One of my resolutions this year is to be more productive with my time, but that broad resolution deserves some breakdown into more specific manageable goals. Because I know my tendencies and am aware of how my productivity has changed over time, I recognize one particular mindset that continually sets me back–waiting for one big dedicated block of time to tackle a project or “get things done” and squandering all the perfectly good smaller chunks of time available in the meantime. Here’s the thing–those dedicated stretches of quiet appointment-free days labeled “clean the garage” or “work on book”? They are most often mirages–dreamy fictional destinations I will always be seeing in the distance but never arrive to. Then there’s also the issue of my attention to a project which–since I love analogies–I will liken to a very excited puppy who is running back and forth between the new toy and the food bowl and then the other toy and the bone; and his tail is wagging, and he’s panting, and he can’t decide which cool thing to do so he gets all worked up and runs around in circles chasing his tail until he finally collapses on the rug and falls asleep because all the possibilities for fun things to do are overwhelming and exhausting and–goodnight, I’m just going to lie down for a bit to calm my brain. I’m sorry, was that a run-on sentence? So is my brain all of the time. I have the energy, the will, the ideas, the passion–I often just need more focus and attention to the tedious work of getting a job done.
My sister and I converse a lot about the way our brain works because we are similarly wired when it comes to getting things done and attempting creative projects, and recently we came back to a strategy that works for us in cleaning our houses–setting a timer for 15 minutes for each room and cleaning as fast as we can in that short amount of time before moving on to a different room. I’m always surprised when I apply this strategy that I’m usually able to completely clean a room in 15 minutes when I was avoiding it because I thought it would take 45. My sister upped the ante recently though when she suggested I get a Time Timer. “You engage more visually,” she pointed out, “I bet seeing the block of time you have left would motivate you even more.”
So I bought the timer, and the verdict is…I’m obsessed. It’s immediately become the manager I’ve been needing, the puppy tamer that calls the shots– SIT DOWN AND ENJOY YOUR BONE. 15 MINUTES. READY, GO. I keep it on my counter in the kitchen and set it for 15 minutes when I have a short block of time where I can knock out some dishes. I bring it with me into my bedroom when I’ve committed to cleaning it because I’m less likely to get sidetracked looking at old diaries I found under my bed when there’s a bomb-looking clock with a red line slowly ticking toward “detonation.” And I bring it into my office and place it on my desk to help me stay focused on one thing at a time. One hour with my butt in my seat–no click bait. The visual representation of a slowly disappearing red circle on an analog clock works really well for motivating me and keeping me engaged, and learning how to efficiently use the many 20-minute pockets of time that are sprinkled throughout the day is helping me accomplish more…plus, it’s fun! I’ve even convinced the kids to jump in and help frantically clean with the fun challenge of trying to finish the job before the red disappears and the timer dings.
Do you have a brain that’s wired like mine? A list of projects you’re not getting to? What productivity tips and tools have worked for you to help you accomplish more?