Pomodoro Productivity

So I’m trying something new to get my productivity in order. The Pomodoro Technique involves timers and set work times and small breaks, and so far, it seems to be working for me quite well. The gist of the technique is this: you set a timer (traditionally for 25 minutes), and work as much as you can until the timer goes off. Then you take a break (traditionally 5 minutes). Then you set the timer again, and repeat the whole thing until you’ve done (traditionally) four sessions of work. Then you take a longer break, and then you do the whole thing all over again.

What this reminded me most of was the 30/10/3 technique for writing that Chris Baty introduced in his NaNoWriMo guide book, No Plot? No Problem!. It works the same way, but with thirty minutes sessions, ten minute breaks, and only three sessions per round. I’ve used that method to great effect during my NaNoWriMos past, especially when the November 30 deadline loomed large. So given all this, I thought I’d give the Pomodoro Technique a try.

I downloaded an app, then grudgingly paid $2 for the “pro” (i.e., fully customizable) version. And I have my rounds set up rather like Chris Baty’s writing method: three 30-minute sessions, with ten minute breaks in between, and a longer 30-minute break at the end. I’ve only been trying this out for the last three days, but it’s working quite well thus far. At least as long as my day doesn’t get derailed by the unforeseeable, that is, like trips out of town to visit family.

I suppose what I’m really hoping to get out of all my pomodoros is a sense of accomplishment, and real movement forward on all my goals. I’m trying to do three rounds a day, which comes out to nine sessions, which is about six hours and change altogether. I certainly have enough time in the day to do all that, it’s just a matter of turning my distraction brain off and getting to work. It’s not really accountable to anyone but me (and the graphs in the app I’ve got), but it’s something. I will cling to anything if it can help me accomplish what I want.

Have you ever tried the Pomodoro Technique, or timed work sessions of some sort? How has it worked out for you? Do you have a different productivity technique that you use? Let me know in the comments!

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You Know What Else is Hard? Writing.

Back at the beginning of the month, I set this little goal to have a short story written by the end of October. Well, it’s almost October, and guess what? I have almost nothing to show for it.

Writing is hard. It’s even harder when you’ve got depression. My moods have been up and down all month, and none of that is particularly conducive to getting words down on paper, especially when trying just makes you feel like tearing all your hair out and running into the night screaming. Ugh. So yeah, I’m one of those awful writers who waits for ~inspiration~ in order to write, because if I don’t I end up sometimes literally trying to hurt myself. Which is no good all around.

I have a short story idea. It’s actually a redraft of something I wrote in college. I’ve decided to expand it a little to see what I can get from it. I have a rough outline, and an expanded rough outline, but no actual words written. I’m hoping to change that today, but you just don’t know when the muse is going to cooperate. The only deadline I’ve got is a self-imposed one, unfortunately. I’ve started a little accountability club on my writing group’s forum, and that is something of a help, but that’s about it.

I guess I’m mostly writing this to defend my position. Like. I know the best way to write is to wrestle “the muse” into submission, not patiently wait for her to deliver. I know that waiting for inspiration to hit is a good way to never get anything written. But if trying to write is so awful I want to throw and break things, then that’s not good for me or my writing. Odds are anything I write while I’m so frustrated is going to crap anyway, so why should I torture myself in the name of writing every day? I’d rather write when I’m in a good mood to, and feel I can accomplish things, than make myself do it and turn the whole process into a chore that I hate.

So that’s where I am with the whole writing thing right now. It’s tough, and it’s frustrating to be making so little progress, but I live ever in hope that things will get done. I am giving the whole pomodoro method a whirl today, and I’m hoping I’ll be able to get some writing done while I’m on it.

***

I suppose I could tell you a little about what I’m trying to write. The germ of the story arrived when I was introduced to the TV series Pushing Daisies and the film which inspired large parts of it, Amelie, in short succession. I was taken by the narration of both of these stories–very precise, often funny, and adding a great deal to the hyper-heightened reality of both properties. So I set out to tell a story in this sort of narrative style. I wrote a 2k version of the story, which was about a young woman who was hit by a car and dies, but gets to decide in purgatory whether or not she can keep on living.

The story and the idea have stuck with me in many ways. I used the aftermath of the story as the basis for a short screenplay in university. I rewrote one of the scenes as a writing prompt just last year. And this year I took another look at it and decided a major revision was in order. So I’ve got this idea, and some further ideas about what to do with it. The death and life-choice stand on their own as one piece, but I have since the beginning entertained ideas of making it something bigger.

