Category: efficiency

By the Power of Procrastination!

I’m a big fan of lists. You already know that. Whenever I’m feeling overwhelmed, one of the first things I do is sit down and make a list of every little thing I have to do, no matter how small. A comprehensive list lets me see all my troubles at once so that I have a complete picture. Once that’s set, it’s just a matter of going down the list and crossing things off. (That’s one of the reasons I even put down the easily done tasks like “eat breakfast” or “write my journal.” Once I have that master list, every single item on there appears to have equal weight. They each get one line. So when I cross something off, I feel like I’ve made significant progress. Much of my problems with feeling overwhelmed usually stem from inertia. I get feeling like I’m swamped, and so I do nothing. Start overcoming that inertia, and it all begins moving again.)

Anyway, one thing you begin to see when you make lots of lists from day to day is that there are certain items on those lists that never seem to get crossed off. I’m talking about big, overarching goals. They’re usually the ones on my work list, and they get passed off from day to day. Bitter items that won’t go anywhere until they’re addressed. But sometimes they’re tasks around the house I need to get done, and other times they’re just things I don’t feel like doing right away.

That’s where the lovely principle of procrastination comes in.

I don’t mean simply putting off those tasks until later. Rather, my experience has led me to understand that I like to procrastinate the things I least want to do. And that when I’m procrastinating, almost anything else becomes preferable to whatever that thing is I don’t want to do. I remember on my mission having a conversation with an Elder once who was frustrated. His companion never wanted to go outside and do missionary work. Instead, he’d come up with a whole slew of things they needed to do instead. My favorite that I remember was, “We can’t go outside yet! We haven’t cleaned the oven!”

That story has stuck with me, and it’s given me the key to one of my approaches to getting the few last items off my list. It’s a principle I use in writing, as well. Whenever you want an unlikable character to be more relatable, all you need to do is surround him or her with characters that are even more unlikable. Voila! They seem like little darlings in comparison. (Seriously. Look for this any time you’re watching a movie with a criminal as a protagonist. They do bad things, but as long as there’s a villain who does even worse things, you don’t mind.)

How does this apply to lists? When I want to finally get something done that I’ve been pushing off, I add something worse to my To Do list. Seriously. “Clean the garage.” “Organize the recycling.” There’s always a few chores I’d really never want to do. If I stick those on my list, suddenly the thing I’ve been procrastinating seems far preferable than the new thing.

Inertia overcome.

Of course, this also means I eventually have to clean the garage, but such is my lot in life as a person who sometimes likes to procrastinate . . .

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How Long Does It Take You to Get Dressed?

As part of my continuing quest to try to understand what other people go through in life, I’ve turned my attention to the very important topic of “How long does it take you to get dressed?” This came to mind this morning, as I was staying home to be with MC while she’s sick (poor thing). Denisa was getting ready to go to work, and I watched her try on probably six or seven different combinations of clothes before she found one she was happy with.

Is this a normal thing?

My “get dressed in the morning” routine involves the following:

  1. Put on a clean pair of jeans. (Or at least pretend they’re clean enough.)
  2. Go to the closet and grab a shirt on the left. (I put fresh shirts on the right of the closet. This way, I continually cycle through clean shirts.)
  3. Add socks and shoes, and I’m good to go!

The whole thing takes about a minute. Granted, there are some shirts I like more than others, and so now and then I’ll skip to the next shirt for one day. But other than that, that’s the full extent of what I do to pick my clothes. Denisa thinks I’m strange. I think I’m efficient.

That said, I suppose when I get dressed up, it takes a bit more time. I have to pick between three different jackets I could wear, two different pairs of pants, and a number of ties. But even then, I usually default to picking what’s closest.

Remember: on my mission, I wore the same time every day for . . . about 18 months? I wore it until my mission president suggested I ought to stop, because it was scaring children. (Or something like that.) I didn’t wear it because it was a rule. I wore it because it involved less thinking. I literally couldn’t care less what clothes I have on. If I bought them at some point, I’m good with having them on me, so long as the occasion is right. (Wearing shorts to a formal dinner isn’t something I would do.)

But let’s calculate this out a little. It takes me around a minute each day to select my clothes. It takes Denisa around . . . 7, I’d guess. Over the course of the year, I spend 6 hours picking out what to wear. Denisa spends 43 hours. This means that since we’ve been married, I’ve spent 4.3 days picking out clothes, and she’s spent 30.2 days. I’ve had almost a complete extra month of my life, free to kick back and play games, read books, and goof around.

