Darren Beale Web developer, retailer & photographer

Tip To Avoid Procrastination


I keep it short this week: a quick update and thoughts on my coming, time-poor, week.

I then share a very effective tip for avoiding the dreaded P-word: procrastination.

As always if you have any feedback or suggestions then please do get in touch, I’m bealers@siftware.com. I’m @bealers on Twitter and there’s also @knucklingdown on Twitter.

Links from show:

Have a great week!

A full transcript of the show follows below

Hi, I’m Darren Beale and you’re watching or listening to Knuckling Down, my weekly show where I use you, the internet, as my accountability partner, where I share my fails and wins as I run my business, as I try and ship my side projects or my discretionary projects and generally also try and share any insights I may have learned over the years running my businesses or trying to keep myself healthy both mentally and physically.

I hope you had a good week. I had a good week this week. It was definitely a good week for getting things done. Siftware, my web development company, I’ve been focusing quite heavily on search engine optimization and through competitive analysis and through quite a long time of figuring out what sorts of services we want to provide.

Had it figured out that we should be highlighting more the support maintenance side of things as opposed to just we do dev. I realized we weren’t really promoting them very well on the website. I’ve been doing quite a lot of [inaudible 00:01:15] analysis and looking at what sort of offerings there are already out there and they’re not packages, that sort of thing.

I spent a good slot this week brainstorming and making sure that our offer, in terms of the features that we would be offering, as more of a product-sized service offering. Brainstorm that out well and got all the features listed out that I think we will be offering.

I have my team in the office this week. It’s always nice to have everyone in, so they all came from around the way, all into Shrewsbury, and we had two days where everyone was all together, which is always very nice. A lot of energy in the room and a nice meal in the evening, that sort of thing. Also, ran by them the things that I’m telling them that they’re going to be offering and making sure that and tweaking those things. That now gives me a platform to build on.

In terms of discretionaries this week, I’m really stoked to say that I launched what I wrote, recorded, edited, and uploaded three screencasts relating to OneNote quickstart tutorial I’m calling it. Something I’ve been meaning to do for a very long time. The one of particular interest to you, watching or listening, would be the third one I uploaded which is my workflow. My personal workflow on how I use OneNote. That will tie in quite heavily into a couple of my larger blog posts, particularly my morning routine, which does mention OneNote there.

That was quite epic and that’s been on my to-do list for over two years. I kid you not. I knew that it would be something that would probably be of interest to some people. If anyone’s anything like me, I suck a lot out of seeing other people’s workflows and it was just something I’ve been meaning to do and do.

Recording screencasts is officially ten-times harder than it looks. Maybe in times, and it’s a large number. You can’t help moving your mouse around and then you forget your fluffy lines halfway through. I got a lot of confidence by the end of it and I felt really good doing it. I really enjoyed it. I can see myself doing quite a few more of those as the time goes on.

Also, I published my book coming soon page on my blog, which I’m really pleased. I got the artwork nailed after quite a long time of sitting on it, really again. Not procrastinating but it was de-prioritised. I got the artwork done and I just wrote some quick copy, which I’ll probably refine over the coming weeks. Quick mailing list signup form at the end. That was really nice.

You know when you set a thing, I want to put a “Coming Soon” page on my blog, but actually it’s about 15 different things I have to get done before I can do that. Finally, I was able to go to press publish. That was a really nice feeling.

I had a really major breakthrough with Notepad, the SAS application I’m building at the moment. That was a particular blocker on synchronization. Well, not synchronization so much but getting data out of the API. I was getting data out of the one API no problem, but it felt quite inefficient how I was doing it and I wasn’t quite sure how I was going to deal with it once I wanted to check to see what changed, that sort of thing. Well, I nailed that this week.

I’ve still got a bunch of code to write, but intellectually I know how I’m going to do it. That was really good to see, and I feel that there’s light at the end of the tunnel now with that. Now it’s just a case of getting a thousand things done, but at least there’s no unknowns anymore. It’s just a case of just working through the list and that feels fantastic. That will be the quite clunky MVP version as well as obviously the actual main list is even longer.

As I said, a good week for getting things done. I felt very good at the end of the week. The coming weeks are going to be really busy, but it’s not a lot of margin. I’m off tomorrow, Sunday, and Monday. I’m taking a day off work. I’m helping some friends in their woodland. Do some forestry work. Do some tree felling and clearing. That’s a day out of the office. Two days out of the office because I’m doing some surveying in London.

Friday’s mastermind day. Every two weeks, we have that on Friday morning. Then, it’s the end of the week and the end of the month so Friday afternoon is going to be planning for the coming month, which is always, for me, quite an essential part of my calendar to make sure that I’ll get everything done the next month.

I really look forward to those sessions now because I also know what I can get done and some months are going to be heavier than others. It’s going to be particularly challenging because September is looming now and I’m pretty much off for most of it. It’s family holiday for a week and then two weeks cycling around Scotland. I’ll need to cram it in in August.

I’ve got half a day left for discretionary or nondiscretionary actually. Just anything. To get anything done next week other than being. I’ve got about half a day. The focus, obviously, is going to be my business primarily because that’s what pays the bills. My aim is to finish the packages that I’ll be offering. Support maintenance packages that we’ll be offering, to pad those out and make sure we’ve got the actual nuts and bolts sorted and then start writing the service offering page for support maintenance.

To do that, I’ll be following the Brain Audit methodology. The insights I gleaned from reading the Brain Audit book. If you’ve not read that book and you are in any way a sales person, by that I mean you’re self-employed or you sell your services, as a lot of us are, if you’re a freelancer or anything like that, get that book and read it and it will change the way you think about how you offer your services. It’s highly recommended. That’s my update.

