Writing hack

Writing hack

I don’t usually like to talk about methods of working because I’m a firm believer that personality is a critical factor usually ignored when people share productivity hacks and tips. For example, I’m a people person, a talker. I’ve learned tricks to become a “good enough” writer, but writing and working in isolation are not my strengths. However, I’ve been so pleased with my latest experiment, that I thought of sharing it here. Feel free to ignore it if you don’t think this is applicable to you, although I seriously recommend trying it.

My mentor has taught me some amazing concepts that I apply now everyday, such as locus of control, cognitive scope of limitation, iteration cycles, friction, and more. One of the most important ones is probably the “Experimental Mind-set”, seeing life as an experiment instead of a journey to success/failure. This removes a lot of pressure and makes every decision more fun. With this mind-set one never fails, he only gathers more information. Having that concept in mind, I decided to try new ways to get myself to write more often. The latest one involves the Pomodoro technique and the concept of “Guiding Structure.”

I recently bought a Macbook Pro, finally doing the transition from Windows to Mac. The question that I faced was what to do with my previous laptop, so I decided to experiment with it. I formatted it, deleted absolutely everything, except Word, Firefox (in case I need to retrieve something online), the Freedom software, and a Pomodoro timer. This way, I created a virtual office, where I can disable the internet, start the timer, and only write. I set up Freedom for a couple of hours, Pomodoro for 25 minutes, and then I just do what Pomodoro tells me: write for 25 minutes, rest for 5, and repeat.

My Results: I have never been able to write for 90 minutes straight, except for when that very rare “inspiration” struck me, until now. For me, inspiration comes once every couple of months. If I want to write often, I couldn’t wait for inspiration to do the job, I needed to make myself do it. However, I’ve learned that trying to force yourself to do things, relying on your willpower is not the smartest choice either, because you may still fail and feel crushed afterwards.

What I’ve realized with this technique, is that the best way to get yourself to do things, is to get any kind of decision process or morality our of the equation. Once I didn’t have to choose anything, like what to do or how long to do it, I felt free to bring my best work to the table. This is “guiding structure” at its best: by changing my environment, I immediately changed my behavior. It took some experimenting to get here, but it was worth it. I’m thinking of getting rid of my Vaio and buying a small netbook with more battery life and portability, since power is meaningless for this to work.

My next objective is to find a way to get started writing more quickly, because now that I know that this technique works, sometimes I dick around for a while before I sit down and set everything up. I tried scheduling my work time but that didn’t work, so I’ll be trying the “scaffold” technique: creating a structure, a clear guideline of what I’ll be doing during the day. Once again, it’s a way of removing the choosing out of my mind, and just following the steps instead. I’m also considering of creating virtual deadlines, but I still don’t know how that would look like in reality.

Hope this helps you with your writing too. If you do try this technique, I’d love to hear your results.

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