When youíre at a writerís colony, time moves differently.
It moves more slowly, more smoothly. And it stretches out, so 10 days feels like a month.
Thatís partly because of the solitude. If youíre not used to spending time alone, in silence, with only crickets for company, 10 days can feel like a long time.
But because of how slowly time moves, you can complete more work and develop more ideas in 10 days than you would at home in a month or even two. Or maybe itís the other way around, that the massive amounts of creating causes time to creep?
As I wrap up my third visit to The Hambidge Center, Iím paying close attention to why Iím able to get so much work done here Ė because I want to be able to replicate that at home.
The main reason, I think, is the lack of distractions.
No phone calls. No email. No doctorís appointments. No errands. No lunch dates. None of the little distractions that eat into your work time at home. No oneís even allowed to show up uninvited at my studio in the woods, so I know I have the entire day to myself.
And for those of you who have dogs to walk and kids to look after, there are none of those here, either.
I canít totally ignore my email because my business is still running like normal; Iím still serving clients and selling digital guides. But because I have no email (or phone signal) in my studio, and because I have to walk a quarter of a mile to access the Internet, Iím much more deliberate with my time online. I spend an hour going through email and responding to requests and putting out fires. And then Iím OFF email for the rest of the day.
And know what Iím realizing? That block of Internet time is enough.
Some days, when Iím waiting for correspondence, I need to check email twice or even three times. And sometimes I need to spend more than an hour because my tasks require online access. But in between those small blocks of time online, I donít truly need the Internet. (And if I do, I keep a running list of little things Iíll do once Iím online again.)
The truth is, most everything and everyone can wait a few hours. Almost nothing is as urgent as I usually make it by keeping my email open all day and responding immediately to each inquiry.
I like to keep my email as empty as possible at all times because it makes me feel like my life is in order, like Iím caught up on everything. But perhaps Iím setting a bad precedent by always responding so quickly. Perhaps Iím setting an unhealthy expectation.
There is something special about focusing on work for more than half an hour, an hour, even two hours consecutively. Donít get me wrong; I work plenty of hours each day when Iím home, but itís not uninterrupted work. Writing and creating is kind of like sleep Ė you donít get the deep kind, the REM kind, until youíve been in it for a while, without being woken. And you donít come up with the really smart ideas until you hit REM.
When I think of it that way, it seems like a tragedy that I often deprive myself of REM work when Iím home. Itís like Iím robbing myself of my best creations.
Lots of people preach working in uninterrupted blocks of time for optimum productivity, but Iíve never truly tried it at home. I always find myself distracted Ė by an item that needs a spot on my calendar, a blog post idea that begs to be fleshed out, an email from a reader who had an ah-ha moment while reading one of my guides. I stick to this multi-tasking routine because it allows me to work via stream of consciousness, to grasp good ideas when they find me. But sometimes, I get so sucked into all those tasks that I forget what I was creating to begin with.
So Iím wondering: what would happen if I forced myself to focus on ONE project for two or three hours, without even the slightest detour? Or if I answered email only during one or two blocks of designated time each day?
What if YOU tried that strategy?
Would you get more done? Would you produce better work?
Would we be able to replicate the super creativity and productivity I experience here at the writerís colony?
What do you think?