Just Do The Thing


A few posts — on creating good environments for getting writing done — interested me recently. Patrick Rhone wrote:

Sometimes, the best way to get things done can be found by getting away from where you normally do them.

He linked to a couple of posts1 on this subject, including Things I’ve quit doing at my desk. It really fit with the habit I’ve developed (and recently wrote about) of getting a lot of my thinking done before I start working.

Matt Gemmell2 wrote about something similar a little later that day:

We live in an age of ubiquitous information and communication, so distractions have never been more pervasive. We have too many choices of what to look at or focus attention on. The internet is a glittering carnival of diversions, and that’s wonderful – until you need to get some work done.

You might already have figured that out, but Matt’s article really articulated it in a way that I enjoyed. I’ve been pondering similar things recently. I’ve switched to using a standing desk most of the time, and I’ve noticed a few things about how it affects the way I work. It makes it a lot easier to step away for a moment to clear your head. I was worried that it’d make it harder to focus, but actually it’s been the opposite. I don’t have the capability right now to set up a dedicated working area, let alone a writing shed, but I intend to, as soon as I can.

I’ve also started leaving my phone at home when my wife and I go on our evening walk. At first I quite liked the idea of being able to snap pictures of whatever interesting thing we came across. Then she caught me cropping a picture and editing the exposure as we walked along, and thinking about it later I realized that I’d started to fall foul of that impulse I’ve so often sighed at when I saw it in others: the need to capture everything that stops you from actually enjoying whatever you’re doing.

Plus, really, does the world need more pictures of sunsets?

I think the Great Wisdom I’m taking from all this is pretty simple: when you’re doing a thing, do the thing. Don’t do anything else.


  1. Another post he linked to was Simple Productivity Task Of The Day: Work Somewhere Else. Also in there was a brilliant collection of pictures of writing sheds, which I duly drooled over. 

  2. I always look forward to Matt’s articles. They’re usually well-thought out, crafted pieces that you can tell he put a lot of effort into. He’s one of a few “techy” people I’ve watched gradually move towards writing for the joy of the craft, as opposed to just writing to express things about their main interests. Another piece of his talks about this.