I am super distractible. My brain latches on to absolutely anything that catches my eye, catches my ear, or just randomly flips into my brain. If I am trying to be productive I have to put headphones on and block out the rest of the world and pump in sound that will get me focused. If I’m writing, reading or doing something that requires math I have to listen to music that has no lyrics. If I’m drawing or making something strictly visual I listen to podcasts and audiobooks. Podcasts and audiobooks get me through housework as well. (If it wasn’t for Joe Rogan my house would be a wreck!)
Getting started is the hardest part for me (especially with writing projects). I procrastinate forever and finally sit at my desk – fiddle around for a while, check my email, look at facebook and finally I put the noise cancelling headset on. Then, I pick some music – my current favorite is Helene Grimaud playing Beethoven. It may not always be Helene Grimaud playing piano, but it has to be something equally full bodied and free of words. I then force a few words into a doc. The first five to ten minutes is torture. I delete it and change my mind about every part of whatever I’m working on. I become absolutely sure I’ve picked a stupid and pointless topic, and have a clue what I’m talking about -- but I need to write something so I muscle through. Finally, I get a sentence down. Then another one gets forced out and then I’m a bit more warmed up. Once I’ve put in a few minutes it starts to flow a bit better and then, all of a sudden, I have formulated an idea and put it into words. It feels similar to working out for me. I love writing, and I love working out (or at least, I love it when I'm done). If I don’t have writing, drawing, working out -- anything really -- ritualized I will put it off until tomorrow (for quite a few tomorrows). For workouts, I sign up for the classes I am going take ahead of time. That way, I have paid, it is in the calendar and it is happening. I get there and the first ten minutes is torture. I watch the clock and feel all fat and sluggish. Then I start to get into a flow or rhythm and it starts to feel good. By the time the workout is over, I feel fantastic. It is the same when I have to write something.
The reward for writing, like the reward for exercise, is more evident after it’s over than while it is happening. Writing is a way for me to pin down my thinking. Sometimes, if I am not sure what I think about something I write a bit about it. My sense of the subject goes from elusive vapor to something more solid. It’s basically trackable thinking.
I am interested to hear what works for other people. What do you do to get into a rhythm of productivity? I’m willing to try anything at all to get going faster and more frequently. Tell me quick, before someone posts a cute cat video or a GoT theory video.