I often feel like I'm wasting my time.
By this I mean that I'm not using my time constructively at all. I have in the past, but lately I find I'm validating to myself "Whats the point of starting? You'll just get distracted again, or soon find you can't focus on the task at hand". And by the time I've shamed myself into doing something, it's too late to really buckle down and start rolling.
Here's the kicker. I know what I need to do, and I have a lot of data to study and learn about. I just feel that if I start I'll only get confused or I won't be able to focus because I'm too tired or I'll be interrupted. So I won't bother. It's a very defeatist logic and I hate it. I feel this way and I envy Sam (coworker extraordinaire) when I hear how he doesn't let any of his free time slip away now. He's dedicated (or really slow).
When I was taking that course on Learning How to Learn they go over many steps to counter this. One of them is helping you create a habit of focus and intensity. That even if you don't understand the subject, you're still focused. They even teach you about using the Pomodoro method. I won't rehash any details about this as there are a ton of articles out already. A recent one by Alan Henry @ Lifehacker goes into some really good detail about it. I suggest you check it out if you're wanting more information. But the gist of it is:
- Choose a task to be accomplished
- Set the Pomodoro to 25 minutes (the Pomodoro is the timer)
- Work on the task until the Pomodoro rings, then put a check * on your sheet of paper
- Take a short break (5 minutes is OK)
- Every 4 Pomodoro's take a longer break (like 15-20 minutes)
there are a ton of articles about using Pomodoro technique already out there....
Honestly, for me, I feel that 3 Pomodoro's is enough for me to take a longer break. But only about 15 minutes, and definitely no more than 20. You'll lose your motivation (see mojo). If you go up to 4, then I can see having a 25 minute break.
I watched a video podcast by John Sonmez over at SimpleProgrammer where he shows how he organizes his week. From scheduling to completion. He goes so far as to scheduling time to make a schedule.
I loved the tool he uses so I jumped on the bandwagon and started using KanbanFlow myself. I can put down all the tasks I want, tasks I'm thinking about, tasks that are done or ones that are still in progress. It even has pomodoro timer built into its boards (bottom left corner of the board). I set the time for my tasks based upon how many pomodoro's I want to spend on it.
But the tomato timer is only 1 thing. What about interruptions and distractions? They're killers for me. I looked around my work and found a prime candidate, someone who's interrupted on a continual basis, to ask. Brian (coworker, great friend, programmer, developer, linux admin, network admin, father, brother, geek, nerd, minecraft player, etc. etc. you get the idea) seemingly can't get anything completed* because everyone is always at his desk with questions. Or on the phone. Or messenger. Or chat room. Or texting. Or email. And yes, I've told him he's too connected (yet in his personal life he's really not, go figure). I've asked him how they distractions affect him. He said that if he's focused on a task and is interrupted, it can take him up to 15 minutes to regain that same mental focus. *For the record, he still manages to get a metric ass tonne of tasks completed.
For me it takes much longer. I've found that staying focused, with no outside distractions, is much more difficult than it used to be. I've gotten into bad habits that prevent me from keeping a singular focal point. Seriously after 2 pomodoro's, I'm feeling the urge to mentally check out. I have to reel myself back in. Being older is a lot more difficult than I thought. Where's this wisdom I was promised? I've got the gray hair already. Where's the solemn music and the thousand yard stare as the camera focuses on the sun fading over the horizon?
So what can I/we do when we get distracted? In Alan Henry's Lifehacker article, he says the inventor of the Pomodoro suggests the "inform, negotiate, and call back" strategy:
- Inform the other (distracting) party that you're working on something right now.
- Negotiate a time when you can get back to them about the distracting issue in a timely manner.
- Schedule that follow-up immediately.
- Call back the other party when your pomodoro is complete and you're ready to tackle their issue.
For me at home, it's not putting on the baseball game on the other monitor. It's telling my wife what I'm doing and letting her know I don't want to be interrupted. It's not having my phone on my desk. Or if I'm working, ...well I don't have a choice while I'm at work. But I do when I'm at home.
In Brian's case, he's much too nice to tell people to go away. He'll stop what he's doing and attend to their issue. Which is why so many people go to him; his vast knowledge, willingness to help any and every one, and his awesome attitude about it all. It's rare for him to show his frustration about all of this. Unfortunately, I'm one of these people. So Brian, I apologize. I understand how difficult it can be. I don't know how you do it, but it's impressive. Next time just tell us to Go away!
I have to kick the habit of making a habit of finding reasons not to do something. I have to step up somehow. The hesitations, the doubts, the needless procrastination. I need to get back on track. Maybe I just need to say Hey, it's OK if you only do 30 minutes tonight. That's the start of a good habit. Next week we'll do 45 minutes each night.
My excuses I use are small, but plentiful. None of them are truly valid.
Maybe I'll try and get my wife to use KanbanFlow (she's a teacher) and we can start this together. But all in all, I just need to get off my lazy ass and start back on track. Lean forward and let momentum do the rest.
As Sam always says...