Now, this was going to just be a comment on Meghan's LJ, but it has some pissant restriction of 4300 characters. Please, people! I can't clear my throat in 4300 characters!
Anyway, Meghan writes in part
To which I say:
Oh I am totally all about this, as you have probably heard me rant on about. Left to my own devices I am an utterly unstructured sprawl of procrastination and distractable randomness. Only by an enormous bricolage of tricks do I manage to get anything done, and it's still pretty sad the amount of time I waste.
Everyone's suggestions are excellent -- self-forgiveness, doing things in company, applying the leverage of peer pressure to yourself, rewards, metrics, etc.
I don't even try to write, or at least not to first draft, if there are any distractions around -- i.e. if I have internet access or am near undone housework. This is pretty extreme, as it means that I pretty much ONLY write in coffee shops with my non-wireless-enabled Dana or paper (I am the anti-Scalzi).
But I find that if I try to mix things together, that I always have the secret ambition to write, so that anything else I do (housework, playing with the kids, talking to Esther after the kids are in bed, reading) turns into non-writing as opposed to nourishing my soul, and I don't make explicit time for writing that will really happen, and so I am in a perpetual state of should-be-writing-now-but-something-has-come-up and I become crazy frustrated & depressed. Whereas if I have to get to the coffee shop, it means that I am not kidding myself the rest of the time, I can relax and enjoy life, and that I am forced to make the effort of actually building no-kids no-chores no-surfing no-interruptions writing time into my week.
I also know that I won't exercise on my own -- or not more than an every few months occasional "lookit me I actually went to the gym!" This is why playing a team sport is such a huge win. Even though I am small, slow, and started rugby late, and so I look like a thirty-eight-year-old loser creaking and groaning around the field on the second string team with a bunch of eighteen-year-olds so limber they don't need to warm up or stretch, it is totally worth it because I am not constantly fighting my own resistance, but can just go with the herd. Not wanting to let the side down on game day is a much more powerful motivation for me than wanting to stave off heart disease or reduce stress or whatever; however irrational that may be, it's a fact I've come to accept.
I think an inordinate amount about where I park my bike, where I put my wallet, what I keep on what shelf; I am reluctant ever to do things out of order willy-nilly; evalaute changes in routine carefully, and when I come up with some new optimization (like folding up large plastic bags in a pocket of my man-purse so I will actually have them along and avoid buying the 30-cent ones they sell at the supermarket here, or making four pizza doughs at once and storing them in the freezer) I am inordinately happy.
This sounds like my life is one of smooth routine due to natural obsessive-compulsiveness, but in fact it is the opposite, this is all totally unnatural for me, learned with great difficulty, and in fact my life is one of pockets of well-functioning routine sparsely interspersed in a chaos of staying up too late to finish things, forgetting appointments, losing crap, and being caught up in hour-long distractions (often conversations, whether with my kids or in blogland) and forgetting what I was supposed to be doing. You may not be nearly as ADHD-presenting as I, of course. :-)
About your move to NYC, Meghan: I find that on the one hand, every move or even vacation tends to throw my systems into disarray and that it's a big mistake to underestimate the cost -- it takes months, after a move, to get back to a functioning routine -- but that there's also an upside to this, which is that since you have to build everything from scratch, the net cost to implement drastic changes is zero. So moves are a great time to reinvent your life, putting in place new systems you would never have gotten around to in the old life because it would have been way too much work for only a modest change. But many such small changes, implemented when you have to set up again anyway, can together mean a big improvement. So every time we move between continents, my life is chaos for a few months, but in many ways it ends up vastly improved.
Basically my mantra is to set things up so that what is predictable, and the path of least resistance, is the thing I want to have happen. As opposed to counting on any internal willpower or consistency or perspective to be present in me, because generally it won't be.
The question of whether all this is a tool of our time maximizing, hyperproductivity capitalist society is an excellent one. I think to some extent it can feed into or trigger that mentality. But on the other hand, many tools, pace Audre Lorde, can be used agnostic of their origins.
So that a lot of what I focus on, such as minimizing day-job hours so I have more time to have pillow fights and do pretend kung-fu parkour moves across the neighborhood's flower garden, envision "productivity" in a radically different way than standard-issue capitalist culture might enjoin. The idea, after all, is not to produce: the idea is to be; any results you may obtain are secondary to who you get to be. Repurposing productivity tools as being tools often requires lifting them from the contexts they are presented in.
One thing related to that: there are many sub-agencies in my consciousness. Some want to lie on the couch. Some want to write fiction for the fun of it, others in order to be praised. Some want to go hang out with friends. Others want to be left the fsck alone. My task, I have found, is not to impose the will of the more "good, productive, noble" ones on the slacker ones, but rather to broker a compromise so that they are not constantly sabotaging each other. I find this actually increases even traditionally-measured productivity. If I try to only ever write, I find myself cheating on writing time in order to read and play. If I make it my goal to have time to write, to read, and to play, the agencies tend to respect each other much more.Posted by benrosen at April 24, 2008 12:06 PM | Up to blog