9. How to play BlitzDesk

Ohhhhhhh, I’ve concocted a quick fun game if you find yourself overwhelmed with too much paperwork piling up in your workspace. I’ve just got to pass it on to you.

As I’m getting better at doing the important work first — The Work! — I’ve been getting worse at keeping up with the detritus of the day — all the notes and skiffle skaffle that comes across my desk.

There it sits, mocking me. Like mold it starts off in a corner and you hardly notice it. Until it evolves into a sprawling organism that cannot be contained.

In the spirit of experimentation that I’m engaged in this year — micro changes that feel fun and easy and implementable — I started playing with ways to attack this organism — this pile of notes, mail, requests, half-heartedly begun side projects.

Once you name it you can game it.

I could have gone for weak forays into sports (Field Drive — I don’t know enough about sports to get creative here) or evolutionary biology (Punctuated Deskolution — derived from punctuated evolution, the proposition that evolution can happen in quick bursts given the right conditions, rather than gradually over eons as proposed by Darwin.)

But I settled on BlitzDesk because it’s short and sharp and defines itself.

Here’s how the BlitzDesk game works:

You play in back-to-back 5-minute lightning rounds. 

In my version, you can opt to play one round (5 minutes total), three rounds (15-minutes total), or five rounds (for a total of 25 minutes).

Never more than this! You are done once you’ve finished the final round.

If you want to calve an item off your desk pile and work on it separately with focus, well, now, that’s a project. And like every other project, you schedule it. Projects deserve their own timeframe, just as certain types of workflow do.

Example: Email. The best of us schedule in one to several time periods a day for when we read and respond and tickle others with our email.

(Note: I’m not among the best of us — yet! Though I aim to be by the time I’m a 103. I skitter in and out of email a little too often for any productivity guru’s ideal. )

So — to start!

Set an alarm for 5 minutes and go to town on your paperwork.

When it rings, do it again Automatically hit reset for the next 5 minutes.

Do this 5 times. (Or 3 or 1.) Back to back to back to back to back. No stopping in between.

— And then you are done for the day!

The only losers at BlitzDesk are those who don’t play BlitzDesk….

Why only an odd number of times? I come from the art world, where odd numbers oddly make for compelling compositions. Not always, but as a rule. Three mangoes are better than four. If a Picasso, three breasts are better than two.

You of course can mangle the BlitzDesk rules all you want and make them your own.

Why 5-minute rounds if you’re playing for 25 minutes? Why can’t the timer just be set for 25 minutes?

No no no no no non!

The reason it became a pile of papers to begin with is because we’re not good at diving in when it gets too cumbersome. We — you and I — because those well-organized souls who don’t need BlitzDesk stopped reading in the first paragraph — you and I need to keep our focus short and sharp to be effective.

To move mountains requires blasts of time dynamite. Focused and fierce, that’s our credo.

Five minutes is just the right porthole of time to keep us from flagging. We have only 5 minutes afterall, to whittle away at this pile.

Each timer ding brings us back to that reality. No dawdling, just doing.

Can BlitzDesk be played longer than 25 minutes?

Only if you want to call it EternityDesk — and leave my name out of it.


8. Daily kaizen: Your next step calls to you

Have you been stymied by too muchness? 

Recent pressing issues knocked me off my stride. Our business suffered a slowdown in sales for a couple of months during our selling season — enough to provoke fear and remembrance, of the desperate crash years a decade ago.

Simultaneously my creative side career — writing bookitos — reared its own ugly challenge. The Work flowed — the writing itself — it was my inability to squeeze in marketing outreach that plagued me.

There’s a weird kind of paralysis that stems from hyperactivity. Too many threads tendriling off in different directions, not twisting together into a unified whole, makes for a breathless but unsatisfactory pace.

 It’s like you’re running through stretch wrap.

Worse, it’s anxiety inducing. You swing for the fences, you throw effort in multiple directions, but ultimately you feel like a chimpanzee flinging feces at imaginary enemies.

Each day felt maddeningly ineffective.

I remember reading about a man who went to his rabbi when work projects overwhelmed him, seeking advice. The workload jacked up and the man was falling behind.

 The rabbi listened carefully, and said:

 “Work harder.”

That is decidedly not my answer.

It used to be. Working harder used to be my primary directive and my fallback option.

Then I noticed the ones I admired, the most effective ones, seemed to work less than other people!

Many call this working smarter. And it is, I guess. In my own application I’ve found a more apt phrase would be working in harmony.

Working in harmony with my keenest aims.

Working in harmony with my most heartfelt desires.

Working in harmony with the actual environment I’m in. Taking note of the rhythms, the intrusions, the personalities, the capabilities — and then figuring out the glide path between them all.

So I took a bath — an hour-long bath — the type where you’re shivering at the end because the water’s gone cold. I’d like to say I cleaved straight to the heart of the matter, pithily dissecting the issues and cutting through all the gristle to arrive at the solution.

Instead I sunk into a stupor. My befogged brain ruminated on the mess. It was dispiriting.

Until it wasn’t.

Maybe you’ve felt this too. An impending answer. You don’t yet know the answer but you feel its imminent arrival.

That’s what I felt by the end of the bath. As I examined the issues — lower sales at the gallery + lack of marketing and outreach for my creative projects — I felt something pop.

Again, not an answer, but a clarity. I could feel exactly what the problems entailed.

Later in meditation an answer came — surprisingly, it was something I was already doing! —  but in other areas.

If you’ve read the numbered posts from the last few months you’ve seen that I’ve embarked on a Year of Micro Experiments.

This was my solution!

Big dreams, the smallest of steps.

Of course! An old mantra, dusted off and reinvigorated through the prism of these weekly micro challenges I was setting for myself.

The Japanese word kaizen immediately came to mind, simultaneous with its meaning: small continuous change.

The meaning was immediately clear — I needed to cast forth a grandiose vision (profitable gallery, successful creative marketing) and then immediately forget them and go small. Into the smallest possible shifts that could be made each day in service to these goals.

Daily kaizen. Nano efforts applied daily, consistently.

For the gallery I broke this down into three areas:

1. Personal client contact (who could we follow up with today)

2. Display (edit the art on display ruthlessly, what was working, what was not)

3. Marketing (quickening the pace of our newsletters during our high sales season, plus a signage issue)

For my creative outreach — I’m still working on that! Looking for the smallest pockets of time to squeeze in effort before the late afternoon when it all goes slack — my system, my mind, my abilities.

A few weeks in, it’s working. Daily kaizen. Looking for the inflection points and applying the smallest possible pressure changes your trajectory.

. . . . . . .

Sanaya Roman:

In everyone’s mind there is a whisper of the next step. It may be simple, such as making a phone call or reading a book. It may be a very concrete, mundane step to take that may not even seem connected with your higher vision. Know that you are always being shown the next step; it is always something that comes to your mind as obvious, simple, and a joyful thing to do.

From Creating Money: Attracting Abundance by Sanaya Roman and Duane Packer