Thursday, November 24, 2005

The power of procrastination and distraction

I've spent the week trying out the (10+2)*5 hack, from 43 Folders. It's a life hacking technique that's designed to help get things done, by forcing you to use the very vices that you are trying to overcome.

My task list, nay my life, is a fractured, diverse collection of things - it can contain specifics like:
"Refactor the code that cleans up the bug tracker", or fuzzy things like "Learn more about subversion".

On a typical day, I have about 6-10 of these tasks on my today list. Now I should admit, I have a tendency towards procrastinating, (unless I have a task that's really exciting). In fact, being faced with a long list of slightly uninteresting tasks is the very thing to set off my distraction alarm, and send me out into the cube farm to find somebody else to harass.

Which is where this clever life hack comes in. Basically, you pick a task, and work on it for 10 minutes. Then you force yourself to take a 2 minute break, and switch to another task. (That's where the (10+2)*5 comes from) The focus is not so much on completion, as just progress. At the end of an hour, the theory goes you've done 50 minutes of real progress.

Weirdly, at the end of the first hour, I didn't feel the urge to seek out a distraction - so I went straight on to the next hour. It's actually quite remarkable - I found that it definitely improved my efficiency. You get more stuff done, and it feels like you're just being your regular old distracted self. It is a little strange forcing yourself to abandon a task and do nothing for 2 minutes, although I did find that you can squeeze a single race of Mariokart DS into a 2 minute break nicely.

If you're keen to give it a go, you can grab this Konfabulator Widget to help out.
It probably won't work too well if you have a job that needs serious 'zonal' focus - like writing lots of code. But if your task list gets too long , and there's at least five little uninteresting things that need to be done, it's a nice hack to have in your arsenal. Which is kind of an unpleasant sounding sentence to end with, but there you go :^ )

No comments:

Post a Comment