In a recent newsletter I mentioned how I sometimes roll a die to decide which section of my project to work on. When you pick a section at random it’s hard to take the work too seriously or otherwise get perfectionist.
Reader Nathan wrote in with another great randomizing technique from Viviane Schwarz: bingo cages (a.k.a., wheels).
- “One of my most important work tools is a bingo wheel which I throw wooden balls in labelled with the projects I need to work on—I’ve found it absolutely impossible to run a schedule based on priority, they all need work all the time and thinking about which one is the most pressing is just wasting time. I spin out a project, set a timer and work on it for half an hour or an hour to take it forward, then I spin again until it’s time to stop working. It sounds quite ridiculous but it beats every other system I’ve ever tried for productivity; you just have to make sure the right balls are in the cage, throw in more if a deadline is approaching or take some out if something gets less urgent. Statistically, as long as it all gets done on time, who cares what order it happened in?”
Another reason these techniques work is that they get you out of the realm of abstract thought and into something concrete that’s right in front of you. (Abstraction can be tiring.) And they inject some fun and color into the process, which always helps.
I know some of you clever ones are thinking, “Why bother with all that old – fashioned stuff? I’ll just use a random number generator app on my phone!” No! You don’t want your phone, and its many distractions, anywhere near you while you’re working. (Plus you lose the whole concrete / color / fun thing.)