I don’t stare at blank sheets of paper. I don’t spend days and nights cudgeling a head that is empty of ideas. Instead, I simply leave the novel and go on to any of the dozen other projects that are on tap. I write an editorial, or an essay, or a short story, or work on one of my nonfiction books. By the time I’ve grown tired of these things, my mind has been able to do its proper work and fill up again. I return to my novel and find myself able to write easily once more. –Isaac Asimov
This reminds of a Nassim Taleb idea on book reading: always be reading many, many books. If you get bored with one, just move to the other, and keep rotating.
In her book, On Repeat: How Music Plays the Mind, psychologist Elizabeth Hellmuth Margulis explains why listening to music on repeat improves focus. When you’re listening to a song on repeat, you tend to dissolve into the song, which blocks out mind wandering (let your mind wander while you’re away from work!).
Find a place to hide. Book a conference room for an hour and get the real work done where no one can interrupt you.
Sound like a joke? It’s not. Professor Sune Carlsson did a study of how CEO’s get things done. What did the research show? None of them could work longer than 20 minutes without an interruption.
So how did they accomplish things without distraction? They worked for 90 minutes at home before coming into the office.
Explained like this, this makes a lot a sense:
“When accepting a task, this philosophy proposes immediately allocating time in the calendar to accomplish it. Consider the due date, the time required, and the relative importance. Then book the slot…. This extra step reinforces the rigid time constraint immediately, not later when I’m staring at a lengthy to-do list and wondering where to begin. Each yes to a commitment is an implicit no to another. The calendar visualizes the tradeoff of each potential yes, making explicit the commitment to a task.”
I like the humble admission from Apple here: other people make calendaring and reminder apps that you might like more than ours.
But despite 53% of those polled in the Sennheister study saying they wished everyone picked up the phone more rather than clogging up inboxes with wasted emails, many are reluctant to go retro and pick up the phone- 67% of workers said they send more emails than they make phone calls because it’s easier, and one in five confessed they were not confident about speaking on the phone. So are there better ways of keeping everyone in the loop about mundane things such as fire drills, whip rounds, new starters and lottery syndicates?
I always feel like people just need to learn how to communicate in the written word better. Often, there’s no conventions explicitly stated about how to use email. I don’t think I’ve ever started a job that had “here’s how we use email around here” training. If you have no shared process – and training to get everyone using the process – of course it sucks, no matter what “it” is.
Day one is the point of no return.