My good friend and fellow self-improvement junky Lynn shared an article with me a few month ago arguing that the way to make big changes in life is through small experiments. According to the author, Amanda Crowell:
“Whenever you see difficult changes handled well, whether in health care, manufacturing, or education, it’s because the overhaul was managed through very small changes that were carefully monitored.”
I’ve been trying this approach with varying levels of success ever since. Making big sweeping decisions always feels good, but I’ve found it tends not to work. When those kinds of “I’m changing my life from today” decisions falter, it feels like you’re a failure. Whereas with little changes and experiments, it’s easier to think “Hmm, that’s interesting, I wonder why that didn’t work? What could I change?”
Trying to develop better habits around writing has led to a number of experiments. For a while I was getting up at 5am every day and trying to write for a solid two hours. This was great at first, but it quickly took its toll and fell away. Now I try to write during work hours if my freelancing job is quiet, or else between finishing work and dinner. This has been much better. I also started using the Pomodoro Technique with the help of tomato-timer, and that has stuck too. Adopting Scrivener was another very successful experiment and I’ve now purchased the program.
But my biggest problem, as it is for many writers, has simply been getting motivated to write something every day. I’m currently experimenting with two websites and an app to see if I can solve that problem and boost my daily productivity.
The app is called SelfControl and I need it because I don’t have any, at least not when it comes to Facebook and Youtube. The temptation to check FB or just watch one episode of GMM (read ‘at least three episodes plus some Cinefix‘) is often just too great for me. SelfControl allows you to block out a custom list of sites for hours at a time. Right now I have FB, Twitter, Youtube, Netflix, and Stan blocked for three hours.
Eliminating distractions is only part of the equation though, there’s also motivation and for that I’m playing with gamification. And that rhymes. I’m combining two websites for this: Habitica and 4theWords. Habitica helps you form good habits and get shit done by awarding you points, gold, and health for achieving you goals and punishing you for failing to do so. For example, if I go to sleep after midnight tonight I’ll lose 10 of my 50 health points, plus some gold. I’m using this to motivate me in a few areas of life, but writing is a key goal – if I don’t write 800 words a day, my little avatar ain’t never gonna level up!
4theWords is specifically tailored to writers. You get XP and gold and neat little magical items the more words you write. For extra motivation, you can also battle monsters by hitting a specific word count within a time limit.
Today is the first day I used 4theWords and it was a roaring success. I smashed out more words than usual, faster than usual, and I enjoyed the process more than usual! With a little luck, my free trial will be a very productive month – in which case I’ll cough up the $4/month and subscribe.
The beauty of combining 4theWords and Habitica is that I can use the latter to monitor the effectiveness of the former and if 4theWords is effective that, in turn, will validate the motivating power of the Habitica. Now that’s an uroboros I can get behind and in front of at the same time!
Well, bye guys, love yas all – I have some monsters to kill!