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A decent writer’s block

I have spent a week at home with the idea focusing on my books, writing articles for this blog and continuing my developer education (Coursera courses and FreeCodeCamp).

But I just sit there in front of the computer and achieved almost nothing.

Let me elaborate more on this phenomenon.

I think everyone faced this situation: having a week’s free time and plans what to do. I started my Monday with 15 tasks. Naturally they were of different sizes: some could be accomplished in some minutes or hours, others would take some days — so the list was a good one for the whole week spent home.

At 8:13 I sat down and started to work on one of the points but then I switched to another in my thoughts and then a third one… So I could not focus on what and how to do.

Then I went into the kitchen to brew me a tea and then I spotted some spiderwebs which needed to be removed. So I added another task to my list (yes, I did not remove the webs but added them to the task list). After finishing the tea I added an element to the list to do the washing-up.

With 17 elements on the list I thought about resolution.

My approach

My first approach was to re-write the list, add priorities to it and then do the work and start with the highest one. Now this led to the problem that, while prioritizing, my mind ran free and I added 6 new elements to my list so I had to re-do the prioritizing and sorting the list.

So this was a no-go. So I went back to something I did not use some times ago: Pomodoro. It is a simple technique where you spend 25 minutes concentrating on only one thing — and after the session is done you take a little break and decide what to do next.

I was not sure on the beginning how to approach my problem with these tasks with Pomodoro but in the end I decided to spend the first 25 minutes on deciding my approach. There were many ideas: take one task and do it in small blocks (25 minutes of work, 5 minutes break) or do Round-robin.

Naturally, a one-task-until-it-is-done approach is better than switching the tasks after each session. However I think it is more productive to enable yourself to switch your task if you feel you are fed-up or just have some blockage in your thinking. In this case switching the task enables you to clear your mind from that given problem, work on the next one and come up with a new approach or a better idea for the first one.

Household  tasks

It is a very good thing to have household tasks in your list. That’s because if you get stuck on your problem in one session then go and do some household task (removing dust, spider webs, washing , doing the washing-up, cooking) because they most of the time do not require a big mental concentration and you can think about your problem a bit less focused (perhaps enable yourself thinking round corners).

If you do not have the opportunity to do this kind of work (because you are in your office) go for a walk! Yes, do this. And it is not enough to walk to the coffee machine and get some caffeine but go outside and get some fresh air. It is better to have some thinking break outside (and I don’t think your employer prohibits you getting some air). If you are smoking and have some fancy indoor opportunity to smoke switch to outside.

And anything which approach you take: if you are in an office and have co-workers around talk to them. Perhaps he/she/they see(s) the solution which is right before your eyes or just give you a mental kick into the right direction.

Pomodoro apps

There are many applications for doing Pomodoro: for each platform. Choose one which fits your needs (some come with a fixed timer of 25 minutes, some include pause times). If you do not find one or just want to do something new (another task in your list): write your own Pomodoro clock. I did the same too, you can find my simple web based solution here.

Conclusion

As you can see, it is sometimes easy to overcome a writer’s block. And in the end I was able to write about it in my blog adding another article — OK, it is not really about software development because it does not have any code snippets you can work on but perhaps you have taken something on your journey on how you can successfully overcome a writer’s block.

About the author

GHajba

Senior developer, consultant, author, mentor, apprentice. I love to share my knowledge and insights what I achieve through my daily work which is not trivial -- at least not for me.

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