Right now, however, I just want to focus on getting the short story version written. Maybe we’ll think about doing more… but later. Much, much later. For now, “The Death and Life of Caroline Carver” is a short story.

***

It’s tough when you know you’ve got a half-decent idea, but you can’t seem to draw out the right words to make it happen. I’ve got so many ideas like that. Sometimes it’s mostly planned out in my head, but making it work in actual prose is more difficult than it initially seems. I can’t even say that I put in a decent effort every day, because I don’t. I think about it a lot, but I don’t make things happen on paper. I’m always hoping I can change that, and always disappointed when I don’t follow through for myself.

Oh well. Such is life, I suppose.

What’s Coming, What’s Going, and What I’m Doing About It

(By the way, let me know if these overlong post titles are getting a little too twee for you.)

Since my last post:

I have been doing fairly well overall with the schedule. It’s helped me get a lot of things done–I’ve finished a few books, and written at least 750 words every day (even if it’s more journal style writing than fiction writing). I’ve made progress on the afghan for my brother and SIL. Everything has been going well, and I’m happy with what I’m doing. I can’t say that I’ve managed to totally get my crap together, but I’m making a decent stab at it.

What’s Coming:

Remember that lonesome review of the Doctor Who episode “The Eleventh Hour” that I posted back in January December?  Well, it’s hopefully very soon going to have some company. I haven’t yet written anything on further episodes, mostly because I need to rewatch them. But I am hoping to get that out of the way by the end of the weekend, and then I’ll settle down to review everything and carry on with what is probably my signature project at the moment. With Steven Moffat’s tenure on Doctor Who coming to an end in December, I might as well get this overview of his time on the show completed, right? It’s just a matter of sticking to it. My schedule may need an edit to fit episode watching time in there.

I am also, bit by bit, getting ready to write more seriously. I do still have fanfic on the table, because I am not cruel enough to leave people hanging, but! I have been doing some research and reading on writing short stories, a format I have struggled mightily with in the past. I am hoping to have a short story of some kind or another completed by the end of October, whereupon… something. Will happen.

But for the time being, I am trying to set up a professional profile online. To that end: a Twitter! It’s set up under my real name (which is also on the About page of this blog if anyone’s ever cared to look there), and will hopefully be a landing spot for… things. I don’t know yet. Probably a lot of self-promotion is in my future.

Anyway.

What’s Going:

Well, depression, hopefully. I am doing much, much better in the mental health arena this week. I am hoping things will continue to improve, though my quality of sleep lately has kind of fallen. Luckily I’ve got an appointment with my meds manager in about a week and a half, so hopefully we’ll be able to sort something out.

Nothing much else other than that, though.

What I’m Doing About It:

I’m making schedules. I spend about every day ranting in 750 Words about what I’m going to do. I need to start putting my money where my mouth is and commit to getting things done other than reading and knitting and basically journaling. I am hoping to have a decent output of words in September. I will try to keep you all abreast of what’s happening in that arena, if nothing else.

I’m going to sit down and watch Series 5 of Doctor Who this weekend. I’m going to take notes and write reviews and get things ready for a flurry of posting in September.

I’m going to, in short, get my shit together. Won’t you join me on this magical journey?

May 2017 Goals

A day late, but hopefully not a dollar short, here are my goals for the coming month:

  1. Keep up with 3 soda days/week.
  2. Exercise. Go walking at the park or SOMETHING.
  3. Writing: at least 2k on various projects.
  4. Reading: finish reading Protector of the Small. Maybe read more if there’s time left in the month.
  5. Movies: watch 5 movies, new or old.
  6. Get out of the house for an hour or two at least every other day.
  7. Baking: bake cookies at least once. Maybe bake bread?
  8. Fiber arts: get the baby blanket at least 2ft long. Spin the rest of the white fiber.
  9. Video games: maybe start playing Trio of Towns again. Maybe.
  10. Blogging: post of blog at least once per week.
  11. Dreamwidth: keep updating. Keep up with tron_comm and gauge interest in an event or events for TRON’s anniversary in July.
  12. Bullet journal: seriously keep up with it. Stop leaving blank days and catching up after the fact.

I seem to be aiming ever lower with each passing month, but I’m kind of resigned to it at this point? I am not a great accomplisher of Things. I should just aim high enough that I can make it and maybe feel good about myself in the process. I want to stop feeling like a failure every month.

