So yesterday I read Leo Babauta’s Zen To Done. It’s got some good stuff in there, a system that I think most people would find beneficial at whatever level they managed to incorporate it into their lives. I’m already a really efficient person, but this was a good reminder to reincorporate some stuff I fell OUT of doing this year (largely in the chaos following Daisy’s stroke and the move). One thing he mentioned, mostly in passing, is only checking email a couple times a day. In conjunction with my utter horror when Susan mentioned she’d finally got her inbox sorted down from some obscene number that had things going back to MAY, I started thinking about my own email habits.
I check email constantly throughout the day. I have the Gmail Notifier and the moment that little icon turns blue (the visual equivalent of the old AOL “You’ve Got Mail!”), I have to check it. Like HAVE TO. It is a compulsion. Even when I’m not expecting anything important. Even when whatever is in there isn’t something that requires I act on it right then. I have to clear that inbox.
Put in the framework of the ZTD system, I’m…wasting a lot of my time and distracting myself from other stuff with my email. When I read his suggestion of only checking it twice a day and not having a notifier, I could practically feel my eye start to twitch. My very vehement “NO WAY” visceral response made me want to see if I could do without it. To prove that I am not an addict…
Because I think I kinda am.
Since I’m all about trying to be more efficient and finding hidden or wasted time, I am GIVING UP my email notifier. Well, not the one I use for work email AT work because I really can’t for my job. But the one for my personal email, both at home and on the work computer. I’m declaring it in a public forum so I have a better chance of sticking to it. I’ll check it when I’ve cleared tasks off my list.
And part of those tasks are now going to be some extra steps to my writing process. ZTD advises that you get your big, important tasks done early in the day. Well that just flat doesn’t happen for my writing as my block doesn’t usually happen until after 5. But I want to try to kind of jump start the process earlier in the day, get my brain in gear so that I’m not spending half my writing block just trying to sort what I’m trying to do. So, part of the process will be reading the existing part of the scene I’m working on (if I left off in the middle). And also actually blocking out the scene–the order of action, what I want to convey, any seeds I need to plant–the nitty gritty of what happens. So that when I sit down for my writing block, all I have to worry about is the prose.
This last was mentioned by Rachel Aaron in her post about how she went from writing 2,000 words a day to 10,000 words a day. I’d already adopted her suggestion of figuring out when your most productive time of day is, but it wasn’t all that helpful to me just because I only have the one specific time to write, except on weekends. Something to hang on to in the future when I have more options than that. The other point Aaron makes that I’ve always found salient (if not exactly something I’ve been good at practicing) is to figure out how to get excited about the scene. If you’re excited, your reader will be excited, and likewise, if you’re bored, your reader probably will be to. So find a way to get excited about every scene, and if you can’t, then maybe you shouldn’t keep that scene.
But…yeah, it’s all going to start by breaking free of the email addiction (and Twitter, and even (probably) Google Talk. I’m not NEARLY as good at splitting attention as I used to be, and ZTD is all about NOT multitasking but actually tackling tasks single mindedly, one focus at a time. I haven’t been doing that, and my productivity has suffered for it. We’ll see how it goes. Even if I only gain 100 or 200 more words a day, that adds up over the course of a year.