My fascination with doing all the things is matched only by my fear of them, which means that I have approximately four hundred and sixty eight projects I’m giving the side eye to, and none of them are quite done.
They only person I know with a shorter attention span is my three year old nephew, but even he can sustain a life long obsession with wooden trains to the point of frequently completing an entire track and pushing trains around it for what feels like forever.
I want to complete my train track.
One of the more irritating things about the way my attention works is that it doesn’t actually like attention itself. It’s like an imperious cat who sits in the window rather than on your lap, no matter how many kissy-kitty sounds you make.
It goes back to being at school, when trying hard to do anything was deeply uncool. Because, I don’t know? Trying was equivalent to saying it mattered, and saying it mattered meant that failure was suddenly a very real and very frightening option.
To get around this, I have, over the years, designed productivity systems and schedules for myself so complex, they required expertise in fractal mathematics to figure them out. But most of them ended up collapsing under the insolvable nature of their constraint equations. And the ones that didn’t collapse consumed so much attention that they needed their own
But recently, I have started to treat my attention span like a feature, not a bug.
You want to work on five different projects a day? Fine. You want to draw, and write stories, and visualise data, and possibly figure out how to do all of those things inside the same project? Fine, let’s work with that.
So now, I do two things. I work on projects that range in size, from five minute sketches through to the deep space adventure novel I’m writing, so that even with a tiny amount of work, I can still get that little buzz of achievement that comes with completing something and sending it out into the world. And I set goals in small increments.
This is where I tell you how great #300wordpact* is. It’s about writing 300 words every day, on any project, and when you’re done, you’re done. Three hundred words a day? That’s totally achievable. Well, for me it was achievable on 42 days of the 50 days, or 84% of the time. (I kept a spreadsheet, obvs.)
It feels pretty good to look back and see how hitting that small daily task has built up to 10k new novel words and two short stories planned out.
Here’s to the next fifty days.
*shout out to the lovely Sara Saab and her Clarion 2015 class who came up with the idea which I happily adopted.