16 March 2017

80 – Every Last Drop

I wrote about time in the last essay. Time plays a part in this essay, too. So consider this an appendix to #79.

I make a point of making effective use of my time. I believe absolutely that when you’re passionate about something you need to make the time to do it. However, I’m not an expert. I'm like you: I’m an inspired amateur looking to learn from mistakes.

I became sloppy with my time back in the fall. I grew dissatisfied with how much novel and blog-writing I was getting done. While I wrote every day, I’d noticed that I was merely picking away at it in between household chores, web-browsing, and general dilly-dallying.

I’d fallen into a habit of squeezing in something that I loved doing. Despite telling myself that writing was a priority, I wasn’t treating it that way. There was a contradiction between my thoughts and actions. Such contradictions are a problem, and you need to fix them.

So I focussed on fixing that problem. I started by telling myself this:

You need to stop squeezing writing in. You need to squeeze other activities in around writing. You need to squeeze every last drop out of your own time.

Here’s what I’ve been doing:

1) I stopped browsing on the internet first thing in the morning. Once I’ve dropped anchor in my day, I get right into the writing. I only check email, weather forecasts, sports scores, and interesting articles in the final 15-20 minutes before I leave for work.

2) I make my phone disappear. Once I shut off my morning phone alarm I put the phone in my tool closet. I do the same thing every evening. On weekends I power the phone off right after I get up. I only turn it back on after I’ve completed my writing tasks and workout (about midday or early afternoon). And then back to the tool closet it goes.

Focus tip #1: pull a Kevin McAllister on your cellphone.

3) I do housekeeping in one session. I wash the dishes while I’m making my lunch for the following day and cooking my supper for that evening. I clean my apartment and bag up garbage and recyclables while doing laundry early on Sunday mornings. This enables me to return to tasks I want to do with a clean, clear slate.

4) I set a daily get-done list. I write that short list out on the whiteboard set above my WorkBenchDesk. Any task listed on that whiteboard is getting done that day. And that list usually only includes writing, exercise, and learning tasks.

5) I set daily and weekly writing and exercise goals. I write for at least an hour in the morning, seven days a week. With regards to exercise, I do 4 strength workouts and 2 yoga sessions every week. If I’ve got extra steam to blow off I’ll squeeze in another 15-minute session of push-ups and pullups, and a mini-session or two of yoga on weekends.

6) I take the useful parts of work home with me. I package and ship orders from a warehouse five days a week. I really enjoy doing that for work. Why? Because my job requires me to do easy math with a calculator, play Legos for grown-ups, and do a low-intensity workout for 8 hours a day. Added bonus #1: my job’s helped me become better at managing my time away from work. In my job every moment counts: I’m constantly deciding what matters now, plotting out the next several tasks, and anticipating unexpected scenarios. These factors have helped me become a better decision-maker and action-taker. And that’s a part of work I’m happy to take home with me.

These little tweaks are making a big difference. I’m spending much less time on trivial distractions and low-priority tasks. I’m reinvesting much of that freed-up time into writing more daily. I’m doing more of the things I need to do by squeezing every last drop out of my time.

Life is a journey. It’s also a craft. And part of fine-tuning any craft is identifying and using methods that enable you to improve. As a craftsperson of life, you need to find ways to invest as much of your time into whatever you’re passionate about. For it’s in those moments, when you let the Real You breathe, that life truly feels like a journey.

I compared time to an 8-foot length of 2x4 lumber in the last essay. Now I say time is also like your home, and an orange.

Focus tip #2: your time – treat it like this.

Think about it. Stuff often clutters our homes. Too many tasks clutter our time. Too much stuff often stresses us out. So does too much activity.

Decluttering your home goes a long way toward relieving some of that stress. Declutter your time. Treat menial, meaningless, and mindless tasks like stuff. Stop wasting your time on them. If they serve no purpose get rid of them, or schedule them to be done at a time when they don’t distract you from some other far more important activity.

Use your own time wisely. Treat your own time like an orange and squeeze every last drop out of it. Put your passions back at the core of your daily activities. Use your time to be the Real You. For that’s what you’re doing every time you do something you’re passionate about.

Added bonus #2: relaxation feels even more enjoyable after you’ve used your time to let the Real You breathe. 

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The House Newf is from a rugged and beautiful island on the eastern edge of Canada called Newfoundland. He was first identified by a potter with a naturalist's flair, and he does in fact live in a house under the watchful eye of a cat that seems bewildered by the universe at large. That house is in Halifax, Nova Scotia and that's where the House Newf writes fiction and essays on things that add value to his life that may add some value to yours. You can contact him at bobharding80@gmail.com, follow him on Twitter @theHouseNewf, on Instagram @thehousenewf, and like him on Facebook. The House Newf is a unique specimen. Every home should have one.