In terms of things to share with you this week, last week was quite epic in terms of what I did. I went through my tried and tested method for dealing with overwhelm. Now, I’m happy to say that I’ve not been in that mode for quite awhile now because I think I’m a little more in tune to me. I know what I’m like in terms of self-inflicted overload. Now, because I can control that a bit more, I don’t get into that mode. But I’ve been there and that is a definite. The overload method, or the crisis mode proclivity, whatever you want to call it, it works very well for me and my brain. I shared that. It went a lot longer than I expected, but hopefully there was some value there for you.

This week, I’m going to be a lot briefer. I just got a tip for helping you do. It’s all well and good brainstorming. It’s all well and good listening at all the things you need to get done. It’s all well and good feeling like, okay, I know exactly what I need to get done now. No, what you need to do is, you need to do it. You need to get down, you need to start doing it. Hopefully, you’re not too scared of doing that. There is always one enemy, and that’s procrastination. There’s going to be things you don’t want to be doing. There’s going to be things you’re avoiding. You’re putting off. You don’t want to look in the eye.

My tip this week is how to avoid procrastination and it’s so basic, so simple, that I hope it will help you. It’s certainly not unique and it’s just my take on a simple visual aid to avoid procrastination, to avoid Facebook, to avoid Twitter. It’s the countdown timer.

You may have heard of the Pomodoro technique. I don’t get on with that at all. It’s quite regimented in terms of the 25-minute slot for doing and then you have a break, and then you do again. If someone interrupts you, you reset it. I’m probably not marketing it very well. I’m not dissing anybody who uses it to great effect. For me, it does not work. The time slots are too small and it’s a bit regimented.

I just need to know that my calendar says today I’ve got to get these five things done. My calendar says that right now I should be doing this thing. What I like to do is I like to set a timer for a set period of time, whether that’s an hour, a half an hour, whatever the time slot says, and I keep doing the thing until the timer is finished. Each time I’m tempted to go on Facebook, to check Twitter, to check my phone or open my email, which is also the worst thing to do, you bring your focus back to the thing that you’re doing for the next period of time, until the time is finished.

It’s like meditation. I don’t know if you’ve ever tried meditation. You’re there and you’ve got your eyes closed and you’re trying to have your mind empty and then what you’re going to have for tea tonight pops up into your head and the idea is that you’re meant to recognize that you’ve just thought about what you might be having for tea tonight and you have to gently bring your focus back to your breath or whatever else.

It’s a bit like that, but more like, oh, I just thought I was going to go on Facebook and you tell yourself you’re not going to do that because you want to get some stuff done, right? You’ve got a timer running and you said you would work on this thing. You’ve already figured out that you want to get this thing done because you’ve looked at your goals and all of those sort of things, internal struggles going on within your head, but ultimately the timer says no, so you don’t do it. It works. It really does. It’s very simple but I think very effective.

I’m on Windows. I don’t use a physical timer. I’ve tried my phone in the past. I’ve started using a timer, actually, within my operating system. What we’ve got here is the default one built into Windows and I’ve just selected the timer and I’ve created two countdown timers. One for an hour, one for half an hour. Then, you can full-screen it if you want, and you can flip between the two if you want, and just press play when you are ready to start. That’s about it.

After using this for awhile, I thought that I had some shortcomings. You can imagine if you’ve got something else over the top of this, because you’ve got Windows open, almost a visual aid. I asked around on the slack group that I’m involved with. I Googled the best one I could come up with for Windows was called Tomighty It’s a pomodoro timer for Windows. I think it might work on OSX as well. I’m not sure. You’ll have to look into that.

Ultimately, you’ve got the ability to set a time. It’s very limited this thing. This only goes up to 99. It doesn’t let you. It’s basically two digits you’re allowed to type in. The best bit is that you set your time slot and then you can just start. Now, what I needed, what I wanted was this. I wanted a visual aid to see how long I had left in my taskbar so I could just keep looking down and see how long I’ve got, obviously.

The idea being, you’re thinking there’s that itch. Not so much that you’re obsessing about checking these things, which you may or may not be. I know I have been in the past. Ultimately sometimes you just forget. It’s an ingrained habit. It’s like that’s the thing you do every now and again.

Well, I can look at my taskbar and go, oh no, it’s five minutes time. Why don’t I quickly do that, or go and stretch my legs, or go an get an apple out of the fruit bowl, or whatever it is to break the day up. I can do something frankly time wasteful at the moment. Whatever it is, it doesn’t matter but ultimately you’re putting off the thing that you want to do. Set the timer, but you’ve got a visual aid to tell you that you’re not in that mode right now. I say that’s extremely effective. I’d strongly recommend you to give it a go.

If there’s anything else you find in terms of, if you know a better timer, let me know. Pop it in the comments or let me know via Twitter or something. That would be really useful. This is the best one I’ve found for Windows. That’s it.

As I said, last week was quite a big one. I’ll just leave you a quick tip today. I hope you have a great week. I will speak to you next week. If in the meantime you have any feedback for me, I know for instance that when I did the screencast, I know the sound wasn’t as loud as I would like. I think I’m going to try a different microphone. I’ve got a shotgun mic and maybe that will help so I don’t have to have the microphone too close to me. That’s my phone ringing. Excellent.

If there’s anything that you think that you’d like me to cover in terms of things that maybe you’re struggling with or things that you’d just like to hear my take on. I’ve already shared my workflows, but any other things that you would like to know, just as a matter of interest, how I handle what situations, how I would handle the situations, whether that’s professionally or personally. We’ll leave it at that. Have a great week. If you do want to get in touch, I’m bealers@siftware.com. I’m @bealers on Twitter and there’s also @knucklingdown on Twitter. Thank you so much for listening or watching, and I’ll speak to you next week.

By bealers
Darren Beale Web developer, retailer & photographer