April: Goals Round-Up

So, to refresh, these are my April goals:

  1. I fell off the wagon with 3 sodas/week. Get back on it.
  2. Exercise 2x/week. Just do it.
  3. Eat better food. Somehow.
  4. Writing: write 1000 words for Camp NaNoWriMo.
  5. Reading: read the Protector of the Small quartet. Plus at least 2 other books.
  6. Movies: watch at least 10, 5 new to me.
  7. TV: catch up and keep up with Doctor Who. Ditto Steven Universe.
  8. Video games: get married, get all towns to S in 3oT. Try to get off the plateau in BotW.
  9. Baking: make and decorate cupcakes for Liara’s birthday. Maybe bake cookies while visiting Lia.
  10. Knitting: work on the baby blanket for Evelyn.
  11. Blog: post once or twice per week.
  12. Set up payments on my student loans.
  13. Have fun on my trip to visit Lia!

And this is how I did on them:

  1. Miss
  2. Miss
  3. Miss
  4. WROTE 7K SUCKAS
  5. Well I read half the Protector of the Small quartet. Does that count?
  6. I watched three movies I’d seen before. Whoops.
  7. Well I did not catch up on Doctor Who, but I started watching the new series anyway. BILL POTTS = LOVE
  8. I suddenly stopped playing video games this month. What even.
  9. HIT!! I made delightful cupcakes for my niece’s birthday party AND baked cookies with my friend while I was visiting her.
  10. HIT!
  11. Miss
  12. HIT!
  13. HIT!!

So that’s how my April went. I’ll try and have my May goals up asap, and will hopefully update you on my general life situation soon.

April 2017 Goals

This is a little bit late (a little bit? a lotta bit), but nevertheless, here are my goals for the month, which is already a quarter done. Whoops.

  1. I fell off the wagon with 3 sodas/week. Get back on it.
  2. Exercise 2x/week. Just do it.
  3. Eat better food. Somehow.
  4. Writing: write 1000 words for Camp NaNoWriMo.
  5. Reading: read the Protector of the Small quartet. Plus at least 2 other books.
  6. Movies: watch at least 10, 5 new to me.
  7. TV: catch up and keep up with Doctor Who. Ditto Steven Universe.
  8. Video games: get married, get all towns to S in 3oT. Try to get off the plateau in BotW.
  9. Baking: make and decorate cupcakes for Liara’s birthday. Maybe bake cookies while visiting Lia.
  10. Knitting: work on the baby blanket for Evelyn.
  11. Blog: post once or twice per week.
  12. Set up payments on my student loans.
  13. Have fun on my trip to visit Lia!

They aren’t as extensive as the last few months’ goals have been, but I think that this a level of activity that I can keep up with. I have a big trip to Pennsylvania planned later this month that I’m really looking forward to, and I’m hoping to read more books now that I’m finally done with The Name of the Wind.

What are your plans for this month?

March: Goals Round-Up

Well, after a crazy kind of month, it’s time for another round up of my monthly goals and how I did on achieving them.

  • Keep up with 3 soda days/week. Try to cut back to just 3 sodas/week.
  • Seriously start exercising twice a week. Either walk (at the mall or the park) or do the recumbent bike.
  • Eat better. More fresh food, fewer microwave options.

I did all right here. I mostly stuck to the soda rule, but I can’t really say I ate any better, outside of making and drinking a lot of smoothies. I didn’t really exercise a whole lot, either. Maybe two weeks out of four. I feel like it’s something I need to work on, but my days have been so void of motivation that I’m not sure how well that would work out.

  • Bullet journal: keep up with it all month. Keep up with the handwriting practice. Do #RockYourHandwriting every day.
  • Writing: write 1k. Finish those flash fics. Prep for Camp NaNo.
  • Reading: finish a damn book.

I’m proud to say that I kept up with my bullet journal, though I’m not quite so fastidious with it as I was at the beginning of the month. Still, I’m still doing it, and that’s what matters. I feel off practicing my handwriting, though. Rock Your Handwriting happened in fits towards the end, but I got it done. I did not get any writing of fiction done. I finished a book, but only one. As of the second of April, I’m still stuck on The Name of the Wind.

  • Movies: watch 10, 5 new to me.
  • Television: keep up with Steven Universe. Seriously catch up on Doctor Who. Everything else is a bonus.
  • Baking: bake macarons, that’s all I ask of you.
  • Video games: new games this month. Play them. Figure out the whole LP thing.
  • Knitting: finish the blanket; work on the scarf.
  • Practice ukulele twice a week or more.
  • Keep up with one blog post/week. Two if possible.

