Inspired by Atul Gawande's The Checklist Manifesto (which I wrote about a few weeks ago), I have lately been thinking about all of the points where breakdowns occur in my writing workflow. It's become clear to me that there are two major failings in that process:
1. I know what I should do to ensure a successful writing session, but I don't do it.
2. When I feel overwhelmed, I redirect myself to another activity. I fear that frustration with any single part could build, counterproductively, into resentment towards the entire dissertation.
These are pretty common issues for most professionals, regardless of field, and there are endless Lifehacks to address them. I've used a lot of them, in fact: web blockers, the Pomodoro technique, and task managers to organize larger projects. These all work excellently, if I use them. So my checklist is an attempt to commit to the process. Just as surgical or flight checklists ensure that doctors or pilots don't forget a routine (but vital!) step in their process, my new checklist is just a reminder not to forget the obvious and essential...
Like Gawande recommended, I kept the checklist succinct. Rather than enumerating the various ways I must eliminate distraction before beginning to work--namely, disabling the WiFi--the checklist nudges me to address my environment and not cavalierly believe that I will resist the pull of the web. Likewise, I didn't specify what made a goal reasonable or meaningful, because that is contingent from day to day. I just need to remember the importance of setting goals and meeting them, and not be delusional about what it's possible to accomplish.
I will pilot the checklist this week and report back on my experience!