In a recent post, I complained that if I had an employee like me, I’d fire her. I neglected to mention that if I had a boss like me, I’d tell her to take this job and shove it . . .
Oh, wait. I do.
I’m really good at troubleshooting software. I can take an, er, unexpected result, reproduce it, trace it down, and smash its bug-ridden body better than anyone I know. But I’m kind of slow with social stuff, even when it’s only interacting with me.
Maybe especially when it’s interacting with me.
There are two halves to the self-employment equation. There’s being my employee (I’ve never been especially good at being an employee for any length of time), and then there’s being my boss (I stunk at management so ripely the only time I’ve tried it that I’ve avoided it ever since.) But I need to learn how to manage me, fast.
OK, how does one manage the me? What management techniques are effective? The few bosses I’ve had that I really liked to work for — how did they do it?
To begin with, reprimands don’t work. No criticism of my work habits, no matter how gently phrased, will be effective. I feel scared, and will make tons of promises, but I won’t follow through because I feel coerced. Instead, I just get sullen, and my output curve will drop through the floor. In line with this, the annual or semi-annual review process that almost every business uses — I perceive it as abusive. I can’t focus on long-term goals as such on a day-to-day basis, and setting them has always seemed to me to be equivalent to telling me to go cut a switch for a boss to beat me with. So, forget setting the publication deadline and telling myself that I really need to get to work to meet it. Net result: MORE hours spent in front of the video game, not fewer.
Praise and rewards help a lot. I am a praise junkie, particularly if I trust the praiser to be honest. And rewards — I can’t wait for the fruits of my labor for a year. I need rewards NOW. This is part of my ADHD profile; deferred gratification means a week or two, tops. Wait any longer, and I’ll lose interest.
OK, right. I’ve put HabitRPG back into the GTD mix. It’s a pain in the kiester to mix it in, because HabitRPG interfaces with almost nothing else, but the instant gratification is great. Checking off a task means getting virtual gold and finding hidden treasures, not to mention my avatar looking cool in her new armor. And when leaving a task undone or practicing a bad habit means losing life points and maybe dying and losing a level right now, I’m much more likely to get it done than I would be just by considering long-term negative consequences. Example: Skipping my meds might put me in the hospital next year, but that won’t help me remember them today. Bribing myself with virtual gold to take them, and taking a ten-percent hit to my stats if I don’t, is much more effective than fear of eventual hospitalization.
Another part of the equation is breaking down tasks into manageable pieces. Nothing is worse than a boss who dumps a big undifferentiated job on me with a distant deadline. HabitRPG helps with this; I do best by cutting my tasks into chunks that take fifteen minutes to an hour to finish, tops. I can focus on almost anything for fifteen minutes, and HRPG’s instant gratification takes care of pulling me through chunk after chunk.
But how do I cut novel writing into tiny bits that add up to a finished work? I tried Cathy Yardley’s Rock Your Revisions and Rock Your Plot. She has lots of good advice — but I get bogged down in the Goal-Motivation-Conflict paradigm. To be blunt, my ADHD kicks in and I get really, really . . . bored. Mind Like Teflon sets in, and I can’t focus for even fifteen minutes. And I don’t need the internet to be distracted — although it helps.
My latest writing productivity book is Rachel Aaron’s 2k to 10k. Much of the plotting advice is similar to that given by Yardley, but simpler. But more than that, she has some wizardly advice for managing yourself as a writer.
She gives a simple way to make a task list for a day’s writing. Already, it’s working. She also recommends, well, tracking your time and productivity. So did Yardley, but again Aaron’s method is simpler. (Note to self: Don’t plan on writing fiction after 7 PM. The brain won’t crank.) I really respond to diagrams like the productivity triangle (even though she doesn’t draw it. I did…) And numbers. She has lots of numbers. I find numbers comforting.
I’m still taking too big bites of writing, but it’s getting better. And when I can get those smaller bites to a point at which I can dump them into HabitRPG, I’ll really be cooking.