I’ve spent far to much time not going anywhere. So when I decided on going somewhere I needed to set up a system that worked. This may sound like an easy thing to do for a trained project manager, but the subject I’m working with is fidgety. She loses her concentration, seems to make a point in doing exactly the opposite to what’s planned, and can suddenly decide that watching a movie is much better than work. Pretty close to the general six-year-old, actually.
The only good thing is that I know myself well.
I solved the concentration issue by switching between tasks every fifteenth minute (inspired by FlyLady, and it’s also the minimum amount of time my inner six-year-old can hold her concentration). When I’m on a task that requires an extended period of flow, like drawing a picture, I just reset the timer when it goes off and work untill I’m done. Normally, though, I’m switching between creating/boring stuff and social media.
The ‘making the opposite to what’s planned’ issue was solved by setting up goals. Lots and lots of goals. This is one of the nuggets I actually use from my project management training; setting milestones and deadlines is important, but the WBS (work breakdown structure) is the key. Reality will always tear through the time schedule at the most unexpected point, but as long as you know what you should do you can rearrange your planning. In my case my fidgety personality and my total ignorance on my working pace are the biggest problems. Having a large amount of things to chose from gives me freedom to work with the things I feel like at the moment. By setting goals (example: colour page x) instead of tasks (example: work on project y) I makes sure I get somewhere – and see that I do it.
I keep a journal where I keep lists over the most current goals, and where I write down what I’ve done during the day. Not every day; I allow myself to laps every now and then, but most of the days. This solves several issues; I see which goals I reach, how many of them, how long time I’m working every day – and by using my records I can deduce how much time I need for a project. Since I have a tendency to overdo things I’ve put a cap on how much I write each time (one to two A5 pages in handwriting), and I try to keep consistent in what I record.
All of this is a great help, but it wouldn’t work unless I decided to bribe my inner six-year-old. I allow myself rewards. This turns the work into a real life computer game where the overall goal (living well on my art) earns me the right to buy a samovar. (If you haven’t seen a samovar do click the link; it’s a majestic thing decored to any six-year-olds tastes.) Some goals that have been proven hard to reach earns me the right to buy mugs like this one.
Ten minor goals reached, which I now know equals roughly a weeks worth of work, earns me the right to buy funny sprinkles. I use them on my kawaii cocoa (cocoa with whipped cream and sprinkles). A childhood spent where sprinkles came in only one form means I’m delighted to see the multitude of different sprinkles available in swedish shops now. Thing is, when I tried the bribing method before I haven’t bothered to ”cash in” my rewards – reaching a goal is a kick in itself and I often feel the added bling isn’t neccesary. In the long run this means I dull down my work and I give up on my time management system. But with an excuse to buy new sprinkles every week, I hope I’ll manage to stick with it a little longer.