How to Pack Your Next Hour (With Progress)

Hey, I’m just like you. I get easily distracted. In fact, maybe more so than the average procrastinator.

Every detail, every idea, every other person’s problems… they beckon me down paths that open up other paths that lead to more paths that… you get the idea. And before you know it, I’ve very busily gotten nothing done. Yet when I actually get rolling, the opposite happens. I hate to stop. And those days are my best days, hands down. Not only do I make more income (by multiples), but I discover all over again why I love my career as a copywriter.

Does any of this sound familiar?

Writing when you’re rolling is a breeze, even a pleasure. But getting going, that’s a whole other kind of challenge.

You might already be familiar with the trick used by legendary and prolific copywriter Eugene Schwartz. Gene kept a kitchen timer on his desk. When he sat down, he’d punch in 33 minutes and 33 seconds. Then he’d write. When the timer went off, he would take a very short break and then do it again. Unless he was writing too fast, at that point, to pay attention to the timer anymore.

Well, here’s a more modern version, courtesy of Merlin Mann over at the 43folders.com website. He calls it the “(10+2)*5” plan.

The idea still centers around a timer. Only this time, you give 10 minutes to the first thing on your prioritized to-do list. At the ding, you break for two minutes. (The break is mandatory.) Then you do it again and again, for at least one hour.

You’ll be amazed, says Mann, at the progress you’ll make. I’ll bet he’s right. Mann suggests you should move on to each task on your to-do list after each break, not feeling compelled to finish them one by one. But I’m not sure that matters.

Still, any way you add it up, you’re moving forward. And that’s a heck of a lot better than standing still, isn’t it?

[Ed Note: John Forde, a published writer and a direct-mail copywriter since 1992, is the editor of the free weekly e-zine, The Copywriter’s Roundtable.]