Having earned my crust as a successful independent consultant, working from my home office for over ten years, I’m often asked how I stick at it and avoid distractions.
The answer is that often I do get distracted, and I’ve learnt over time that when this happens it’s best to go with the flow and let it happen, as usually it means that my brain in is in “processing and cogitating” mode – even if subconsciously – so I just let it get on with it while I do whatever diversionary activity comes my way!
The real challenge is not the times when I skive off to do a spot of gardening or nip to the hairdressers – I see these diversions as the balancing benefit of all the other times when I’m sat at my desk at midnight or on a Sunday afternoon – it’s the times when I have nothing pressing and instead of capitalising on that, the guilt kicks in and I do all sorts of pointless stuff while sat firmly at my desk. How much better to grab the opportunity and get out and do something else, like go to an exhibition or meet a friend.
As a result I must waste large amounts of time “quasi-working” when I could get far more benefit from giving myself permission to go play. “Quasi working” is where I make myself stay at the desk but go off on a completely pointless round of trivial displacement activity. Far better to stop agonising over what still needs to be done on the long to do list and either do something mindless and easy but nonetheless essential – like pulling together papers for the accountant or alternatively get out and play!
But the issue for me is justifying to myself what to do – in the desperate attempt to prioritise I end up doing nothing.
So I’m trying a new approach. It’s called The Lucky Dip. I’ve cut up a couple of sheets of paper into small pieces and written a task on each. These now sit in a bowl ready for the next time when (like today) I have an hour to spare due to a postponed meeting The tasks are a mixture of stuff I’d otherwise avoid or put off (such as tidying the office, updating my expenses), stuff I never have time to do (such as telephoning a client or colleague that I haven’t spoken to in a while, writing a piece for this blog) and stuff that’s a treat (curling up for an hour with a good book and a cup of tea, going out to buy myself some flowers, going for a walk, listening to a TED Talk ). So the plan is that when I get a window of time without a pressing call on it I take a lucky dip and then follow the instructions – no cheating!
I’ll do an update to this piece in a month or so to let you know how it’s going! If you have a go too I’d love to hear how you get on.