I have a twenty page paper to write by the 13th. It’s been assigned all semester, but why would I spend my awesome four months in New York writing a paper? No, naturally I planned on doing the paper over break.
Before Christmas, I sent out necessary e-mails to get all the information I needed to write my paper and late last night I received the first of the responses I needed. I resolved to take the day today and start cranking it out.
It was supposed to snow (I can’t tell if it is now because it’s dark out and whenever I look out my window it’s too drastic a difference between my computer screen/desk lamp and outside to see anything but blackness) so that would be my motivation to stay inside and work.
My alarm went off at 10am, and so began the grueling process of beginning to write the paper.
First, I read for an hour…a book totally unrelated to the paper.
I went downstairs and had some breakfast.
I brought my computer upstairs and set up my desk to write.
I checked Facebook.
I checked my e-mail.
I checked WordPress.
I opened up a word document, wrote my name, the topic and the date.
I went downstairs and got a cookie.
I checked my e-mail again.
Oh! An e-mail from WordPress! Subject line: [New Post] Topic: How do you stay focused?
Damn you, WordPress.
With that, I closed my e-mail, turned off my wireless and began writing. It was awful. I’d write two sentences, read them back and change something, write the rest of the paragraph, read it, change around some words, delete this sentence, move that one. After the first two paragraphs my mom poked her head in.
“How’s it going?”
“Two paragraphs done.”
“What’s that, like, one one-hundredth of the way done?”
“That’s not helping, Mom.”
Three hours and four pages later, I took a break. I went downstairs and ate some food thinking about the question from WordPress. How do I stay focused?
The answer is, I really don’t. I’ll finish a page and have an uncontrollable urge to check Facebook. Instead of denying myself that and miserably plowing on, I go ahead and check it. Look, no notifications…back to work, and now I’m not thinking about Facebook.
Three paragraphs later I’m struck with the urge to play Bejeweled. Ok, three games then back to work.
With a nice new high score, I went back to work.
The key for me is not locking my doors and forcing myself to focus, it’s allowing myself to deviate here and there with the promise that I’ll get right back to work.
That’s what works for me because just before I wrote this post I reached the halfway point of my paper! That was enough for today, I decided, a good day’s work in five hours.
It’s probably not the most efficient or effective way of getting things done, but that’s how I work. What works for you?