Well, on the bright side: I saw a few new movies. Kind of. More like two. And a half. I baked macarons just last week. I played the crap out of at least one of the video games. I finished the baby blanket finally. But… I didn’t work on the scarf. I didn’t keep up with any of my TV shows. I didn’t touch my ukulele. I barely kept up with posting to this blog. So that’s kind of a net zero, I guess.

  • Figure out student loans and what’s going on with them.
  • Save $400 if still employed. $200 if not.
  • Visit brother and SIL. Figure out if we’re doing Night Vale again.

I think I have my student loans figured out. Thank god. I managed to save quite a bit of money thanks to my tax refunds coming in. And I visited my brother, at least; my sister-in-law was unfortunately out of town for work.

So once again it was kind of hit and miss. Maybe I need to aim lower.

(Sorry that this is a bit morose. The last few weeks have been tough.)

March 2017 Goals

I did my February round-up yesterday, which means it’s time to post a whole new set of goals for the coming month! Without further ado, here are my  March 2017 Goals:

  1. Keep up with 3 soda days/week. Try to cut back to just 3 sodas/week.
  2. Seriously start exercising twice a week. Either walk (at the mall or the park) or do the recumbent bike.
  3. Eat better. More fresh food, fewer microwave options.
  4. Bullet journal: keep up with it all month. Keep up with the handwriting practice. Do #RockYourHandwriting every day.
  5. Writing: write 1k. Finish those flash fics. Prep for Camp NaNo.
  6. Reading: finish a damn book.
  7. Movies: watch 10 movies, 5 of them new to me.
  8. Television: keep up with Steven Universe. Seriously catch up on Doctor Who. Everything else is a bonus.
  9. Baking: bake macarons, that’s all I ask of you.
  10. Video games: new games this month. Play them. Figure out the whole LP thing.
  11. Knitting: finish the blanket; work on the scarf.
  12. Practice ukulele twice a week or more.
  13. Keep up with one blog post/week. Two if possible.
  14. Figure out student loans and what’s going on with them.
  15. Save $400 if still employed. $200 if not.
  16. Visit brother and SIL. Figure out if we’re doing Night Vale again.

I’ve once again tried to sort of lower my standards, so I actually have a chance at achieving some of these goals. For example, I’ve learned that I never know what’s going to catch my fancy with video games, but that I’m drawn to the newness of some games to me. So the goal there is to play the new games I’m getting, since they’ll probably capture my attention better. I’m hoping that shooting a bit lower will improve my success rate this month.

What are you planning to get done this month?

February: Goals Round-up

Another month has gone by, which means it’s time to go over my monthly goals and see where I measured up. While I didn’t do spectacularly this month, I still got some stuff done. Let’s get started, shall we?

  • Stick to 3 sodas/week. Try to limit caffeine as well.
  • Exercise 2 times/week. Either walk at the mall or half an hour on the recumbent bike.
  • Eat less junk food, and more fruit and veggies.

I did about half of these. I did a good job with soda, and I exercised a little, and I’ve started drinking fruit smoothies. On the other hand, I had more microwave and non-Subway fast food that I care to count, and I really fell off the wagon (again) with exercise. I’ve set basically the same goals for March in this arena, so let’s hope that I improve.

  • Write 1000 words on whatever. Probably The Oupost.
  • Try the flash fiction course again.

I wrote about 1700 words this month, which is certainly nothing to sneeze at. All these words were on my flash fiction stories, mostly from writing and rewriting the beginnings. I need to pick up work again on these stories, before I lose my enthusiasm and have to start over again.

  • Read at least two books, one of them new.
  • Watch 10 movies. Make time for movies in the morning.
  • Knitting: seriously finish up the blanket. Start working on the lace scarf again.
  • Baking: make macarons again, really really. Maybe bake Dad a coconut cake for his birthday.

First half of the hobby goals here. I once again failed to finish any books this month, which I believe is as much a time management problem as anything else. Even when I picked an old favorite as an “easy” read, I still didn’t quite get around to finishing it. I did, however, start making time for movies. I watched nine different films this month, ten if you count seeing La La Land again. I have high hopes of meeting and perhaps exceeding my movie goal next month. Knitting did not happen, not even a little. I avoided making macarons again, but I did bake that coconut cake for my dad’s birthday. All in all, it’s about halfsies with these goals.

