement. After about a month I found they were real habits and if I didn’t do them I felt something in my day was off. That’s the feeling I wanted. I wanted to notice if I didn’t write.
Chris breaks down what a habit is.
The trigger, i.e. an alarm in the morning that wakes you up
The Routine, i.e. brushing your teeth and making a cup of coffee
And The Reward, i.e. clean teeth and a shot of caffeine.
I needed sitting down at my writing place to be as necessary as brushing my teeth in the morning. After a month or so – it took longer than I imagined it would – if I don’t park myself in that seat I feel something was off about my day. I felt not quite right in my world.
There are loads of books on the market about habits, I think any of them could deliver the same message. This one did so in a compact way that didn’t take a great deal of time and didn’t necessitate any grand plan. It was also under $5 aus.
It spoke about something I found to be true. That willpower doesn’t work. I don’t mean the racing car driver, I am sure he works very well. I mean that thing we are all suppose to have that pushes us to do something. For a few days, sure, but over and over again, not so much. By hard wiring writing into my brain I created an addiction to this activity.
My trigger: Alerts I set on every device I could get my hands on. My phone, iPad, laptop and desktop all chime one minute after each other telling me to Write, Write, Write, Write. It’s worse than an toddler in a toy story for nagging.
My routine: Grab a cup of coffee, sit on the chair, read over yesterdays quick notes ( I’ll blog about quick notes) and then put fingers on keys and press them in an order that makes sense. It’s important not to open up anything but scrivener.
My reward: Words on the page. Pages turning into chapters. Chapters turning into a book!
The same place, the same time, the same thing = habit.
How do we get anything done when the call of tweets, grams and posts are all around us? My phone beeps at me telling me someone liked a picture I posted to Instagram and my iPad buzzes if Idris Elba posts absolutely anything on twitter.
Shhh I say; I’m writing, Idris, I’ll get to you in a minute – said no woman ever.
There had to be a solution. In January I resolved to fix all the holes in my WIP and that wasn’t going to happen if I was reading Stephen King’s tweets, even if they are brilliant. Can he write a boring shopping list, I wonder? No probably not.
De-socialising my computer was the answer.
This little zone is social free. To prevent any penetration of the online world I do not log into Twitter, Instagram or WordPress on this computer. If I want to check these sites I have to go through the process of putting in my email and remembering the various passwords I used on each. Who wants to do that? There is no quick bookmarks for these sites like there is on my lap top, there is no easy way to get social on this monster. It’s a working beast. It’s my zone. It has Scrivener and Spotify and that’s about it. As soon as my writer self sits down it thinks write, not social. The brain really is trainable.
AND IT WORKS!!
It’s a cute little zone.
It usually has a cup of coffee but I drank it 🙂
The social side, which I enjoy very much is no longer holding me back. That’s on all the other devices. Phone, iPad and laptop are very social.
Here is the social zone hanging out around the lounge. The addictive bullet journal (bujo for the initiates) is waiting for me to finish my writing. My lap top is the fun online space. It has none of the responsibility of the desk top. I think the big one resents its fun little cousin so I keep them apart.
And there you have it. My solution to getting work done. It took some will power but now it’s habit and I will do a post on the book I read that helped me implement habits soon, but now it’s time to write.
A week ago I opened my email to the usual long list of blogs, articles and distractions and thought why do I do this each and every morning? I really should go straight to the WIP and get started. I can be distracted for hours combing through the words of others rather than writing my own. A morning can drift by and before I raise my head for a cup of tea, I’ve done absolutely nothing.
In a world of apps I knew there had to be something that could cure me of distractionitis – I’m patenting that word by the way – so I browsed the app store, through the thousands of productivity apps they offered, looking for something simple that didn’t have a lot of settings or options and something that would track my progress. I’ve always been a star chart kind of girl.
After trying a few, I came across the Pomodore. The theory is that we work better if we divide our tasks into manageable chunks of time – 30 minutes being the optimum. 25 of those minutes is used for focused work and the last 5 for a rest before we switch to a new task or keep going. The plan is to get away from the computer and move around for 5 minutes. After 4 pomodore’s, a longer break of 30 minutes is recommended.
The App I downloaded is called Pomodore One by Vojto Rinik. It’s absolutely free and very simple.
That’s what it looks like on the desk top. It sits very unobtrusively behind your work, your menu bar, what ever suits you, doing it’s thing for 25 minutes.
For that 25 minutes, I write and for 5 minutes I make a cup of tea, use the loo and walk around a bit. I can decide to do another 25 minutes or not. Of course a physical timer would work just as well ( though the ticking would drive me nuts.) A stop watch, a phone timer or your microwave are going to work.
When the 25 minutes is up, it dings ( so you need your volume up) and it begins at 5 minutes, giving you another ding when that rest period is up.
I like the app because it sits at the top of the screen doing it’s thing and I need only lift my eyes up every now and then. It’s amazing how quickly the 25 minutes goes by and when I take my 5 minute break my mind is jumping with ideas ready for my next pomodoro.
I can easily see how much work I’ve done during the week and yes, I can see where all my time has gone. So rather than thinking about working, I’ve been writing in 25 minute chunks and it’s paying off.
I love the simplicity of this app. This is going to be too regimented for some, but for those of us who love our star charts and progress bars it’s fun.
Have you an app that is helping you work? Please share it.
Another year is here, at least for some of the planet. I’m thinking about all the people waking up to new resolutions and having none myself this year – other than to enjoy enjoy enjoy – I’m wondering if we put too much pressure on the January 1st.
If January 1st were a person I imagine it to be an neurotic elderly lady who wears a rather ostentatious red hat and one the other days avoid. She’s under a lot of pressure, they say to each other as she walks down the street. Some may even cross the road to avoid her. They wouldn’t want to get into a conversation after a harmless “how are you, January 1st?” was uttered politely. They remember the morning March 15th was trapped in the bakery for two hours listening to the outrageous resolutions that fell on her shoulders in 2008. It was a particularly difficult year and she still has a small eye twitch.
This year I will not add to January 1st’s load.
Instead I have hopes, and they are hopes because they are out of my hands. My hopes are that my family remain well and happy, that my two boys at university enjoy each day even though the work load is heavy. I hope my husband is not too stressed with work this year and that my youngest son stays as sweet and funny that the age of thirteen allows him to be.
What I have of myself are expectations. I expect that I will continue writing and continue loving life each and every day.
I wish, readers, that your hopes and expectations that you place on yourself remain solid through out 2015, and that January 1st can put her feet up and get some group therapy with February 14th and December 31.