Not a Hard Drive

After a pretty lengthy break, I’m trying to get back into my blogging routine at the moment. On one level it shouldn’t be too challenging. I have a personal rule that my blogs aren’t polished pieces of prose (equivalent say to a conference presentation), but instead are some quick thoughts about things on my mind (more like grabbing me for a coffee at our imaginary conference). Each blog takes me about 25-30 minutes to write and no matter how busy I am, I should be able to find that each week.  Except that most weeks for the last six months, even if I have found the time I sit in front of my keyboard unable to find the words.

We all have days like this when the muse refuses to visit for a variety of reasons. We come in determined to get THAT ONE KEY THING done and before we know it, it’s after noon, after four, after eight and the to-do list remains untouched, yet we feel like we’ve been working flat out. Sound familiar? Today’s post is on the theme of productivity and why we can find it so difficult to just get things done. The inspiration for the post is a podcast that I listened to one morning, entitled “Your Brain is Not a Hard Drive” which is an interview between the people behind the Blinkist app and David Allen Green (hailed as a productivity guru in the podcast blurb)

The main theme is that we don’t use our brains properly and try to retain too much information rather than having space to think. As a result we feel overwhelmed, frazzled and like we’re going around in circles. The podcast outlines three simple stages to get out of this trap…

  1. Capture – write down everything that you’re trying to remember on a “trusted storage device” (aka notebook) (this is likely to take some time but will be time well spent)
  2. Clarify – think about what you are committed to work on and therefore going to do first because this is important to you. Use your brain to process the problem (brains love problem solving)
  3. Organise – now plan the steps to take to get the one thing done (again, using your brain to solve a problem)

So for the last few weeks I’ve been writing more things down and then thinking about my priorities and the time I have available. Rather than setting myself up to fail, I’m realistic about what I can do and when. Someone else suggested that I only have three things at any one time that I’m planning to tackle (this is another technique which I’ve forgotten the author of because I didn’t write it down. Ahem.)

There are other things that will help – our writing retreats provide a protected and industrious space in which to focus – but for the next few weeks I’m going to try and stick to this regime and see if it helps to reduce the feeling of being overwhelmed, but unproductive.

So, with the first of my current three things done, I wish you a productive day too!

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