6 ago. 2007

I have a new system for work inspired by Seinfeld. You write a red X on a calendar for every day that you write and then you try to keep the chain alive for as long as possible. A week, a month or two, a year. ("Don't break the chain"; Imaigne Seinfeld saying that in an annoying whine; apparently he uses this method). I've arbitrarily decided on two hours as a minimum.

I could almost guarantee that this will force you to finish your novel, your dissertation, or get you tenure. The reason why you are not finishing your novel or dissertation is that you are misconceiving the problem. You are seeing it as a problem of being good enough, smart enough, talented enough, to do it, or of having enough time to do it. The actual problem has more to do with finding those two hours a day to actually do it. (I know this because I have often misconceived the problem in myself. I actually know now that I am talented, smart enough to do what I want to do, but that simply not doing it is my usually my problem.)

The two hours must be on the Major Project you are working on. You will have to fit in work on other projects into a third and a fourth hour. If you have to write a book review, do your work on the Major Project first for two hours. It is best to put as much energy as possible into a single section of the Project.

Why "only" two hours? This is enough for me to add 100-600 words to the word-count of whatever it is I am working on. The rest of your day is free to go about the everyday business of living and working, and the pace is not too onerous to prevent work on busier days. I don't have to feel guilty about not working when I should be: I've done my two hours! I can read, study, think, etc... with complete freedom if I have more time. If I want to work three or four hours on some days I can, so it's a flexible plan--only moderately rigid. It can be maintained (I hope) while I'm teaching and when I'm not. I think some academics make the mistake of only writing during the summers and weekends rather than every day.

If the chain is broken for some reason, then start a new chain. Analyzing your own chains, their pattern, will give you insight into why you are or are not accomplishing what you want to accomplish. Major life changes like moving or the birth of a new child will provide interruptions. Intercontinental flights are also good excuses. Bad excuses will include "too busy" or "too tired."

2 comentarios:

Maryrose Larkin dijo...

Thank you Jonathan. This is useful.


Andrew Shields dijo...

That's how I wrote my dissertation. I always felt terrible any day I did not write, so I had to do the write-first-thing-in-the-morning thing just for my sanity.

It helped, of course, that I did not have any children yet back then.