I had the insight Wednesday that I need to fundamentally change my work habits, because right now I put in hours of work after dinner every night, plus big blocks of time on the weekend, and I just don’t want to live like that anymore.
Until Wednesday, I sort of browsed through my to-do list for the morning and much of the afternoon, picking whatever looks urgent or interesting to do at the moment.
Then I say to myself, “Holy crap, it’s 3 pm and I still haven’t written my blog or done any of the other things I have to get done with a deadline of today.” At that point, I focus myself and avoid distraction until dinner, then back into my office for more intense, focused work until I finish at 10 pm.
Wednesday, as I rolled dispiritedly into my office after dinner, I thought: Enough. New system. From now on, I focus on the deadlines first. After that, take a breath, browse through my to-do list, read the news and get all the information together to do my blog for the next morning, so I can get started right away at full speed.
With that settled in my mind, I finished work Wednesday night, then spent a little time with Julie and went to bed.
Where, coincidentally, I read this terrific blog by my imaginary friend Lisa Dilg, “The Way I Am Working Isn’t Working.” Seems she’s going through the same work issues I am, and has a solution, based on a session she attended at the South by Southwest conference in March. Tony Schwartz, who spoke at that session, advocating “sprints” for work.
The reason we procrastinate — and that’s what my morning browsing was, procrastination — is because work is never-ending. There’s no finish line. You’re always working. And because you’re always working, you instinctively hold energy back for when you’ll need it later.
Instead, you should work in sprints, says Schwartz via Lisa. Give it everything you have for 90 minutes, take a break for 10, then do it again. And at the end of the day, be done. When you know there’s a finish line, and breaks along the way, you’ll be able to give work your all when you’re doing it.
I don’t know about the 90-10 bit, but the rest sounds exactly like what I’m talking about. Stay focused on work in the morning, until it’s done, but be sure that you walk away when it’s time to walk away.
That was Wednesday night. How’s the experiment going?
Well, it got off to an unusual start. Thursday was my presentation for an Internet marketing class, so that ate into a big chunk of my afternoon. But I stayed focused on deadlines from the first thing in the morning and all through the day. Writing this blog is my last deadline and it’s 9 at night, and I’m just about done..
After I’m done with this, I’ll go sit with my iPad in the rocking chair in my office, organize my to-do list for tomorrow, then read some blog posts and prepare to write tomorrow’s blog when I get in in the morning. I’m looking forward to having a night off, and a weekend.