Back in June, I started using a new tactic to combat procrastination – using a desk diary to note down what I was doing and when. My aim was to help me understand how I was using my time and I have to say it has worked pretty well. I’ve tweaked my method in recent weeks though – my A5 week-to-view diary didn’t give me enough room to note everything down clearly. So I’ve bought an A4 day-to-view diary instead and, whilst it’s big enough to be a viable weapon should I ever need to defend myself from burglars, it’s now much easier to note down how my day is split up. And instead of just noting how long I spend on work-related stuff, I’m also noting down how long I spend in the shower, how long I spend doing reading blogs, how long I spend faffing about doing nothing.
It’s an enlightening look at my day. It seems that no matter what time I wake up, it takes me about two to three hours to be ready and able to work. I also have a tendency to work quite late, mainly because Kevin often does a 12 – 8 shift, so I figure I may as well do a 12 – 8 shift myself. It just seems easier that way.
Interestingly, my assumption about how much time I waste each day is totally over-exaggerated. When I actually add up how much time I spend actually working, it is indeed equivalent to (or more than) a normal working week. I admit, I do faff a bit during the day, spending half an hour here or there putting laundry on or washing up or whatever. Yet because I have no commute, it means that the total length of my day is about the same as someone who works in an office, but the ‘commute’ time is spread out through my day and used for chores, rather than reading books and magazines or listening to music, as I used to when I had an office.
The other adaptation that having a bigger sized desk diary has allowed is that I am now more disciplined about my to-do list. I have another book for my master list – which now runs to 10 solid pages of A4 – and instead of using post-it notes or a small notebook to distil off the most important bits, I’m using my diary. Each day I write a short list of the most urgent items for the day, and I find that it gives me a much better sense of continuity through my week because at a glance I can see what I completed yesterday or the day before, and how much stuff I have still to do.
I have learnt, though, not to have too many things on the list at once, otherwise it all feels a bit too daunting. I can always add things later on, if I get through it quicker than expected (although how often does that happen? Usually it’s the other way round…).
In fact, the only thing that didn’t work from my last post about anti-procrastination techniques was the idea of giving myself an hour a day to do stuff for me. My intention was to spend time working on suw.org.uk or getting to grips with Second Life or other R&D things. But the trouble with giving myself an hour a day is that it’s very easy to put it off, and then you get to 8pm and think ‘Ok, time to quit’ and find you haven’t actually taken your hour.
After a long chat with Lloyd Davis last week, I decided to do what he does and mess about on Friday afternoons instead. I mean, who wants to work on a Friday afternoon? Really? I only started this week, and I must admit that after an hour, I did get distracted by something totally non-R&D-y, but whilst I can’t say what it was, if you knew you’d know it was inevitable that it would take over my brain for a while.
Of course, over the next month and a half, I have an insane amounts of travel and the nice rhythm that I had started to slip into this week will be totally disrupted, so I guess we’ll see just how robust my working habits really are!