On Keeping Your Ass in the Chair

Dr. Mac’s Rants & Raves
Episode #316

The hardest part of writing is keeping your ass in the chair.

— Wallace Stegner

The secret to writing a screenplay is keeping your ass in the chair.

— Oliver Stone

The secret to getting stuff done is keeping your ass in the chair.

—Bob “Dr. Mac” LeVitus

About 20 years ago I learned that I have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and have had it since childhood (or birth). Iquickly realized I was going to have to learn how to keep my ass in the chair if I wanted to prosper. 

Luckily, it all worked out, and I went on to write or co-write more than 85 books (macOS Mojave For DummiesiPhone For Dummies, andWorking Smarter for Mac Usersto name a few), along with thousands of columns, reviews, and articles. What’s impressive is that I rarely missed a deadline in those 20 years. 

Here’s mysecret: I’ve developed a plethora of tools and techniques designed to help me stay focused on the work at hand whilst keeping my ass in the chair. 

Secret #1:

My first secret is Posture Keeper (www.posturekeeper.com; $89), which I wrote about last July. Billed as a “lumbar support system,” it looks like a backpack with its front half removed. You strap Posture Keeper to your chair and then strap yourself in. Not only does it prevent leaning forward or hunching over, but it also has the added benefit of, quite literally, keeping your ass in the chair. Posture Keeper is great at both; I have mine affixed permanently to my office chair. 

Me and my Posture Keeper.

Secret #2:

Another tool I find indispensable is called the Pomodoro Technique, a time management method that uses a timer to break down work into intervals, traditionally 25 minutes in length, separated by short breaks. 

It’s based on the idea that frequent breaks can improve mental agility. For me, it’s an excellent idea and one I use almost every day. Moreover, I’ve tried a variety of Mac and iOS timers and time trackers over the years; the one I like best is called Zonebox (free in the Mac App Store).

I love Zonebox for making the time remaining in my session crystal clear …

I love it because it’s not only a great Pomodoro timer, it also lets me create a list of tasks for the whole day (or week) at once. And I love how it displays the time remaining in a session with progress bars and numerical displays. 

For me, the combination of listing today’s tasks and a Pomodoro timer suits my workflow perfectly, but it might not suit yours. If so, I suggest you search the Mac (or iOS) App Store for Pomodoro timer or time trackerto discover dozens of other options. 

One Last Thing…

If the Pomodoro Technique sounds useful to you (trust me — it is), I recommend learning more at its creator’s website, which is chock full of tips and hints for getting the most out of the technique straight from the guy who invented it. 

5 thoughts on “On Keeping Your Ass in the Chair

  • Sitting seems to be linked to all sorts of diseases; in any case, I can’t work for very long before my Apple Watch interrupts me and demands that I get up and do something else for long enough to forget whatever I was actually working on.

    The Pomodoro technique seems to work in a similar fashion – whenever you finally manage to get to work, it interrupts you.

    Interruptions are pernicious; apparently it typically takes about half an hour for people to get back on task.

    1. That is my concern. When I’m writing, fiction especially I get into The Zone. I start telling the story, it flows, it tells itself and I merely transcribe. When I do look up I can have fifty or more pages done, and it’s getting dark outside. Hours may have passed. I’ve been known to have missed meals, TV shows, appointments, going to work, SLEEP. When the writing gets flowing it’s a wonderful experience.

      But something that interrupted me every 25 minutes or so would kill my productivity.

      1. I hear you. I used to try to stay in The Zone for as long as possible, too.

        Sadly, at my age, if I stay in The Zone for more than about half an hour without getting up, I’ll be stiff when I do.

        Standing up every 25 minutes has been good for my body, my brain, and my focus. I admit to going an hour or more in a single session occasionally, but once you get used to taking those short breaks, you’ll find you can dive right back into The Zone with little or no loss of productivity.

        Everyone is different. I get much more done by working in 25-minute sprints than I ever did when I worked in multi-hour marathons.

        Your mileage may (and probably will) vary. :-p

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