I started a new habit a few weeks ago. After reading Deep Work I gained a lot of new insights and one of them is that it’s terribly easy to stray away from my current task at hand. Lots of times I find myself starting out with something I need to do, and later, say 30 minutes or so, I find myself doing another thing completely. And the worst is that sometimes I’m not even remembering what I should have done in the first place.
For instance if I’m designing a component for a website and decide to go look for some inspiration on how I could evolve it, I soon find myself browsing inspiration on some whole other topic. One thing leads to the next which in turn leads to the next and I’m down the rabbit hole. Another even worse example would be to look for information on social media services. I start out looking for what I intended but other interesting things grab my attention and yet again I’m swirling down the rabbit hole.
I need to be attentive with how I spend my time, otherwise I risk losing it on things that don’t even matter to me. My idea to try out was to always set a timer before I delve into any task. That way I could be hauled out from the rabbit hole in case I dropped in without knowing it. So, before I start doing any task I quickly decide how much time I want to spend it on it. It could be 5 minutes, 15 minutes or 1 hour. It’s kind of a variant of The Pomodoro Technique, just that I don’t have equal chunks of time for each “task” period.
I see this technique as an equivalent for throwing out a lifeline to my future self in case I need it. It also helps to bring a sense of importance to the current task. I know I need to do this until the timer rings because that’s what my previous self decided is most important right now. I don’t have to make that decision anymore because it’s already been made for me. It’s a funny thing tricking my mind like this but it truly works. Another plus with this technique is that it helps to get a sense for how long a task would take. The more experience of timing the tasks, the better estimations I can do for my projects. The last few weeks I’ve gained better focus than in a long time.