Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Old Dog, New Tricks

In these early days of my sabbatical, I'm taking some time to explore new tools and methods.  This is the kind of thing I never seem to have time for but it fits well with my current task, which is take all the research I've done over the last ten years and turn it into a book (er, a complete draft of a book by June).

Myriad new software/program options designed to assist in research and writing have cropped up in the last few years.  I'm giving Evernote and Scrivener a whirl.  The latter is pretty fun for writing.  It lets you see so much more than word and there a ways to play with organization within it that work well for hammering out a draft (especially when one has a million bits and pieces to assemble, as I do).  I'm less sure of Evernote.  I wish it had more levels in its notebooks.  I'm putting new research in there, but I'm not sure it is worth it to add too much of old.  I also don't have much storage, so my images will end up in Box.

Today, however, was my first attempt to put some better structure on my time.  It is pretty hard to get out of bed in the morning when the 'to do' list just says, "write book."  My ability to avoid this task and waste days is stunning even to me sometimes, it is time for a change.  Thus begins the great experiment with the Pomodoro Technique.  I got a book and spent my first three pomodori of the day working through it and learning the method.  One more pomodoro got me set up with a to do list for the day and then it was time for lunch;)  My afternoon pomodori started off strong, but I got off track with a couple messages that came in.  I when working on primary source research and - oops - turned the timer off.

All in all, however, I would say this is an intriguing method that I will stick with for the next month.  Here is what I learned in just one day:

1. Accomplishments you can count are rewarding and help you feel like you've done something.  I completed eight pomodori today!

2. Tasks have to have definition.  "Sort chapter 1 research," is a recipe for disaster.

3.  Having an evolving to list for the day and a timer on creates some accountability and that keeps one on task.

4. Dogs love it.  Every 25 minutes I take them out for a quick 5 minute frolic....

5. I suck at prioritizing.  Part of the technique involves frequent reevaluation of your plan for the day, so I have to prioritize multiple times, on tasks that are still fuzzy and too big.  I came across some suggestions for how to tackle this problem, so I'll add that too my bag of tricks soon.

For now, I'm pretty happy and committed to a two week trial with all these new toys!