I’ve been quiet for a few days, but don’t worry; I’ve been busy!
The main thing I’ve been working on is a bunch of instrumental cues I’m hoping to submit to a music library. I’m not going to be able to share those here, unfortunately.
BUT what I will share here is something I made last night – my first little software project inspired directly by this blog.
For the past year or so, I’ve been thinking quite a lot about productivity. My time for doing creative stuff is more limited than I’d like, and I’ve often found myself wondering about ways to make more of the time I do have. I can’t bear the feeling of getting to the end of the day having not achieved much, and knowing I’ll have to wait a few days for my next opportunity. That makes me so grumpy!
Over the past year I’ve immersed myself in a bunch of podcasts and books about productivity, in an effort to find “The Best Way To Get Stuff Done”. Turns out there are a LOT of different tools and schemes out there. I had no idea there were so many productivity fanatics in this world.
One of the first things I tried was an app for my phone called Goodtime. It’s a simple Pomodoro timer, giving you 25-minute chunks of time for work, interspersed with 5-minute breaks. I found that worked pretty well for open-ended, monotonous tasks like data entry. But, actually, when it came to anything else, it was pretty annoying. It seemed like every time I’d just gotten into what I was doing, the bell would chime and distract me. And the same in my breaks!
Call me strange – many do – but I also resented being bossed around by my phone, telling me when I was allowed to step away from my laptop, and when I must return. I’m not generally a fan of routine or structure, so maybe Pomodoro was never going to work for me.
Sometime after that, I disappeared down the rabbit hole of Getting Things Done and other related methodologies. Lists appeared on my phone of every project I’ve been carrying around in my head (about eighty, it turns out), along with next actionable steps, responses awaited etc. I put weekly reminders in my calendar to review which tasks I should tackle next, and every evening I set myself a daily to-do list for the following day to make it all happen.
And I hated it.
For me, there’s a particular deflation that comes with waking up in the morning and seeing the list of 8 things that I’m supposed to achieve that day. No flexibility…no control…no room for better ideas that only just entered my head…just plough on through that list like a machine.
It seems not only do I resent being bossed about by my phone; I also resent being bossed about by my past self! Not to mention that I was always wildly over-ambitious with my to-do lists and rarely finished everything on them, which never felt good.
I don’t mean to hate on any of the methodologies or tools I’ve mentioned. I found it useful to take regular breaks, and it was definitely handy to have a list of all the projects I’d been carrying around in my head and see them all in one place. But I hadn’t found a tool to address what was actually holding me back the most from being more productive: the Details Monster.
What is the Details Monster? Well, as I’ve mentioned previously, I’m a recovering perfectionist. I see the details in EVERYTHING, and they drive me up the wall. And, of course, once I allow myself to engage with some of the details, I start noticing others as well.
So if I’m recording a song, and my drum part isn’t perfectly in time at the end of the first chorus, I might set off to edit just the bar where it’s the most noticeable – which should be a 5-minute job. But before I know it, I’ll have edited all of the instrumental parts for the whole song, spending the whole evening chopping and aligning (and probably changing the EQ settings on the snare 32 times, just for good measure).
I’ll start something, and then I’ll get lost in the details, and re-emerge hours later with a poor return for my efforts. That’s the Details Monster, grasping me in its claws. And that’s where my new tool comes in.
So here it is; it’s pretty basic:
Still Working On That? is essentially my new nagging device to keep me focused on the task at hand. It reminds me periodically what I’m supposed to be doing…so I can check whether the Details Monster is in the room with me.
I enter a description for whatever task I want to work on next, and I set a timer for how long I think it ought to take me. When that time is up, I get a reminder:
If I’m not finished yet, I can extend the time (and contemplate why that was necessary, if I feel so inclined!):
Then, when that task is finished, I decide what my next priority should be, and off I go again.
So far it’s working a treat; I had a super productive morning in the studio using this tool. I’m sure I’ll be making a few edits after I’ve used it for a while, though.
Hooray for coding! It’s time to fight back against that pesky Details Monster.