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21 September 2010 @ 03:05 pm
getting shit done  
I've been thinking a lot about how much more I get done when I have friendly company. I've long known this about myself with regards to boring tasks, like tidying and cleaning, or paying bills and general personal organization. But in recent years, I've also found that it's true of fun projects, as well. I mean, sure, I don't really need company to chop up fruit and put it in a bottle with vodka, but I'm far more likely to make liqueurs and other crazy kitchen projects when I have a collaborator, or even just someone hanging out with me while I do it.

Even when I have the free time and materials for a project, if I'm by myself, I often wind up frittering it away by doing ... well, nothing much, really.

Do you have this experience? How do you counteract it (other than the obvious-but-not-always-achievable solution of having company whenever you want to get something done)?
 
 
I'm feeling: curiouscurious
 
 
 
cheveux sable with earworm rampant: cameralcohen on September 21st, 2010 07:13 pm (UTC)
i have this exact experience but haven't solved it! so i'll be heading back to read this post to see if people give you good advice. i do sometimes make "doing stuff" dates--like j and i will talk on the phone while individually going through piles of crap that we've been meaning to get through.
existential hot showerveek on September 21st, 2010 07:19 pm (UTC)
I do have that experience, a lot even. Because frittering away time is often "accomplished" on the internet for me, sometimes I counteract it by cutting myself off. Physically giving my laptop to a friend, or leaving it at work, or going to a coffee shop without it. (The iPhone negates the effectiveness of this somewhat, but I try not to think about that.)

Another trick is to put on an audio book or podcast, to anchor my brain while I do $fun_thing. This works for some things better than others; certainly if the fun thing is language based, this won't work for me.

A last trick is... well, ask me in person. It's the concentration aid I won't write about here. :)
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ruthless compassion: pouncearoraborealis on September 21st, 2010 07:38 pm (UTC)
SEWING parties! That is SO perfect. And exactly right!

But what am I to do about the unexpectedly free Saturday afternoon when I would really like to do any one of my fun projects, but instead just fuck around online for hours because I have not planned a party?
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ruthless compassion: cheersaroraborealis on September 21st, 2010 08:15 pm (UTC)
Ha! Good point :)
Jadiajadia on September 21st, 2010 08:14 pm (UTC)
Spontaneous gatherings! :D Sometimes I go through my phone contacts list and just call people until I find someone who's willing to pick up the phone and isn't busy.
metagnatmetagnat on September 21st, 2010 08:16 pm (UTC)
Maybe there should be a mailing list or something for the similarly minded. Like a project-SOS line or a sort of neo-crafty global frequency.
unintentionally intimidatingcoraline on September 21st, 2010 07:39 pm (UTC)
absolutely.

my best technique thus far is to actually make a "to-do" list of fun things or thing i want to do, and try to notice when i'm starting to fitter away time and go pick something off it instead. and to write things from it onto my schedule like other appointments.

and also just try to combine my socializing with people with doing things like sewing projects...
Jadiajadia on September 21st, 2010 08:15 pm (UTC)
I think I actually get more done when people aren't around, because people are distracting....

When I can't make myself do something it generally means I'm burnt out. Sometimes I just need some background music to make the frittery part of my brain quiet down.
jordanwillow: Yo-Yojordanwillow on September 21st, 2010 08:23 pm (UTC)
this.
metagnatmetagnat on September 21st, 2010 08:22 pm (UTC)
Personally, for me, it depends on the project. I find that sometimes people being around helps me. For cleaning, someone cleaning alongside me kicks in a guilt reflex that gives me impetus to clean, but it's not pleasant.

Cooking is definitely easier for me with other people around. Sewing is okay with other people around, but I actually find it pretty difficult to share sewing space, so I tend to go to a podcast/audiobook place. Or I put a DVD on, but it has to be one I've already seen more than a few times, or it becomes about me drifting away from the sewing to watch it.

Knitting is a low-impact thing that I can do anywhere in any company and, in fact, I have to resist the urge to carry it around constantly and work on it in inappropriate situations.

I often find myself frittering away time instead of doing these things, even with stopgaps. Deadlines and goals help a lot, even if they are relatively artificial (as all deadlines are, except death itself). Signing a pledge on the internet along with a group of strangers got me sewing more this month than I had in the previous 12 months.

Getting inspired also helps, but only a little.

In general, self discipline is something I wrestle with constantly and I find a little outside structure helps.
Rowan: Eyebrowmzrowan on September 21st, 2010 08:54 pm (UTC)
work on it in inappropriate situations

This gave me the strangest mental image...
That Chick with the Evil Laughsparkymonster on September 21st, 2010 08:29 pm (UTC)
Yes yes yes!

I try to counteract it by doing something auditory and fun. Like listening to pop music, or podcasts I enjoy. I sometimes also plan breaks/rewards. Like if I finish lining the dress bodice, I can flop around and watch teh Rachel Zoe project for a while.
D. Fennelfennel on September 21st, 2010 08:50 pm (UTC)
I have that experience, and often succumb. One thing that helps, when it's compatible with what I want to do, is putting on music that I haven't heard in a while but still know well enough to sing along to. (And give myself permission to turn the stereo up loud enough in the living room that I can hear it in the kitchen, if need be.)
DancingWolfGrrldancingwolfgrrl on September 21st, 2010 08:52 pm (UTC)
Yes!

