Productivity Writing

November Writing Plan

Well, it’s that time of year again, when the internet explodes with mustaches and writing. I actually can’t remember what the mustache thing is about. Cancer? I am sure I will remember by the end of the month.

Now, it looks like I’ve not been writing at all in months, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. I’ve been doing lots of writing, just for other venues. But I need to remember that I can work on some not well understood or fleshed out ideas on my blog. I think that’s the point of Digital Writing Month. I personally am choosing Academic Writing Month, since basically all the writing I want to do is for traditional academic venues, such as double blind peer reviewed print journals, books, and so on. This is unusual for me, but strangely not terrifying.

And so, the plan:

  • Finish my portion of the final draft for a column DUE TOMORROW that will be published in Reference User Services Quarterly. I expect this will take 5 Pomodoros minimum, and obviously is VERY TIME SENSITIVE. (Caps for my own benefit). Update 11/2: Turned in, and done in 5 Pomodoros plus a bit of extra time.
  • Write a Call for Proposals for an internal researchy project. This I promised to deliver by the end of last week. Oops. This will take probably 1 Pomodoro if I get my act together. Update 11/2: Done, but did without benefit of Pomodoroing in until 25 minutes.
  • Write ACRL 2013 Cyber Shed proposal, due November 9. 2 Pomodoros, let’s say. Update 11/9: Done with 1 Pomodoro and one bout of checking Twitter incessantly. Also may do a poster proposal for another project, which is probably an additional 2 Pomodoros.Update 11/9: Wishful thinking knows no bounds
  • Book review for the Journal of Electronic Resources Librarianship, due November 15. This will be challenging since it’s a strange hybrid sort of book. So while it’s probably doable in 3 Pomodoros, this is probably underestimating the time I will spend staring in horror at the blank page. Update 11/14: 3 was about right, though I only tracked one. Turned out to be pretty easy to write, and turned in a day early.
  • Revisions for a provisionally accepted article for Information Technology in Libraries that peer reviewers had some good suggestions for that are also challenging to follow. However, they are right and the article won’t be good unless I follow them. This really needs to be done as soon as possible, and will take I have no idea how long. Let’s say 10-15 Pomodoros.
  • Abstract for a paper the Media in Transition conference, which is due on a rolling basis starting in early November. I had an amazingly brilliant idea in the shower one day, which I immediately wrote up whilst in my bathrobe. I would think I could do this in 3 Pomodoros, assuming the idea is still brilliant.
  • Write a solid (and hopefully complete) draft of an article that an editor from a journal asked for based on a conference presentation from very early 2011. This should be about 1500 words I think, and should be doable in 5 Pomodoros if I really get into it. This is a co-written project as well.
  • Write a rough draft of  a mysterious book project that will be something like 25,000 words. I will say more once I feel less weird about this. 1 billion Pomodoros? Ok, this one I will just whale on day by day until it is looking like something. Will base this one on word count alone.
  • Oh yeah, I have an ACRL Tech Connect post due as usual near the end of November. 2000 words, got to get this one done soon. Let’s say 10 Pomodoros.

In terms of strategy I write best in the very early morning, or very quiet late afternoons when the office is empty. Until November 12 it will generally be empty in my office after 2:30, so will aim to get lots of this done then. Weekends are doable if I have a deadline to force me to work. It was also pointed out to me that I have to take some vacation days soon or lose them (but I took a vacation in June! How could this be happening already!) so that might be a good strategy.

That’s the plan! I was sick in bed for nearly 2 days this week, so lots of other stuff to catch up on that has nothing to do with writing. Plus all the other currents of life that keep me trying to keep calm and… well, you know the rest.


GTD with Google Docs

I meant to write this post about three years ago after I first set this up. But I never did! I mentioned that I use a Google Docs presentation for tracking projects (in the Getting Thing Done sense) on Twitter last week, but pretty much left it at that. Today I got a request to share this presentation, so I thought I would give a little context for it.

Getting Things Done requires a list of projects of various types. The basic set up is described in Getting Things Done, and really expanded upon in Making Things Work. I won’t go into it all here, as there are many better explanations available online. The question left unanswered by everyone is what is the best solution for me, personally? That is because the internet isn’t psychic, silly. You need to ask a librarian for that.

I like Remember the Milk for my daily tasks, but it’s not so good at the weekly review portion of Getting Things Done. I mean it probably could be, but I get too distracted by all the tasks and lists. So I created this presentation to just focus on one section at a time. I’ve edited out most of my more personal information, but left some of the things to get an idea of what I think about. The Personal Workflow Model is the best of all possible worlds scenario. Yes, I should follow that, but I rarely do to the letter. Still, it’s helpful to think about.

Let me know what you think!

Getting Things Done Method Lists

Works Cited

Allen, David. Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity. Penguin, 2002.
Allen, David. Making It All Work: Winning at the Game of Work and Business of Life. Viking, 2008.

Habit forming

Somehow, without trying at all, I have achieved Inbox Zero for both my work and personal email. I’ve had my personal email under control for a long time, but I don’t think I’ve ever managed at any job to have clear work email. I know why–at my previous jobs I’ve always been a student as well, so it’s been used for personal items as well. But wait, it gets better! My apartment has also been ending each day being tidy (or at least tidy enough for my personal standards). This parallel existence of neatness on several planes has a marvelously calming effect, though it doesn’t seem to have any effect on my motivation other than a general sense of “You Can Do It!”

Here’s how I did it: I stopped trusting myself. When I first started my job, I didn’t trust myself, and set up as many folders as I thought I would need ahead of time. That made it easy to keep filing messages. I even put “Process email” as a once weekly recurring event in my to-do list. But then, in a moment of self-trust, I deleted that. “Oh, I’ll remember to do it.” No, I won’t. The reminder to process my email now occurs every work-day in my to-do list.

Same thing happened with my apartment. For a long time, I had set myself the task of making sure a room was de-cluttered once a week. I trusted myself to keep things reasonably picked up throughout the rest of the week. As time went by, I moved the tasks closer and closer together, until I was supposed to be de-cluttering every three days. So the other day I stopped trusting myself, and I started reminding myself to tidy the apartment for 10-20 minutes every single day. It usually only takes 10 minutes, and has forced me to not let things pile up.

If it’s been a long time since you’ve seen “No new mail! Want to read updates from your favorite sites? Try Google Reader” in your email, you might want to give this a try as well.