I will on occasion become overwhelmed by writing-related tasks to the exclusion of other important things like keeping a tidy workspace, washing the dishes, organizing my e-mail inbox, etc. It’s not necessarily that the writing process becomes stressful, but rather that I feel as if I’m “in the zone” and must press on. Or, I feel as if I’m not “in the zone” and must press on in order to get there. You get the idea.
Today in the Chronicle, Natalie Houston has a wonderful piece on productivity inspired by a simple timer. The gist of the article is that a time can help you to get things done and not feel like your day is somehow slipping away from you. For example, if you need to clean off your desk, set the timer for 5 minutes and get to work. When the timer sounds, you’re done and you can return to what you were doing before. Of course, some tasks will require more time on the timer than others.
Houston writes that 15 minutes is her “go-to” timer setting for several reasons: it’s familiar and bearable, it is a good start and builds consistency, and it is both a good limit and enjoyable.
I would add to this list that 15 minutes is a useful period of time because it seems quite short but is really a significant period of time. I for one was surprised, when I tried out Houston’s suggestion this morning, just how much I was able to accomplish in my 15 minutes. I organized my desk, cleared out my paper inbox, and even registered a Starbucks gift card that I received recently.
So, go try it…you’ll be surprised at what you can get done!