What I’m thinking right now

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20 day challenge: day six

qualified PASS. Started late but well, with 90 minutes of largely uninterrupted work in the Quiet Room. The Quiet Room, I suspect, is key to everything. I also find it’s good to tell yourself, every time you reach for the email/that fascinating Economist story/whatever distraction, “do I want to take this time out of my evening?”

Evidently that stopped working when I came downstairs, because I’m still here and I’ve just finished. Deep down I know I need to enforce the 7pm rule, or this challenge will just become about how many of my evenings I can sacrifice to the office.


20 day challenge: day five

Good grief. I am so shit at focussing. An upward struggle today, with brain flitting off constantly to every possible tangent available. And there were many available, as I was doing “research”, which means “surfing the net.” Keeping to those articles I need to read, and ignoring all the ones I want to read, is fucking impossible.

As a result, I’ve been in the office for 11 1/2 hours, and I’ve just completed my 4.5. That’s about 1/3 of my office time spent working. This is what the 7pm rule was supposed to prevent, but I’m still going to call it a qualified PASS.

I’ve realised something: that my meandering is worst when I don’t really know why I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing: when it’s something that’s part of the process, like “go through all the interviews and note the bits relevant to the article,” but with no real, proper sense of what comes next. GTD has a lesson here: always know your next step. So I’ve replaced my to-do list of up to ten items, which tended to get clogged with little jobs like phoning people back, with a three-item “today’s tasks”. One that I’m doing now, one that comes next, and one alternative to switch to if I get really bored. That should help focus me on where what I’m doing fits into the bigger picture, which I know helps me focus.

Less hifalutinly, I’ve also hacked my firefox shortcut to take me to a Word document. I have to scroll down four screens and click a link asserting that, yes, this isĀ  an earned 30 minute break, and, yes, I can spend some quality time with the internet, to actually launch the browser. So that should help.

20 day challenge: day four


that is what failure looks like.

more precisely, that’s the amount of time I need to work to get to 4.5 hours today. Unfortunately now I have to leave the office and go see a play.


20 day challenge: day three


So today was supposed to be the first absolutely, down-the-line, to-the-plan day: short breaks, a sensible lunch, etc. And the morning went fine, I had a slightly extended first break because of chatting to a colleague but nothing serious.

But lunch! I think overall keeping lunch stops to no more than 90 minutes is the biggest issue for me – even more so than getting started in the mornings, though that’s bad. Today I had some errands to run. Nothing complex, buy a birthday card, get a book from the library. Then when I came back I wanted to look up buying some new contact lenses on the internet. By the time all this was done, I swear, over three hours had gone by.

How do other people get all their stuff done in an hour? The upshot was, though I did my 4.5, I broke the 7pm rule again. So it’s a qualified pass, but really, I want to nail this properly tomorrow. Perhaps it’s better to allow 2 hours for lunch and stick to it then to allow 90 minutes and, well, not?

20 day challenge: day two


OK, so I’m tired and I have a hangover. Still, I barely did a scrap of work today until 3pm. Which makes it technically a fail. But I’ve decided the core rule, the only one that really matters, is to do 4.5hrs of real project work a day. So I’m going to call this a qualified pass.

Seriously though. I need to sort this out. Tomorrow I must get going at ten, break for half an hour, lunch for no more than 90 minutes, and be out by 7pm.

The one plus point of today: my boss saw me in at 8pm, which never hurts.

20 Day Challenge: day one

This is going to be harder than I thought.

Starting at 10 is OK. I got up late and I had to get the bus, as my bike collapsed last night, but I was still in by 9.45, giving me a good fifteen minutes email time before starting work. Except! It turns out it takes a good ten minutes to stop emailing, gather stuff, and move upstairs to the quiet room where I’m working right now. So the first 90 minute work slot didn’t actually begin till 10.12 – technically a fail, but I let it go.

The morning was fine, and my three hours saw me get a fair bit done. I did reply to the odd non-work email from a colleague, but only a minute here and there. And I kept the first break to 30 minutes, although I was suprised how little of a magazine you can read in that time.

The problem came at lunch. I stopped at 2, a little late on account of the late start, and went for a swim. But the usual place was closed, so I had to walk further, with the upshot that I didn’t get back till 3.45 (it usually takes about 90 minutes). Then I borrowed lunch from a colleague who’s helping me with my diet. Naturally, once I’d finished I had to go down and say thanks, return the tupperware etc. But I was still hungry, so I popped out for a packet of crisps. By the time all that was done, it was 4.35. I then got the urge to do some personal email. So, though I knew things were getting tight, I killed time till 5pm, when the whole fourth floor always stops for a quiz.

So it got to 5.15 and I knew I had a fight on my hands to get another 90min in by 7. I started, and got into the flow quickly, not surprisingly given that I’d been effectively on lunch for over three hours. After 45 minutes, I popped down to grab the bit of chocolate I’d bought earlier. As I went past my desk I noticed my colleague, who I thought had left, in with the boss. I can’t just leave him there, I thought – I should see what’s up. So I popped in, and they were talking about films. Stupidly I took up the boss’ invitation to sit down, and the conversation steered towards my colleague’s article. I couldn’t get away. By the time we finished, it was 6.50. I had 42 minutes’ work to do. It was over. I’d blown it. My first day was my first fail.

The lesson? You cannot afford to put off starting after lunch, because you don’t know what’s going to come up later in the day. So I’m adding a new guideline: lunch cannot be more than 90 minutes. That could make swimming tricky, but if I grab a sandwich on the way back it’s doable.

19 days to go, 4 fails left. All still to play for….

20 Day Challenge!

In something of a desperate attempt to kick-start my worktime productivity, I’ve set myself a challenge. Somebody told me once that it takes three weeks for new things to become a habit, so just to be safe I’ve gone for a four-week challenge: from tomorrow, Friday February 22, to teh day before the Easter break, Thursday March 20 (that’s 20 working days, see?).

The challenge? To do 4.5 hours of work per day. I know, doesn’t sound ambitious, right? But I should be clear that this means actual work, moving me towards completing one of my core projects. Not a host of general tasks that come under the general rubric of work, like tidying my desk or chatting to the boss about films. Actual work. This, sad as it is to admit, is an ambitious target compared to my recent productivity.

What I don’t want to have happen, though, is that I piss about all day and wind up in the office till 9pm every day meeting the goal. So there are two sub-goals: I must always start work by 10am, and be finished by 7pm. This, the mathematicians amongst you will notice, still means I only have to work for half my time in the office. If I don’t manage to do it in these constraints, the day is a fail. Although it’s not a firm goal, there’s a guideline that I should get three of the 4.5 hours out of the way before lunch – I’m so much less productive after that.

To win the challenge, I have to meet all three goals for fifteen of the next 20 work days. Again, a generous target. And the incentive? Well, some part-time freelancing I’m doing is going to bring in some money in the next few weeks. If I fail, I have to use it to pay down my overdraft. But if I succeed, I get to spend it on this:

Incentivising, eh?

So I’ll keep you up to date on how it goes. It’s achievable, but challenging. I’m excited to get started.