I have a theory that the key to a successfully kept New Year’s Resolution is to aim low. One New Year many years ago, my husband and I formally resolved to hang up the bathmat after a shower – and we’ve been doing it every since.
Big projects are harder: losing weight, doing more exercise, cutting down the booze, giving up Candy Crush – finishing the book.
The trouble with academic work, particularly the important stuff, which is research and writing, is that it is so huge and amorphous. All those filing cabinets (real or virtual), all those words to write, all those versions of the same chapter already written – gah! It needs to be broken down into manageable gobbets.
So here’s the plan. As the blogosphere is my witness, I have resolved to spend a minimum of one Pomodoro a day working on my book.
The Pomodoro Technique was invented, if that’s the word, by an Italian student in the 1980s, who discovered that he got more work done if he broke it up into gobbets of 25 minutes, using a tomato-shaped kitchen timer. During that 25 minutes, he would work on just one thing, without interruptions (now even more important in our on-line world). When the timer rang, he took 5 minutes break before starting again. After 4 Pomodori, he took a longer break. Repeat as necessary.
The beauty of this system is that everyone has 25 minutes to spare. What’s more, since the hardest part of writing is often getting started, I find that once I set the timer and sit down at the computer, I usually get absorbed in what I’m doing and will happily spend more time there – though the 5 minute breaks are important. ‘You have to respect the tomato.’
My other theory about New Year Resolutions is that it’s madness to start them on New Year’s Day, possibly hung over, certainly in the middle of the post-Christmas stupor. So I started my new regime a few days ago, and so far, so good. Does it really only take 40 days to establish a new habit? I’m not sure yet, but I shall keep you posted.
I still have a lot of bathmats to go.