In fact, I've spent a kind of obscene amount of time thinking about this. YMMV, of course.

For me, there's a problem where being overstretched -- feeling busy, or short on downtime -- makes things that would normally seem fun instead seem like obligations, or like....maybe like trading them for "rest" is bad deal. I hope that makes sense :)

So some of the things that work for me are really hippie tweaks involving clarity about my needs and sort of negotiating with myself so that I feel clear enough that I'll get enough downtime that I'm not trying to protect every free moment as my potential only chance at rest.

It also helps me to get fun projects more easily at my fingertips (spending 15 minutes finding stuff to do a five-minute project? unfun) and to give myself permission to do only as much of it as seems fun. If I know that if I'm tired of chopping fruit halfway through, I can just stick it in the freezer, I'm more likely to choose to start.

I also sometimes bundle tasks, like veek suggests. My most successful move in this regard is knitting during meetings, which makes the meeting better AND gets me socks!
Co-conspirator of Squeemuffyjo on September 21st, 2010 09:14 pm (UTC)
Music can often help when there are tasks that don't require thinking. I find swing or musicals can help when trying to tidy a space up, or organize. Having a friend online who is, perhaps, doing their own thing but co-existing in time with me often helps. Especially if they are receptive to offering the appropriate "ooohs" and "aahs" at the right moments.

Of course, actually inviting people to come help works really well, too. But I'm guessing you aren't talking about those moments. :)

I also enjoyed Chore Wars which helped to motivate me in some of my darker moments. Of course, I was on a small team of folks and when I created a chore, chose the demon or reward it was fun being silly and creative, part of the fun of it, ya know? And there's a feeling of accomplishment, even if it's just marking off that you've emptied the dishwasher and battled the steam monster for +2 points and an extra spoon.
whynotkaywhynotkay on September 21st, 2010 11:42 pm (UTC)
I too have this experience. I haven't found a way to counteract it reliably. The cooking projects sometimes happen regardless because otherwise the food will go bad and so I have to make the time to do whatever it was I had planned to do with it (this is why there are currently pickled green beans and pickled serrano peppers in my fridge), but for things that I haven't already got ingredients for, it's much more rare.

It's also affecting me exercise-wise, which is why I'd love a running partner.
Elizabeth Hunterlillibet on September 22nd, 2010 12:35 am (UTC)
Sometimes I call someone and chat with them while I do a task. Depending on the task and the phone receiver, that can work quite well.

Alice has entered a phase where she not only wants to help, but actually can help with many of my tasks and I love doing that with her to the point that I find myself thinking up chores we can do together and saving them for when she's home and awake.
Statistical Outlier in All  Studies: psychchaiya on September 22nd, 2010 03:38 am (UTC)
I can't believe I'm the first to say this, but it sounds like a different viewpoint on the Hawthorne effect ... I've totally been told that there are other studies that show that having company when working (even for pleasure, non-money-related work) has a positive impact on productivity on same project. I just can't find the right google term to use, there.

... but I work this way, too, fwiw. I totally had a friend over the other night to sit and talk to me and occasionally talk to other people in the room while I stood and chopped veggies. Got 3 bags of veggies processed, whereas I got basically nothing done the night before. :P
harimad on September 22nd, 2010 01:19 pm (UTC)
I struggle with this so I have a number of strategies. The reason I have many is that none work all the time for me.

- Decide the one thing I want to get done that day. Do that one thing.

- Don't get overambitious. For example, I would avoid dealing with "paper" (pretty much anything on my desk) because I didn't want to spend the next three hours at it. So I limited myself to just one subset of paperwork. PS: this took me a long time to do because once I got started I tended to keep going. Which was great if I got started but was what was keeping me from starting in the first place.

- 15 min rule. Do whatever it is for only 15 min. Same theory as above.

- Do something I don't like while I do something I do, or at least will distract me from the disliked task. For example, mend clothes while watching a TV show I like.

- Break big projects into little ones. Sometimes I take this to ridiculous extremes: I've been putting off touching up the paint in the house, not entirely sure why. So one day's task was to pour the paint into the touching-up gadget.

- If there's a task I dread, figure out why or what makes it less dreadful. Sometimes I find I don't need to do the task at all, or I can do it differently and achieve the same end. Minor example: folding socks. I have black work socks and white sport socks - easy to tell apart even in the dark. Why in the world was I matching and folding them?!?

- Do hard tasks when I'm at my best.

- This doesn't work for me but it works for others: designate a couple nights a week as "to stuff" nights. Alternately, designate an evening or a day per week as a "vacation day" and do whatever you want on that day, recharging your batteries for the rest of the week.

- For me, music or TV helps pass time with mindless tasks (cooking, tidying, etc). Musicals works better than albums for me.

- I have, on occasion, taken a day off to Get Things Done. That day is for work and I treat it as such.

There's a blog called unclutterer.com. I find them stuck on their hobbyhorses (hide or eliminate computer cords, digitize all your records and mementos) and a bit smug, but there's good stuff in there as well. Last year there was a series about getting stuff done: getting started, keeping going, and finishing the task. Read the comments as well as the articles.