There is only one man who would dare give me a raspberry…

If you’ve ever right-clicked on a video and enjoyed watching it at “Ludicrous” speed, it’s thanks to the movie “Spaceballs”.

Oh, and if you’ve haven’t seen it, do. It’s fabulous. It’s a masterclass from Mel Brooks, John Candy, Rick Moranis and the other one…

You know… the one in the leather jacket… he’s a bit like a budget Harrison Fo…

BILL PULLMAN! 

That’s him – I knew it’d come to me if I kept typing.

Anyway, it’s a great film, but not one you’d expect to make you more productive, but, for me anyway, it kinda did.

(Also, I am going to litter this post with my favourite Spaceballs quotes, one of which is the one that prompted this email.)

“That was my virgin alarm. It’s programmed to go off before you do.”

(That wasn’t it.)

Time management is a tricky thing to get right when you’re a freelancer. When you’ve got kids, and in lockdown, it’s even trickier. It’s like that time I went round to Martin Hall’s house to play Goldeneye on his Super Nintendo and the git had secretly set the difficulty setting to “ADVANCED”…

…if you don’t get it right – and sharpish – it’s game over.

(To be fair, I didn’t help myself by playing as “Oddjob” – the man can throw a mean hat, but he’s as wide as a sodding house!)

Finding moments to sit down and craft your brilliant email about a loose connection between a time management secret and a Star Wars parody from the 1980s, for example, become rarer than discovering an amply stocked Andrex section in your local Lidl.

“Out of order? Fuck! Even in the future, nothing works.”

If you’re a freelancer who needs to sit down and do anything close to “deep work”, you’re going to need a system.

“Use the Schwarz”

You need a way to get things done. 

Oh, and ☝☝☝ THAT was the quote – “Use the Schwarz”, or, to be more exact:

“Use the [Eugene] Schwar[t]z [system for getting your writing done]”

(I told you it was loose)

If you’ve studied copywriting for longer than 28 minutes, you’ll know who Eugene Schwartz is. If you haven’t, let’s just say he was one of the most successful writers who ever lived and leave it at that.

“What’s the matter, Colonel Sandurz? CHICKEN?”

Schwartz wrote some killer stuff and he did it using a simple ritual:

1. Set a timer for 33 minutes and 33 seconds.

2. Sit down at his work station with what he was working on AND NOTHING ELSE.

3. Stay there until the timer dings.

For 33.33 he was free to write or sit there bored out of his mind in silence, but he wasn’t allowed to leave the chair. 

Schwartz discovered was that it’s REALLY hard to sit down and do nothing for 30 minutes. 

Even when he wasn’t in the mood to write, eventually the boredom would get too much and he’d have to write SOMETHING.

“I’m a Mawg. Half-man, half-dog. I’m my own best friend.” 

He didn’t need an app, noise-cancelling headphones and a special blend of tea made from the sweat of a yak and the semen of a Mongolian hill farmer to be productive. 

He needed boredom!

I’m always on the lookout for the latest hack or tip. When I hear about systems like Schwartz’s, my first instinct is to ask:

“Yeah, but did he use an ordinary egg timer or the Samsung EX-412e with its easi-grip finish and ergonomic buttons?”

“Can I do it for 33 minutes and 32 seconds instead?”

Yeah, I’m THAT guy.

I need to stop making things hard for myself. The more complicated I make it, the less I get done. 

Keep it simple – set a timer, sit down and get to work. 

(and then watch Spaceballs!)

Hope you’re staying safe and that you’re blessed with a snack drawer that doesn’t need replenishing.

John

(who still has 5 minutes and 38 seconds to go on his timer)