  • Work on the Disney puzzle. Put down at least 100 pieces.
  • Video games: Get back into Pokemon Sun and maybe Story of Seasons. Work on Calliope and Illien, my Animal Crossing towns. Post on my AC blog some more.
  • Catch up on Doctor Who. Start catching up on Agents of SHIELD. Finish up with Sherlock. Keep up with Steven Universe.
  • Update blog once a week, but twice a week if I can manage. Life updates, DW reviews, movie reviews. Whatever stuff. Tweet 10 times (instagram crossposting does not count).
  • Practice ukulele for actual this time, twice a week. Learn 5 chords. Learn two nursery songs.

I did not put down 100 pieces on the Disney puzzle. More like 15. Maybe. Video games were, as I described in an earlier post, kind of taken over by Terraria. I haven’t even managed to stay totally caught up on Steven Universe, to say nothing of all those others. Ukulele happened a little bit, but then tapered off into nothing. In fact, the only thing out of this little grouping that I did manage to do was update my blog semi-regularly, and even that was a near thing.

  • Visit brother and SIL again, either with my parents or without.
  • Make first student loan payment if my consolidation application goes through.
  • Save $400 if still employed. $50 if not.

I did visit my brother and SIL (and their adorable new puppy!) with my parents a couple of weekends ago. Yay for that. My consolidation application on my student loans just went through yesterday, so I did not make that first payment, but at least that’s due to circumstances beyond my control. And even though a debit card snafu made gradual saving impossible, I still put away $400 this month, because I thankfully still have a job.

I won’t say I did spectacularly this month, but I didn’t do too bad, either. I got some things done, even in piecemeal ways, and I celebrate that.

What did you get done (or not get done) this past month?

February: Mid-Month Progress Report

So it’s (well) past mid-month, which means we’re due for an update on how those monthly goals are coming along. Last month, as I’ve discussed before, was something of a misfire. I got some things done, but not all of them. This month thankfully seems to be going better, though there have been some falters here and there.

In the Healthy Living category, things are going fairly well. Well, decently well. I’ve actually managed to keep up with my soda goal! I’ve stopped making excuses to buy a Coke at work, and that’s helped enormously. I’m kind of cheating by having soda “days” rather than a set number, but I haven’t had more than two in a day since the month started. I decided to throw the caffeine limit out the window. On a “bad” day, I probably don’t consume more than 100mg, which is well below the daily recommended limit. I’m fine with that. Exercise and junk food eating have not been such a success, but I hold out hope that I will one day get my crap together.

Writing-wise, I’ve been working, as I said in my last entry, on Holly Lisle’s flash fiction course. At the moment I’m redrafting my story beginnings, but I think if I total all that up I’ll hit 1000 words  with ease. And maybe work on finishing my stories as well.

Reading and all the other stuff: well, I think I’m going to finish one book this month, at least, but it’s probably not going to be The Name of the Wind. (It will be Beauty, by Robin McKinley.) NotW has been progressing slowly ever since Kvothe, our hero, basically discovered girls (well, one girl) and his obsession with her is more than a little grating. Luckily, the plot seems to be thickening, so maybe I’ll get through it after all. I haven’t watched as many movies as I would like, but I have a three-day weekend this weekend, so maybe I’ll tear myself away from Terraria long enough to watch a few.

Speaking of Terraria… last month, it was Animal Crossing: New Leaf, and this month it’s this. I bought Terraria for the 3DS on a whim last Saturday. It is now Thursday as I draft this, and I am both frustrated and hopelessly addicted.  Frustrated because I can’t seem to make much progress in the 3DS version, and addicted because I went and bought the PC version as well, and I’m having too much fun to stop. Terraria is a sandbox game in the same vein as Minecraft, but with a much bigger vision. There dozens of monsters and tons more crafting options, and that’s just the start. It’s a lot of fun and despite  my mediocre progress, I’m really enjoying it.

In other news: I baked the cake for my father’s birthday, though it didn’t quite turn out the way I’d hoped. Here’s a picture of it, with my not-so-flattering commentary. I haven’t been saving money thus far because I had a little fraud incident with my bank account and couldn’t access my funds online, but I plan to save the whole $400 in one go after I get paid this week. I practiced ukulele the first couple weeks, but last week was a bust. I haven’t been knitting at all, much to my chagrin. Other stuff’s been going on, but I think I’ll cover all that in another post.

I can’t think of anything else that really warrants updating on. Despite my fits and starts this month, I’m actually quite proud of my progress. It’s nice to see that I can do things if I put my mind to it, even if those things include playing too many hours of a video game.

How’s your month been going?