Life

Personal Productivity By Doing One Thing At a Time

Occasionally my coaching clients have a problem with staying on task.

Oh, they have goals, plans and even the best of intentions but alas, there’s always some crazy, unexpected interruption that derails their progress.

And, naturally enough, they want me to help.

(Well, if truth be told, I too have similar problems from time to time and that’s where having my own coach adds value.)

There are three general approaches I recommend clients to work with in such cases:

  1. Take Action

  2. Follow A Proven Plan

  3. Focus on One Thing At a Time

As a coach, I spend quite a bit of time helping clients develop their own plans and methods for taking action.

And they can become very excited and motivated when progress is being made as measured against some agreed milestones.

But how to eliminate these pesky distractions?

There’s no one answer for all scenarios but in my experience the optimal approach is often to habitually train yourself to minimize interruptions, and then get to work on a specific task for a set time.

Take this blog post, for example.

I usually write two posts weekly, which doesn’t seem like a lot but then again there are multiple other tasks competing for my attention e.g. bookkeeping, tracking site statistics, coaching, invoicing, emails, traffic generation, marketing etc.

And what can easily make a thirty-minute blog post (from raw idea to publishing a more polished version on this blog) turn into a two or three hour marathon is having multiple distractions open on my PC, with my Internet browser being the main culprit.

So, I was very pleased to find this amazing piece of http://www.baara.com/q10/ (Q10) which is a great habit trainer for any tasks involving writing e.g. updating a goal, writing a letter, creating a resume, making a list and, ta-ta, writing a blog post!

q10-personal-productivity

After a very simple download I configured my favorite settings in a few minutes.

And now I have a simple grey text processing window which fills the screen and keeps my writing space to 600 pixels (much easier on the eyes when scanning up and down sentences).

I can also see my word count increasing in the bottom left of the yellow tool bar.

As a test, I set a word target of 500 words in 15 minutes using the alarm tool (I actually did 195 words in the first 15 minutes; at least I have a target to beat in future, if so inclined).

And the designer has added a lovely touch with downloadable sound files which make every keystroke and carriage return sound just like an old fashioned typewriter.

In case you’re wondering, yes, I have seen enough summers to recall such ancient devices being a key office automation tool in corporate environments. (But I’ve absolutely never seen typing pools, except in the movies 😉)

From a personal productivity perspective, this piece of software is an amazing training tool in the art of staying focused for the following 5 reasons:

  1. There are no multiple drop down boxes and menus to annoy and distract (just the F1 key for help).

  2. There’s a pleasing plainness in the aesthetic layout of my computer desktop. I can see no other running programs, not even the windows tool bar. Hurray!

  3. I love the sound of the clacking keys and the carriage return (your mileage may vary; not all around you may appreciate those sounds, so some headphones might be required.)

  4. I get instant feedback on my productivity. I can see that by the end of this sentence I will have written 575 words.

  5. I can set timed goals and have some fun measuring my writing productivity against them.

OK, now that I’ve drafted this post, next up is to copy the content into my blog editor, add in a screenshot, edit for grammar and spelling mistakes (yes, you will probably still find some!), and then finally post it live on the blog.

Naturally, these are all separate tasks I must commit to finish before this post sees digital light of day and makes your retinas sing in photonic harmony 😉

Nonetheless, 80% of the content creation is complete and I haven’t once gone to Firefox, checked my stats or tried to see who’s tweeting me!

Now that’s productivity!

PS: Although I believe this type of software is a great habit training tool for staying focused and on task, I know it will not be for everybody.

That’s fine; just use what works for you.

And one more thing; please get permission from your manager (if appropriate) before installing this type of software on a work PC. Much safer to use it on your personal home PC, and as far as I can tell, the software looks clean e.g. no spyware, malware. If in doubt, do your own research!

I’ve worked for IT in corporate environments where both PCs and software were locked down to protect against viruses and other security threats being introduced into the internal network by well-meaning employees.