Wednesday, July 20, 2011
Regular readers and a few friends are well aware of my movement away from multi-tasking in recent months. Spawned by my reading and by my own frustration at the apparent lack of progress in my creative work, I have made changes in my work and life, choosing to focus on fewer projects, and to dedicate larger blocks of time to those projects. I have weaned myself away from the constant diving into e-mail and social media, pushing them back to certain, regulated times of day. Changing is a useless task unless you step back from time to time see how you are doing, and so last night I did just that. I thought it might be interesting for you to hear the results as well.
Here's all I did. It won't sound like a lot, but as you will see, these small changes had real impact.
First, I cut out the distraction of e-mail and social media. I hit it in the morning early. I check it at lunch time, and near the end of the day. That was a change for me. Before, when I worked, I generally left e-mail up and had Facebook, Trillian, and Linked In running in the background, so I could respond quickly to anything that came in. A quiet alarm went off when e-mail hit and I would pop to it so I could respond quickly to any client that showed up there. I was always bouncing from thing to thing.
So I went to three times a day. I announced it. In fact, if you get an e-mail from me, the stationary tells you this is what I do and if you need me sooner, to call. How many calls have I had in the two months since I began this? One. It seems that even in this moment by moment world of the internet we live in, and even in the Television field I work in, a few hours for a response is generally just fine with people. Imagine that, the world can live without me for a few hours!
Another part of the shift has been cutting down on the number of projects I work on. At work of course, I have to do what I have to do. But on the creative side I was always bouncing from idea to idea. I'd have a zillion projects going at once in poetry, photography, books, articles, you name it. Divide your available hours of the day by all those projects and the amount of time I spent on each one was... negligible. So how much progress on any one project do you think I made? I bet even your math-challenged souls reading this can figure that one out. Nearly zip.
The third change was to be more conscious about breaking my day into hour(ish) long chunks, each dedicated to a project - a proposal, paperwork, calls to clients, creative work on project X or Y, whatever. After many years of dashing from thing to thing as calls, e-mail and social media dictated, this was a change. Not hard, but it took consciousness on my part to do. Simple awareness.
None of these are earth shattering changes. In fact, they were almost retro kinds of changes, going back to ways I used to work a decade or more ago. They were not hard, did not take tons of effort, just a little consciousness and change.
So what's happened in those two months?
On the work side, I am way more productive. I no longer feel I am always perpetually behind. But with time to focus, less distractions, and chunks of time dedicated to tasks, I find my work is simply better. It gets done faster. Clients are noticing. I have less stress.
It's the same thing on the creative side. I finished a major redo of the Quarry House web site, re-thought and put in place new business procedures, began work on a novel that has lingered in the back of my head for ages with little progress, began to draw again.
So productivity wise, my little experiment is a success. But there was something else I didn't expect.
Less Distractions + Fewer Projects + More time dedicated to each project = More Passion for each projects. And let's be honest, don't we all want to have passion for what we are doing?
So that is my experience. If you've made similar changes in your life and work, I'd love to hear your story.
PS - The picture was taken in Venice. You can click on it for a larger version.