NaNoWriMo teaches this through the magic of word sprints, which have pulled countless writers across the finish line just in time.
Most sites intended to help you out of clutter and hoarding habits, like FlyLady and Stepping Out of Squalor, are based off a a similar principle. You may look around at your messy house and feel too overwhelmed to begin, so instead of tackling the problem as a whole, you set a timer for ten minutes (or five, or fifteen). Anyone can clean for that long. Build up a few small blocks of cleaning time, and you’re on your way to an uncluttered home.
For the longest time, I couldn’t accomplish anything even with the ten-minute method. I couldn’t even focus on something fun without feeling walled in, trapped, and desperate to do anything to relieve myself from the pressure of obligation and impending failure.
Now that things are changing for me, I’m discovering that I never developed the organizational skills that get most people through the day. I barely know how to look at the big picture, even though it doesn’t overwhelm me the way it used to. For goodness’ sake, at my last followup with my doctor, I told him that for the first time in my life, I feel capable of routinely choosing to get up when my alarm clock goes off. (And let me assure you, my past failures were not for lack of trying.)
As November draws nearer and my duties as an ML kick in, I find myself alternating between planning styles and states of mind. One day, I’ll feel fine checking off a few boxes on my to-do list and allotting the rest of my time to other tasks. The next day, I’ll be posting in the private ML forum in a panic, feeling like I’m weeks behind and have to get things done right this minute.
The truth is, I’m just no good at estimating how much time and effort a job will take.
I’ve moved mountains to get copious amounts of work done in no time at all, and I’ve ducked out of commitments just to get some of the pressure off, but I’ve never succeeded at pacing myself. I’ve tried my best to use ten-minute blocks of time productively, but I always either get distracted or let my ten minutes stretch into a frantic race against time.
So here’s my goal for the NaNoWriMo 2014 season: Realize that ten minutes means ten minutes. Break up my tasks into small steps, and schedule in downtime if I need to. I can do this! But the more I let myself stress over how much I have to do, the less I end up getting done.