Okay, so, I’m OCD. Not cute “oh, ze washes zir hands a lot” OCD. (I don’t actually think the hand washing is cute; my commentary is about how it’s seen as a sort of designer quirk that has no down side. If you’ve ever met anyone who makes with the compulsive hand washing, you’ll have noted that it ain’t that cute. And there are definitely down sides.)


One of the things about the way OCD manifests in my world is that I have to be very, very careful about routines. Very careful. The kid didn’t get a bedtime until she started school because the notion of bedtimes rules my entire day. Like I can’t stop calculating how many hours we have, and what we have to do until then, and how much time everything will take.

These days, like it or not, we have a routine. School begins at a certain time, and ends at a certain time, and every second in between is when I work. Wary of all the folks who suddenly acquire big blocks of time and see no productivity increases, I planned for that shit. And I planned hard.

(Lest you doubt, yes, yes, you can plan hard.)

Two apps rock my world when it comes to maximizing my four hours of kid-free work time. I have an Android, but I’m sure similar apps exist on other OSes (feel free to call them out in the comments).

Pomodoro Challenge basically gamifies sprints. You can use it for anything, but I use it primarily for writing. (I have a project for the book I’m writing, a project for generic social/promo stuff, and a project for correspondence to…corral email time, instead of spacing it throughout the day.) As you do sprints you level up. I’m still at the “Depressed Drone” level.

If you prefer a timer without the games aspect, I dig Clear Focus. I know everyone loves the tomato one, but there’s like…colors and shit that I don’t understand. I just want a clock to count down with numbers. *is not a visual learner*

Since I work in a library, I also require a bit of white noise and a set of headphones. My headphones are ten dollars or less and have mismatched color and size ear bud bits (don’t get me started with my family’s troubled relationship to personal audio devices), but I adore the simplicity of A Soft Murmur, an app I picked up on advice from Roan Parrish. Simple, no frills, doesn’t kill my battery, can be used offline, keeps playing when you use other apps: WIN.

In non-apps, let me briefly talk about how I use this stuff. Because I’m into process geekery.

I love writing sprints. Twenty-five minutes on, five minutes off. I know some folks track words per sprint, but that veers into obsessive territory for me, so I don’t bother. I do two sprints right off, without a break, when I sit down to work. Then I take my five minutes and look at my email. I don’t read it, I just look at it.

Oh, okay, if it’s something I’ve been waiting for, I might read it. I don’t reply. Ever. Five minutes, bro. No replying.

If I have another couple minutes, I look at The Facebook, possibly The Twitter. Since I’m not hugely into social media, this is a pretty good amount of time for me. Maybe I leave a comment or send a tweet. Makes me feel like I’ve done my part for engagement.

This is the danger zone for things like Messenger and texting. If I’m going to get sucked into something, it’s a one-on-one conversation. But I’m like made of discipline, so it’s generally not a huge thing.

Then I do a sprint, a break (usually I read for that one), and another sprint, maybe two. By this point I’ve usually pounded out a good portion of my word count goal (if not nailed it) and can relax a bit. Maybe I snack. Maybe I take fifteen minutes instead of five for my break. On a day when I feel like interacting, I might spend some quality time on Facebook. Or read a book, without interruption.

That would be a good time to write blog posts…

The other best sprint of the day is this one, the late night one. Now that the kid has a bedtime, I have consistent time after she’s asleep. Even when I’ve nailed my word count I still do another twenty-five at night. I don’t worry about what I’m writing, or how much. I let myself linger over turns of phrase, little moments of language that have nothing to do with anything. That’s not how I write or how I’ve ever written–I save playing with language for late in revisions, when I can just sort of bask in little tweaks, reading them aloud until they sound right–but this sprint, right before bed, is perfect for just kind of closing my eyes and immersing myself in the character I’m writing.

I’m off to do that now. Mm, I love productivity stuff. How do you get shit done? Bring on the tips!