I’ve written before about using a mad-dash hour to get over problems. If you’re feeling low – like I have a cold coming on at the moment – or you’re just overwhelmed, agree with yourself that you’re going to spend an hour working. Just an hour.
And then list ten things that you want to get done in that time. That’s what I wrote about in New Hour’s Resolutions – Not Year’s, Hour’s (2 January 2014) and that’s what I did:
Consider this a live post: as I write to you now it is coming up to the top of the hour and from that hour I am going to do ten things. I can’t tell you what they are because they’re specific and they involve other people who don’t know you and I are talking like this. But I took a shower, decided on this overall idea of ten things in the next hour and realised that if I do it, I’ll feel I’ve got somewhere today. And usually that’s all I need to keep getting somewhere each day.
I wrote down a list of eight things immediately. Had to check my OmniFocus To Do list for the other two and got a bit bogged down because there was so much to choose from. But the point of ten is that it’s not easy but it is achievable. Whatever you’re working on, I’ll bet dollars to doughnuts that there are ten really fast things you could do right now if you put your mind to it.
And I bet at least one of those is something you don’t want to do.
It’s getting on for three months later and I haven’t had need to do that hour again – until today. Today my head is just tilting into a cold and, moreover, for some reason I have things on my list that I kept putting off. I truly don’t know why: it was just an email I had to send someone. I think maybe part of it was that I couldn’t remember why I and to email them. I’d written the task in OmniFocus as “Email XXX about the YYY event” but honestly went blank on what that YYY event was. At least, blank on enough detail that I could coherently tell the fella about it.
Thirty-one minutes ago, I started a mad-dash hour with ten new things including that email. I made that email the third thing on the list after two other items I wasn’t especially looking forward to but would at least be quick. And when you start quickly, I’ve learnt that writing down the time you did it next to the item really motivates you to bound on to the next. Where I am guilty of thinking I’ll just make a mug of tea now, for this hour with that list and those times, I don’t.
I’m writing to you because even as I drew up the list, I knew this felt different to last time. I was seeding the list with things I didn’t want to do and – this is the killer difference: I am hiding the list from myself.
I wrote it in Evernote and hit return a few times so that the list vanished off the top of my screen. So now the sequence is: 1) Race to the top of the document, see the next thing, 2) race to the bottom, make a note of it or anything I need to write to get it done, 3) get it done, 4) note down the time next to it. Rinse, repeat.
I put writing to you as the fifth of the ten things so that I could know how it was going this hour, so that I also had something to look forward to if I’m honest with you, and also because it’s not a quick and easy thing, writing to you. I have to think about: I don’t want to take your time up with rubbish. (Usually.) So this was fun but substantive.
And because it’s taking more than the average 7.5 minutes that the preceding four tasks took me, I find that my list was written long enough ago and referred to long enough ago that I truly can’t remember what item six is.
But I’m about to find out.