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The 33-minute productivity technique in practice

Ah, procrastination. The little devil on the shoulder of most writers.

There are as many techniques for enhancing productivity as there are ways to procrastinate. The most effective one that I’ve come across is Eugene Schwartz’s 33-minute rule. This is how you do it, as explained at the link above:

iphone-timer-200x300“Get a kitchen timer and put it on your desk.

Set it for 33 minutes. Now start writing.

Write anything.  Just fill the page.

If you can’t write, then sit there and stare until you start sweating blood.”

Yep, that’s right – blood. You are not allowed to move for the 33 minutes.

This may sound like a massive restriction. In fact, it’s liberating. You can do anything you like in those 33 minutes, as long as you don’t move from the chair. After staring out the window, examining your fingernails, and generally fidgeting for a bit, what else is there to do but write something?

The aim of the exercise is not to produce wonderful work. The aim is to get you writing – anything. Because writing is better than not-writing.

Here’s the product of my 33 minutes this morning. What do you think – of the piece of writing, or about the whole issue of productivity? Have you tried the 33-minute technique or any similar anti-procrastination methods? How did it work for you?

I’d love to hear from you in the Reply section below.

Coffee, break

The pressure built up slowly in her vascular system. The coffee she had drunk at breakfast delicately burned the backs of her eyeballs. Rachel felt that she was fizzing on the inside.

Three hours until she had to stand up from her desk and collect Josh from play-school. What to do with this free time? She stared at the blank computer screen and tried to breathe her circulation back to normal.

It had never been like this when Mark was here. She guessed she had never felt the need to take a deep breath. Back then, noticing how she was feeling would have seemed like a frivolity, something that people with time on their hands did.

She looked down at her hands, crouched like crabs over the keys. Last night she had picked up a magazine and read about how to do a DIY manicure. Oh, the rubbing, the filing, the buffing, the warming, the wearing gloves overnight – did people really do this?

The fizzing was reaching her fingertips now. Ridges of cracked skin framed her fingernails. She thought about cuticle oil. Did such a product really exist?

She had once read a story, back in college, by the American writer Annie Proulx. In it, a teenage married couple set up home together on the American frontier. Rachel had blanked out the mundane tragedy of the story, but the frontier spirit described in it stayed with her. The people fought to acquire a patch of land, built their home from the ground up, created a life for themselves with unquestioning determination. If they had been handed three hours, they would have built a fence round their acre or chopped and piled enough firewood for several weeks.

Rachel let her wrists slump to the edge of the keyboard. Life, as she knew it, was something that happened to you. You just had to play along and it happened.

Her coffee high was ebbing away. Rachel felt herself able to observe the process within her body. A familiar dullness was seeping through her. The expanse of time that lay open before her darkened in her mind’s eye. She could no longer see it. Her paralysis eased and her fingers came to life.

She opened Facebook.


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