My week’s been pretty productive so far. As much as I’d like to give myself some credit, I think it’s mostly down to this thing:
No wait, the framing of that picture might have been misleading. I meant this:
Let me explain. (The second picture, I mean, don’t ask me to explain the first one.) In one of my infrequent attempts to find a reliable way to trick my brain into being productive, I’ve been using this timer, which counts down from 20 minutes and 1 second and then goes be-be-be-beep, be-be-be-beep until you reset it. I think of a task to do – this used to be reading books for university, but this week it’s mostly been working on mixes for Project Bubble – start the timer, and focus solely on that task until the sudden beeping snaps me out of it. But by that time, I’m often so involved in the task at hand that I keep going for longer.
I think this is necessary because I never think I want to do anything useful or enriching, basically anything that requires any commitment whatsoever. Even playing a game or reading a book sometimes seems like too much effort. When I do make the little effort required to get started on something worthwhile or genuinely enjoyable, I almost always find it’s worth it. But the supremely lazy and cynical me that’s in charge a lot of the time is happy to fritter away hours, days, just clicking through his bookmarks bar in a depressing cycle, waiting for something to change in the online world, something that will motivate him to get his behind in gear and get out there and do something amazing!! It never does…
What this timer does is let me know “Okay, you only have to do this for 20 minutes and 1 second, then you can feel good about yourself and go back to your boring and mildly self-destructive ways”. Because there’s a definite end in sight, not too far away, it’s not too intimidating to start a task. Whatever I’m doing, I get a sense of achievement when the beeper goes off, which, however hollow, seems to be psychologically important to me.
I can’t remember if I read this exact idea somewhere, but I remember hearing that your brain can only concentrate on something for 20 minutes. This sounds suspiciously like one of those made-up pop psychology facts, but somehow 20 minutes has become an important length of time in my head. Unlike with 30 minutes, you can comfortably fit two of them into an hour, including all the faffing around, cycling through websites, working out what to do next, sitting down in the right place with the right stuff, etc. that inevitably happens in between. (The extra second is to compensate for the time it takes me to remove my finger from the “start/stop” button on the timer and begin my task. Sadly, I didn’t add it on just to make myself seem strange. That takes no embellishment.)
This has been pretty successful this week. Five out of six of the mixes for Project Bubble are in a good place. (The other one doesn’t exist yet, but let’s not think about that!) Who knows how long this method will continue to work, but no doubt I’ll come up with another productivity experiment once the novelty wears off this one. Maybe some day I’ll find one that works indefinitely! When that happens, I’ll either tell you about it or take over the world. We’ll see.