Born Off-Topic

A recent posting on time management (13 Tips for Increasing Productivity on the Internet) got me thinking, or self-justifying really—am I really so bad at managing my time?

Something of a“creative type,” I’ve always been famously off-topic. It is said that only women and dual-core computer processors can multi-task—not true! As a teenager I was famous for simultaneously having the television on, using the computer, listening to music and reading a book, and those formative habits continue today fully blown: dual monitors, a television—albeit now in an almost permanent off state, music, and instead of books or magazines, I kid you not up to fifty browser tabs open at a time.

Information overload or fingers in too many pies, I’m aware that, like your average recycling program or a bank, I take in rather more than I put out, and thus have been trying in recent years to rectify the situation, although certainly not as systematically, not mention whole-heartedly as the 13 tips above.

Recent refinements to my working method have included:

  • Turning my instant messaging (IM) status to busy most of the time, when not turning it off altogether. For a while IM was a novelty, and conversations with friends a welcome respite; now as I try to increase my productivity they seem more and more like a distraction. Unfortunately I don’t live alone or else I would take the phone off the hook as well.
  • Eating less, which is good for both weight control and control of tiredness—am I alone in wanting to disappear under the desk after a large lunch?
  • Giving up coffee. At first coffee seemed a necessary evil, fast an enjoyable pleasure when working two jobs and countless hours, but without its dark embrace I am seldom a gibbering, moaning wreck of tiredness in the early evening. Furthermore, that caffeinated, buzzing feeling of semi-excitement has some benefit in getting you working, but not always in working focussed. You can call me a girl, but six shots a day was probably a little too much;
  • Running more. While exercising may tire you out in the short-term, in the long-term it increases your energy levels, which in turn dramatically improves clarity, concentration and focus. It’s not for nothing that meditation teacher Sri Chinmoy calls running meditation for the physical body;
  • Meditation. Yes, I already do this, but it’s no secret I could do more. Meditation adds a whole lot of ticks to the positive column and not a single cross, improving concentration, mental strength, calmness and happiness—it’s perhaps little recognised that we work faster and smarter when in a positive frame of mind—not to mention improving the quality of your sleep and decreasing the amount you need. Particularly if in a profession that requires inspiration or creativity—essentially the same thing in my book—meditation is like an instant recharge of the creative juices, even five minutes replacing that empty, eviscerated feeling that comes when you are near the end of your tether, close to tendering your end.

My approach to increasing productivity had previously been, somewhat like an amateur athlete, to work harder rather than smarter, but I’m beginning to think that this donkey can not be whipped any harder—not to mention that I’m tired of being a donkey.

The aforementioned tips have been useful in upping my work-rate, not to mention raising the rating of my work—its overall quality, and even more importantly, its joy to produce.

Which may all seem rather obvious, but in truth most solutions are.

Related reading:
Experience Mocha: a coffee-addled impression of a Chinese coffee shop.

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