A few conversations I’ve had recently, with clients and on Twitter, have reminded me that we have some interesting ideas about “efficiency”.
It’s as if you have a gremlin observing your writing practice like a Taylorite time and motion consultant.
Maybe you feel more comfortable printing out articles and making notes by hand in the margin. Your gremlin makes notes on his pad and mutters something about how inefficient it is.
You’re just going to have to retype all those notes into the computer later.
There are apps that allow you to annotate PDFs.
What a waste of paper.
Maybe you have thought about experimenting with writing longhand in a notebook and not even having the computer turned on so your email and everything else doesn’t distract you from the task at hand.
Or, you have a great idea that will be relevant to the whole project but right now you are working on Chapter 4 and this doesn’t fit in Chapter 4. You have a plan (dammit!) and if you don’t stick with the plan …
The gremlin might be wrong about what really is efficient.
What I see happening with my clients is that this concern about something being inefficient keeps them stuck.
You decide to stick with the plan but the ideas about that other section distract you from what you are trying to write. You find it hard to concentrate on the task at hand. You start criticizing yourself for your inability to focus. You start to doubt your ability to do this at all…
Or, you tell yourself it’s inefficient to do things on paper and force yourself to use the computer. You get distracted by your email. You struggle with the annotation tools and wish you could just scribble in the margins. You find it hard to concentrate. You start criticizing yourself for your inability to focus. You start to doubt your ability to do this at all…
How much time is it taking to write when you keep getting distracted?
How much time are you spending criticizing yourself?
How much time are you spending staring at the screen trying to make words come out of your fingertips?
Is this efficient?
Try it, see how it works
Your Taylorite gremlin is trying to help but you can send him out for a coffee break, or maybe on a vacation, while you try some things. (If you are a member of the Academic Writing Studio, the Gremlin Café is designed for this.)
You can decide to experiment for a defined period of time and see what difference it makes. You don’t have to commit to writing longhand forever. Maybe writing longhand first thing in the morning before you even look at the calendar, email and everything else would work well for you? Maybe retyping what you wrote later has other benefits? How do you know if you don’t try it?
Some of the participants in A Meeting With Your Writing use the meetings to experiment with things. Telling the gremlin that it’s only for the meeting seems to work. Here are some of the experiments:
- writing the thing you most want to work on
- NOT reviewing what you’ve already written before adding new material
- scheduling breaks to help with focus and concentration
- making a list of what to do when distracted (to help with focus and concentration)
- writing in a different place (a comfy chair, the porch, etc) or changing locations part way through the 90 minutes
What would you like to try?
Edited May 31, 2016.