Thursday, January 24, 2013

Monkey + Games Part 1: Turning Procrastination Into Productivity

Heyo, Monkey here.  This is part one of a two-part series.  Hope you like it!

Today I wanted to talk a little bit about procrastination.

Generally, we think of procrastination as "wasting time," or "doing nothing."  Speaking for myself, I often find hours that I should have been working on a project suddenly gone - eaten up by gaming.  Ugh.

Then, I heard someone saw that procrastination isn't "doing nothing," but "just doing something else.  That slight change of intellectual framework made me think that perhaps procrastination isn't about the time-devouring action (in my case, facebook games), but more about the avoidance of doing what I "should" be doing (in my case, illustrations, event planning emails, screenprinting, etc. etc.).

This inspired me to try and turn procrastination into productivity.  If I wasn't going to be working diligently on project A, then I could be working on project B, or C, or D.   I decided that I would use my natural tendency to work on many different projects to experiment whether or not I could stay focused a bit longer by distracting myself with different "productive" endeavors (basically, anything that wasn't playing games online).

Enter: Self Control.  Self Control is a free program for Macs (there's a similar program for Windows, I believe), that basically prevents you from accessing a certain website.  You create a blacklist, and whatever is on the blacklist when you activate it cannot be accessed by any browser until the user-set time is up.  So if I, say, need to write a blog post, I can set the timer for an hour or so and then I won't be tempted to open up Zuma Blitz because I can't access facebook at all (even if I restart the computer or uninstall the program).

A quick side note: I've found that usually 20-30 minutes of Self Control is great when I'm doing a task -I usually want to switch over within the first ten minutes or so, then eventually get lost in what I'm doing and forget about the need to go play games.

Now that I had a way of actively blocking out chunks of time for work where I literally was unable to play games,  I went about making a list of things I have to do as well as what I want to do.  My list looked like this:

-finish "The Siren's Call" comic
-work on top secret collaborative project
-develop Zombie board game
-develop dark wizard card game
-paint more items for The Dark Wizard's One Stop Shop
-scan, color correct, and post said illustrations on my site
-read psychology books
-screen print any outstanding orders
-work on event planning contract
-write new short stories
-edit old short stories
-watch self-improvement/business classes online

I then created a schedule for my work day, and set about dealing with the most pressing (ie. stuff I was getting directly paid to do) items first.

While sometimes the pressing items had to be done, I would find that I would try to put them off by going to play games online again.  Fortunately, Self Control was there for me, and I had to figure some other way to use up my time.  I then started jumping back and forth between projects.  I would start inking a comic page, then when I'd get bored, I'd start writing down ideas for the game, then I might pick up any of the two-three books I'd be reading and read ten-fifteen pages, then I'd go back to the comic, then I might brainstorm some game mechanics.  Around and around I went, skipping around, until I finally sat down and scheduled meetings and responded to emails and did the work I was otherwise trying to avoid.

If you've been reading our blog, I'm sure you've heard of Geneen Roth, one of the authors that Seal follows closely.  One of her main points of advice is to follow your body - it knows what you want more than anything else.  Just as this applies to how you eat, I was advised to apply it to how I work.  By giving myself just a bit of constraint (via Self Control), I let myself work on whatever I wanted to work on.

While it might seem like I'm wasting a lot of time jumping from one thing to another, I actually got more done during this trial than I would when I would try to sit myself down and buckle down.

While if you're not naturally someone who likes to juggle a lot of projects at once, then you probably don't have as much trouble focusing and getting anything done.  However, for all you artists who easily get distracted, have more ideas than time to complete them, or find yourself staring projects but never finishing them, I think embracing your natural way of working as much as you can will actually lead you to getting more stuff done.

While I concluded that a lot of my game playing was done out of wanting to "do something else," I did find that I still really, really, really like games.  This revelation was sort of life-changing, but that'll have to wait until Part Two, next week.