I promised results on my challenge to start using Timely a lot, so here we go!
I had a couple of questions when I started, so let's go through those to begin with.
Cutting down distractions has worked well. Maybe even really well. When I start the clock on Timely, I usually close down all instant messaging thingies, emails, etc. So I know I won't get sucked into browsing imgur for 45 minutes accidentally, when I should be filling a spreadsheet. This hasn't actually been hard at all. It's easy to forget you have options to distract you available, if you just close everything down. If they are available, they will get in the way though.
I realized this today, after coming back to work and Timely-tracking after being on a vacation for a week. Didn't remember to close Gmail etc. and realized at some point, that I'm checking mails and Facebook, when I'm supposed to be tracking something. So turning off distracting things calls for that one conscious act, but after that it happens sort of naturally.
Work-related distractions I can't turn off though. There are people coming in with questions and calling me on the phone etc. I've decided in the beginning that those distractions have to be accepted. I'll leave tracking on, handle the distraction and then get back to work on the original task. I think this is the most realistic way to track stuff at this moment. As the amount of work-related distractions seems to be pretty stable, it's more useful for me to know how long doing a thing actually takes, rather than knowing how long it would take if I happened to be able to finish it without getting distracted once.
I promised to track six hours of proper work during an eight hour workday and it hasn't turned out to be that impossible at all. It takes some doing and effort, but it's very possible. This has seemed really useful. I can plan my day and actually get lots done. And more importantly, I also know what I have been doing. Looking backwards, I can see what I've been up to during the last week. This should create some really interesting and useful data, after I keep this up for a while.
I was actually a bit worried what sticking to this plan would do to my productivity. I have been in situations where I have had to save up work I have to do during the week, so I wouldn't die of boredom after Wednesday. Every new email has been a source of joy and a possibility to get something more to do. If too much work is stressful, too little work is at least as bad.
Using Timely clearly seems to raise my productivity a lot. But happily, thinking up stuff to do also let's me find a lot of work that I should do, but would otherwise usually forget. By using Timely I can keep taps on non-critical tasks that would probably be forgotten or done at the last possible moment otherwise.
This carries the risk of doing unnecessary work, just to satisfy my six hour goal. I've started and tracked some interesting projects, but now I realize that I didn't finish them after all and no-one has come calling for the results either. So maybe my elaborate spreadsheets were just interesting and not actually that useful after all. Still, they are still there and were fun to do and good practice for something else later, so time probably wasn't wasted, but I still have to be alert about these sort of things in the future.
I'm keeping this habit (and Beeminder goal) for the time being. I like it. Let's see how it affects the way I work in the long run.
Upgrading the Wetware