Fighting the Dragon of Chaos – Part Two

Dragon 2

by Deri Ross Pryor, BGWS Graduate Assistant

In part one, I talked about how our busy lives makes slowing down our brains to write a daunting task, like fighting a dragon while severely underprepared. Multi-tasking has become more than just a buzz word; it is legitimately how most of us navigate life. Many times we feel we are getting a lot done at once. Unfortunately, research is showing that multi-tasking is an oxymoron. It implies we are getting multiple tasks done at once, when in fact we are barely getting anything done at all, and what we do accomplish is often shoddy at best.

I will be the first to admit I’m a slave to my computer and cell phone. They are always on and within arm’s reach. I obey every ding of an incoming message or email or comment or “like” or whatever that connects me with the outside world. I’ve tried the “purge” everyone goes through, announcing they are leaving the digital sphere, for-ev-verr, and the next day they have something like fifty-seven posts. It’s a hard habit to break and trying to go cold turkey almost never works. And we shouldn’t have to go to such extremes.

This has become an actual issue of distress for me. I’m a freelance writer/editor on top of the writing I do for my MFA classes, so getting distracted isn’t just an issue of self-worth, it’s a matter of getting paid. I’ve tried several things, such as programs that shut down all my social media sites, writing long hand, yoga, meditation, coconut oil (kidding, sorta). I stopped just short of bamboo vs. fingernail Gestapo tactics.

Then, while goofing off on Facebook I stumbled across an article about productivity. (Yes, I get the irony, but it also proves that social media is not inherently evil and can be useful). The article talked about something called the Pomodoro Technique. I was skeptical at first, but after getting further into the article, it started clicking. It’s more than another slick trick to avoid distractions; it’s about retraining your brain to stay on task while distractions are present. The idea is to do short, timed bursts of productivity, followed by short breaks. There’s a whole science behind it that I won’t pretend to explain sufficiently, so you can read the article here:

I started using one of the timers listed on the website (the Marinara Timer) and lemme tell you, it works. Something about the combination of the accountability of the timer with putting an actual structure to my writing time kept me on task. Knowing that after twenty-five minutes of work I could switch over and check all those messages and likes and tweets sans any guilt meant that I could shut off the cravings for those things and actually focus on what I was doing. It was a bit Pavlovian, yes, because every time the timer dinged my brain switched gears and I automatically changed what I was doing. But, I got more done in one three day weekend than I had in a month.

Obviously, mileage may vary, results may not be typical, and all that. What works for me may not work for you.

The point of this is, writing is a job like anything else. You have to gather an arsenal of tools and techniques to be successful. Most of us do not have the luxury of turning everything off or bouncing off into the woods with pen and paper for long periods of time. While we do consider the tangible things like computers or craft books, we don’t really consider the possibility of tangible tools for helping with concentration and time management. Or we might think we should be above resorting to such things.

Don’t do that to yourself. If the Pomodoro thing doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, search for something else. Something is out there that will work for you. Do yourself a favor and find it. You will tame that dragon of chaos, your productivity will soar, and more importantly, you feelings of self-suckiness will drop. Which is always a good thing.

Published on April 07, 2016