Pattern Weeks #5 – the conclusion(ish)

Pattern Weeks #5. (Here's #4 and if you want to hear my Secret Plan to Take Over the World, here's Pattern Weeks #1.) Now, read on. So, did it work?


I'd like to say that my laying out a pattern for a typical week failed only because I haven't had a typical week in a while. This is true. Not only have I had many talks or other events but I have to factor in the day beforehand when I get paralysed with nerves and the ten minutes afterwards that I am (usually) elated. (I've done 71 gigs since records began back in late 2012 and 70 of them went brilliantly. That 1 makes my nerves churn and the 70 also make my nerves churn.)

But it really failed because I let it.

I've been more Pavlovian lately, usually when I get an iMessage: I seem to be good or at least better than I was at not reacting to emails, at not even reading emails so instantaneously, but not iMessages. It may be the red notification badge. I've switched that off on Mail but haven't seen how to do it on iMessages.

Actually, I can't see how to do it on Mail either. On my office iMac, it's bliss: no red badge unless I get an email from someone I've said is important or urgent. On my MacBook, not so much. I can choose between a red badge for everything or a no red badge for anything, I can't see how I did it in my office.

Also, by the way, I've let myself get distracted by tiny puzzles like that.

Overall, though, the problem is more that working hard is hard work. It has to be done, I want to do it, but it's still hard. Some days are harder than others. And if you think I'm now saying the most obvious thing you've ever heard, here's one to top that: I must get down to working harder.

I'm going to restart the Pattern Week – and that is one good thing about all the productivity stuff I tell you, you can pick it up and start again any time – and I'm going to get on with it.

I just felt I should be honest with you and admit failure. Not defeat, not yet, but failure.

Calling it

My name is William and I have a problem with cold calls. Making them. I'm fine with getting them, I can even enjoy a good cold call so long as they don't stick robotically to a script. They always do but I always give them a chance to break free so I feel I've contributed something to the chat before I hang up on them.

But making cold calls, that's tough. And that's tough in another sense as I have to make them. I want to make them. I'm speaking at the Stratford Literary Festival next month because I cold-called. Obviously it took more than that one call, it took chats and emails, but it wouldn't have happened without my dialling that number. Me. Stratford. That's worth the difficulty of making calls.

I've developed two coping mechanisms that I want to tell you about. I want to tell you about them because this week I've been trying a modified version of one and am now ever more sure it works. At least, that it works for me. You own personal form of paraylsis may vary.

The first is that I know from years of struggling with this that statistically my most effective phone calls are made between 11am and noon. So in my series of Pattern Weeks here, I've written about blocking out certain times to do certain things and that hour is for phone calls. Monday to Friday, 11am to noon. Bang, bang, bang.

But to do it bang, bang, bang-like, I have to use the other strategy. This is exactly the one I write about in my Blank Screen book about writing To Do tasks as if someone else is going to do them. So in this case, rather than Call Anne, I write Call Anne re invoice number for the Doctor Who feature. Sometimes I'll even put the phone number in there too.

And that means no thinking, no looking anything up, just read task, see number, dial, speak, finish call, breathe out. (I shouldn't have chosen Anne as that example. She's lovely.)

So I game this: I arm myself with all the tools to make the call so that I can't prevaricate and then I set this inviolate time to make the calls – because that makes every other time the opposite. I cannot make phone calls outside that hour. (I do, it's often necessary, but the rule is the rule, I don't make these things up.)

The thing I've changed this week is that I've stopped ringing people on Mondays and Fridays. Again, not true. I had to ring someone yesterday in order to hit my thirty total for the month so nuts to the new plan.

But the new plan is to do 11-12 Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday.

You may think that's an excuse, that I'm creating more specific times to call in order to create more times I don't have you.

You caught me.

But it's again down to what is working and how often I am reaching people. Mondays and Fridays are bad days to try to get to speak to folk. It must be nice to work in an office where you can relax on a Friday just because it's a Friday and it must be hell to work in one where you cannot do anything on a Monday but panic about catching up, but it's what happens.

And it's what works.

Or it's what works for me.

If you have the same problems with cold calling that I do, give this a try. If you don't, please tell me your secret.

Pattern Weeks part 7 – yes, well, maybe it was a good idea

Previously on previouslys…

Previously… in an attempt to get more done in huge week, I’ve scheduled some important slots. I’ll do certain things for certain projects at certain times so that they are done and I know they are done and they are always progressing instead of ever coming to a pause. I call this schedule the pattern for the week and it’s named after the term ‘pattern budget’. That’s the money you’ve got to spend on each one of many things, like episodes in a TV series. In practice, you shovel that cash around so your first episode can be really big. You just save the money later and it works out. Similarly, my pattern weeks get disrupted by other events: if I’m booked somewhere for a day, the people who booked me get me for the day. I don’t go off taking meetings or phoning other people.

Pattern Weeks part 6 – Not So Much – The Blank Screen, 16 February 2014

Week 7 has been a long time in the making, hasn’t it? The six-week week has gone sporadically dreadfully and occasionally okay. I find I have rarely looked at my plan wallpaper yet just seeing the edges of it peek out have meant that I’ve stuck to certain parts of it.

Specifically the part where I told myself to make phone calls during these times. Oddly, that’s the one part that I found most hard before and it’s the one part I really created all this to make sure I did. So, er, success, I suppose. Bizarrely, I’ve found I’ve still fallen behind on my OmniFocus reviews, though, and that’s something I actually enjoy doing.

Especially today when I did it and found I only had seven projects to review. (Because all the rest were reviewed recently enough that I didn’t have to check them again.) That mean the review took 15 minutes instead of an hour so I went off to make some more tea.

I definitely like pattern weeks when they involve tea.