Do you have time for this?

Dog walks used to annoy the hell out of me.

I live in the UK so most of the time it’s a bit too grey and gloomy for my liking. 

My main problem is that I feel dog walks eat into my productivity. It’s 45 minutes – twice a day – I’m not making progress in my business.

Recently though, I’ve started using a technique I learned from Cal Newport’s Deep Work that’s helped me dial back the frustration.

Productive Meditation.

I know that sounds like an Oxymoron…

(“What the hell’s an ‘Oxy’? And don’t call me ‘moron’.”)

… but this idea has helped me make progress in something I’ve been wanting to do for ages.

Pretty much. (Though my couch has more scorch marks)

Here’s the basic idea of Productive Meditation: you use moments of downtime – waiting in line, having a shower, performing brain surgery – to mentally tackle a problem.

There’s a bit more to it than that, but you get the idea.

Now, “go out for a walk and have a bit of a think” probably isn’t the earth-shaking value bomb you might have been hoping for, but for me…

It bloody well was.

I’ve started slowly with P.M. – using the first part of the dog walk to come up with gags I can post to my Instagram page.

Carving out time to write jokes has been on my “I really need to get round to this” list for a while, but like most things on that list (Hiking the Himalayas, learning my wife’s name)…

I never seem to get around to it.

The simple act of dedicating a TINY portion of my day to this one thing has made a big difference.

Like I said, I’ve started slowly…

I go on the walk and think of a gag. 

ONE MEASLY GAG.

As soon as I think of one – and I have a clear vision of how I’m going to deploy it – I dictate it into Trello so I don’t forget it and then dive back into my ever increasing podcast playlist.

This stupidly simple practice has made something clear:

The first step in doing something? MAKING TIME TO DO IT.

It doesn’t have to be a massive chunk of time either. You don’t need to take three weeks off work, or cancel your Tuesday night Phlebotomy for enthusiastic beginners class.

For example, I thought of the idea for this gag before I’d even crossed the road outside our house. A few minutes later I came up with the Where’s Waldo/Wally? hook and I was pretty much done.

Some days it’s easier than others. Also, I have to remind myself to focus on the process, rather than counting the side-splitting gags.

(Present side-splitting gag tally = 0)

As long as I make the time and come up with a gag (no matter how bad… yikes!)… it counts as a win.

Have a look for any downtime/annoying spots in your day. 

See if there are any that lend themselves to mentally wrestling with a problem you never get round to tackling.

It’s a win-win – you have a more enjoyable “bad” experience AND you finally get to tick something off your “oh my god… that’s been there since 1989!!!” list.

John Holt