This is a practice familiar to anyone who has ever experimented with Julia Cameron’s Morning Pages or done any freewriting. I am not inventing the wheel here, just suggesting a way to use it.
One of the biggest challenges to getting work done can be settling in. There are the churning thoughts, the beckoning inbox, the dueling priorities (more like naked-mud-wrestling priorities), and the latent, interfering fears. When you sit down to work, how do you actually get to work?
I suggest this: review your diary, glance over your inbox, then put your computer aside (literally move it off your desk if that is possible), put that phone on silent (and preferably in another room), take out an A4 notebook or memo pad (nothing fancy!), and start writing.
Your job is to fill three pages with thoughts, observations, questions, insights, nonsense words, affirmations, dinner ideas, well-rehearsed gripes, novel perspectives, whatever. I have a friend who usually starts by filling half a page with “I want coffee. I want coffee. I want coffee.” I often start with the weather and some one-word sentences. Nothing needs to make sense; ideas do not need to be complete; non-sequitors are welcome. Just dump it all down.
Then never look at it again. This is not drafting; it is just clearing.
At first, it might feel like a waste of precious work time, but I recommend giving it a try anyhow for a week or three and seeing what happens. And, yes, really do all three pages. As Cameron has noted, the stuff that most needs unloading doesn’t usually emerge til halfway through page two.
What I find is that, once I’ve done my Daily Pages, the emails suddenly seem less urgent and the fires less hot. The doubts lose much of their power because they have been named, no longer lurking in the shadows but exposed to the clear light of awareness. Plans are started, resentments aired, hopes articulated. I start my work-time with a gentle revelation or two, or simply a clear-enough head to decide what to do next. It is a ritual that moves me into concentration; I am able to ease into my ‘deep work’ without the compulsion to be doing anything else but what I have determined needs doing.
It doesn’t matter if you do this first thing in the morning or late in the afternoon when you finally — finally! — have a chance for an hour’s uninterrupted work. You do it when it works for you. Think of it as a way to shift into your ‘focussed on the work that matters’ gear. I’ll take a clear head over a clever app any day.