Concentrate! I was. But you keep interrupting me with advice

Think of sitting down to work like playing a gig. What do you need? A capricious rider. And Self Control

Screaming fans

Your fans are literally screaming with anticipation of the 2 hours work you’re about to do at your desk. Go on, rock star. Do your work. © Laura Eades 2013

I’ll never forget my friend’s story of her dad, who started working from home. She said, on the first day, he came downstairs in a suit. He went into the front room and worked. At five, he went upstairs and changed. He did that every day of the rest of his working life.

This strikes me as entirely sensible. If you’ve ever felt like you “can’t concentrate in these shoes” or “must have a South-facing desk” then I salute you. You’re much more than someone trying to dredge the barrel of motivation to complete a project now that the initial excitement has burned off. You’re actually an artist. Indulge yourself, and then go beyond it.

What do you need to stay at your desk for 2 hours?

Try this:

  1. Set an egg timer for 15 minutes and potter. It is essential to potter first. Don’t try a vertical lift-off. Don’t go straight for the finale. You need to warm the crowd up first.
  2. Get the workspace ready. What I do is, get a tray and take to my desk everything I might need (in my case, the checklist includes handcream, lipsyl, power cables for computer, tissues, a footrest and lap blanket, a basket of kittens). Do this. If you want to be really anal, make a checklist like an airline pilot would – some kind of acronym so that you always get the essential objects and never omit one. (We seem to be running a travel metaphor and a gig metaphor simultaneously. I can handle that. In the latter, this is your setlist.)
  3. Psych yourself up. Pre-gig nerves, right? But in those 15 minutes, you should also do the things that make you feel ready for work (my list involves being dressed in clothes I wouldn’t go to bed in, and applying mascara, as well as visiting the loo and on a good day making the bed etc too). As you do them, you’re not being weird. You’re walking to the runway. You’re making faces behind a curtain. You’re thinking about the work you’re gonna do and what a buzz it’s gonna be.
  4. Make an announcement. Last call for boarding. Or: Good evening, Berlin!!! You’ve got to tell people it’s starting. This is fair. Everyone else needs to have their concentration interrupted with a message saying you don’t want to communicate with them. Someone needs to witness this event. (It’s like going to the gym. If you don’t accidentally-on-purpose drop it into a conversation later with an inner self-satisfaction, you’re missing half the fun). So before you go, post on a forum, or twitter, or to a friend, that you’re gonna do your thing for a couple of hours and to wish you bon voyage and good luck. Try something like this: “If you’re reading this, you’re probably trying to focus on your work and failing. That’s often me, but over the next 2 hours, I’m gonna spank it. You should too. See you on the other side”.
  5. Block internet. Use an app or function like Steve Lambert’s Self Control to turn off all the internet sites you usually flick to for a couple of hours.
  6. Oh yeah. Did I mention? You should do your work now. Now, I said. Get the hell on with it. You can look up who Steve Lambert is later.
  7. Keep a distractions list. Anything that you get the urge to do, fix, look at, listen to… just write it on your list for after your hours are up. I might start a website where we exclusively publish the lists of distracting thoughts that come to mind. Did you add Steve Lambert to your list? He does some pretty interesting stuff, to say the least. As an aside.
  8. Encore. Yes. After the two hours are up, grab a cup of tea, and do another 40 minutes. Go on, you’re on a roll. Your list can wait. Half of the stuff on it is low-priority crap anyway. Keep going, the crowd are loving it. Admit it, so were you.

Seriously. That is enough blogging. I’ve got a novel to write. Bye.

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Hey rock star pilots. How was the gig, did it fly? Open the comment section by clicking on the pale grey dot under the post. I’d like to hear from you. And I’d love love love to read your distraction list please.