“Productivity is never an accident. It is always the result of a commitment to excellence, intelligent planning, and focussed effort.” — Paul J. Meyer
In the world of plotters and pantsers, I have definitely grown to become a plotter. I like me a plan, however rough, and having structure ironically lends itself to increased creativity for me. I’m the sort of person who likes me a safety net, some boundaries, and a compass before I let fly.
The irony of planning for productive creativity is certainly not a new concept. Novelist Jack London summed it well when he said, “You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.” And when it comes to curbing perfectionism to get to the Good, self-imposed strictures can come in handy.
I’ll leave you with a practical technique that has helped me overcome procrastination, create well under pressure, chunk down the tasks of my day, and power through my list of to-dos. The Pomodoro Technique was coined in the early 1980s and was so named because of the humble tomato kitchen mechanical timers. The idea is relatively simple:
- Decide on the task to be done.
- Set the Pomodoro timer (traditionally to 25 minutes).
- Work on the task.
- End work when the timer rings and put a checkmark on a piece of paper.
- If you have fewer than four checkmarks, take a short break (3–5 minutes), then go to step 2.
- After four Pomodoros, take a longer break (15–30 minutes), reset your checkmark count to zero, then go to step 1.
There are heaps of websites that help explain this technique, as well as the rationale behind the 25 minutes and the breaks. Other “rules” for this technique include dealing with interruptions that come in (stray thoughts, the “urgent” phone call) and shelving it until your 25 minutes is done, if possible. And because you need to write your to-do list in advance, it also refines your sense of reasonable time allocation for tasks, thus managing your expectations for the day’s success. Most of all, it gives that small sense of urgency with a clear end in sight. Twenty-five minutes feels a lot more manageable when you’re trying to Eat Your Frog as well.
Best of all, if you’re a gadget geek like moi (and like to gamify your working day because you’re competitive with yourself), there’s plenty of Pomodoro timers for Apple, Android, and Window users.