Thursday, January 4, 2018

Doing the Dirty 30

         You may have read the title to this post and wondered, “What is she talking about?” Well I’m not talking about being 30 years old (I’m too old for that). And I’m not talking about anything with a negative connotation for dirty, so if either of those are your reason for finding this post, you’ll be disappointed. But read on anyway.
         Distraction. It is the reason we have difficulty completing our “to do” lists, of reaching our goals, of feeling accomplished for the day. Have you ever finished a day or left work and thought, “Wow, I did not get ANYTHING done today?” You may have started with good intentions, but a lot of times what happens is we literally get distracted by something as we’re in the process of doing something else and… “Oh look a squirrel” we’re off doing something else (and Thing 1 never gets finished). This is why we end up finding the remote control in the refrigerator – we jump from thought to thought and end up forgetting the initial reason we went in the fridge in the first place.
Nothing to see here, we're just getting organized and productive...
         I’m a mom, a professor, a wife, a daughter, a writer, a direct sales consultant…I could go on. I have a lot of lists, a lot of “balls up in the air” that I attempt to juggle. So I created a system to keep myself going in the direction I wanted to. I actually created a lot of systems, but today I’m just talking about, well, today. How to stay on task and get shit done TODAY.
         I start my day by figuring out what needs to be done. I make a list. Today’s list included textbook review, blog post, clean boys’ bathroom, read, make samples, empty the dishwasher, do laundry, shower, clean the cat box, take out the trash, find a new pediatrician for the boys, and edit three chapters. Whew. As the day progressed, I thought of other things I needed to do (go to the grocery store, get the recycling out of the garage) and I put those on my list for tomorrow.
         Then I figured out what really needed to be done. Like today today. Shower, cat box, trash, bathroom, blog post, read (you have to have something fun in there!), and at least start the textbook review. The other things I could do whenever. OK so got my list.
         Now comes the 30 part. I set a timer on my phone for 30 minutes. I do one activity for 30 minutes, whatever it is. Now obviously the cat box and the trash won’t take 30 minutes, so I group smaller things together in a 30-minute chunk. I showered, read for 30 minutes, did the cat box/trash/boys’ bathroom while laundry washed, read for 30 minutes, and now I’m eating lunch while writing this post. After this I’ll read for another 30 minutes. That’s another part of the Dirty 30 – figure out what you want to be your “base” activity for the day, and that’s the one that you come back to every other 30 minutes. For example, when I’m teaching, I use grading/scoring assignments as my base and then do the other activities that need to be done during the 30 minutes in between.
         You may be thinking, “Well when do I…” (use the restroom, walk around, snack, get the mail, smoke a cigarette, or whatever other things humans do) – you do them in between or during but it can’t be something that needs your attention. For those 30 minutes, your attention is focused on X. So yes, I can drink water and eat my lunch while writing because they don’t require cognitive effort (I don’t make much of a mess eating usually).
         Want to feel more productive and get your shit on your list done? Try it out.
  • Make a list of activities you need to do and want to do.
  • Prioritize them.
  • Pick an end time (I finish every day at 2 p.m.).
  • Set a timer for 30 minutes.
  • Go.

         And here’s the thing – a lot of people say, “Oh that sounds great but…” You know what makes this not make you productive? You. Your lack of focus on what’s on your list. Even me some days, I have to remind myself, “Back to the list. Back to the list.” But you know what? It’s 12:05 p.m. and my list is halfway done because during the blocks where I wasn’t reading I literally was going going going.
         This is similar to other techniques I’ve read about (Pomodoro for one, others I’ve read but can’t think of), so don’t make me a heroine by thinking I made this up all by myself. My whole process is a conglomeration of ideas I’ve read from others so it’s my eclectic theory of productivity.

         Go get your hands dirty for 30 minutes. Do the work. Feel accomplished. Who's doing the #Dirty30 with me? (and making everyone wonder exactly what you're doing with THAT hashtag??)

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