My Computer’s Dying Battery Helps Me Write Better
It lasts only two hours, so I gotta work quickly
Like all writers, I procrastinate constantly.
As I’ve written before, procrastination generally stems from fear: In this case, fear that I won’t be able to finish a piece — that I’ll get stuck on a problem and never figure it out. So it feels safer to simply never start writing in the first place.
“Procrastination is never about managing your tasks — it’s about managing your emotions,” as Tim Pychyl, a psychologist who studies this dismal form of self-sabotage, told me last spring. Basically, we feel stomach-knots about an imminent task (writing a piece, filing our taxes, setting up a scary doctor’s appointment, etc.) “So if we put the task off, we don’t feel awful anymore,” Pychyl notes. “Until, of course, it’s tomorrow and now we have to face it again. So we do the same thing.”
Now, there are healthy ways to deal with procrastination! You can break your work down into small, manageable action-items, so they become less scary. You can rigorously block those tasks into a calendar. You can face your fears and realize that you’re blowing things out of proportion — that the task fundamentally isn’t that scary.
I … don’t do most of these healthy things.
Yeah. Mostly I dither around until a deadline is tumbling towards me like an avalanche. Then, finally, in a jacked-up state of full-on adrenal panic — with my pupils dilated to the size of dimes — I get stuff done.
Now, there is one trick that works for me, sometimes: The Pomodoro technique.
That’s the routine where you set a timer and force yourself to work until the ding goes off. Last year I even programmed my own Pomodoro app (free for you, or anyone, to use!) so I could have a timer that worked precisely the way I wanted it to.
Why does this help, somewhat? Because Pomodoros create tiny short-term deadlines. They’re artificial deadlines, obviously, but they seem to generate just enough real tension that I feel that damn, I better get some…