No wonder she’s so stressed. 🙂

How about you? How long does it take you to get dressed?

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. Plus, did I mention the sweet perks like exclusive access to unpublished books, works in progress, and Skype visits? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Silverware Days and Dishes Days

Denisa made a comparison the other day that stuck with me. “This was a silverware day,” she said.

I had no idea what she was talking about, so I asked what she meant. (Always a good call.)

“Some days it ends up looking like you got a ton done,” she said, “even though you did the same amount of work as other days. Some days it’s the other way. It’s like when you’re emptying the dishwasher. When you’re putting away the plates and dishes, you get a whole ton of the dishwasher emptied, really fast. And then you get to the silverware, and it takes much longer to do just a bit of dishwasher space.”

And that’s really true. I’ve heard it expressed as the 80/20 rule (80% of the work can be done with 20% of the effort, and then the remaining 20% of the work takes the other 80% of the effort), but there’s something about the repetitive task of emptying the dishwasher that makes this much easier to understand.

So when you have a good day, but it looks like at the end of the day you didn’t get a whole lot done, just remember it was a Silverware Day and give yourself a break. And the next day, if you want to feel better about things, why not try getting some of the Dishes done that day instead?

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. I’m looking to get to $10/month to justify the amount of time I spend on this blog. I’m at $8/month so far. Read this post for more information. Or click here to go to Patreon and sign up. It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

The Value of a Deadline

Well, I’m back from Utah and Boston, but I’m on my way to a library meeting in Bangor today. No rest for the wicked (though I plan on taking some days next week to catch my breath and get my bearings.)

Anyway. Not much time to write, but that made me think about how great deadlines can be. I’m a tinkerer. I like to dabble in this and that, and I can easily get distracted by everything from the news to books to Wikipedia articles. Yesterday at the airport in Boston, I had about an hour and a half. I checked my work email and decided that I’d see how much work I could crank out in that 90 minutes.

The answer? Quite a bit.

Deadlines help me get things done. Not just big deadlines, but little ones too. When I know I have a half hour to do my writing in a day (no more, no less), I’m usually able to get my fingers flying and meet my 1,000 word goal within that time period. When I know I have no real limit? It can take three times as long to get it done.

Just like this blog post. Not a lot of time to write, but if I give myself a set limit to get it done, it’s much likelier that it gets finished. (Even if my brain is mush when I’m typing it.)

Anyway. That’s all I’ve got for you today. Not up to too much abstract thought. Glad to be home and only dealing with driving, not flying today. Thanks for all of your kind words of support, and I’ll catch you next week!

Are You Easily Satisfied?

The family carved pumpkins the other night. TRC and DC were on their own for the most part. Denisa helped them get the guts out, and then they picked patterns to carve.

(I had suggested they just wing it and do faces, since I often end up getting stressed by silly things like pumpkin carving (It’ll be done faster if we just do faces, and then I can go back to my OUR LADY revision . . .)). They reminded me that the kid version of me would have been aghast at such a suggestion, and they stuck to patterns.)

So DC was working on a cat face, TRC was doing the grim reaper, and MC . . . MC was happily sticking monster parts into a small pumpkin. (Think of it like Mr. Potato Head, but with pumpkins.) She had more fun taking them out of the pumpkin than putting them into it, since the pumpkin had tough skin, and she had a hard time getting the parts to pierce it.

As I was watching all of this unfold (and helping both the older kids with their pumpkins, because if there’s any innate urge I have stronger than the one to get out of doing work, it’s the one to make sure work is being done well when I’m around. Seriously. What’s up with that? I need help.) Where was I in that sentence? Oh right. As I was watching all of this unfold, I was just impressed with the contrast of the kids. The older ones were really striving hard to do difficult things. The youngest was just having a blast doing the simplest of things.

I’m not saying we should all be happy just doing the easy things all the time, but I do think there are occasions when it’s the definite better option. Too often, I think I tend to default to a “if it’s harder to do, then it’s more worthwhile” mentality. To use a really basic example, I’ll spend a bunch of time putting movies into a Netflix queue, and then I’ll decide I don’t want to watch any of those, because it would be more interesting to find a new one.

Or maybe I’ll be working on a video project. Something that doesn’t really need to be perfect or anything. Just good enough. But instead I’ll dive in and make that video as good as I can possibly make it. There are advantages to both approaches, really. I like that I’m driven to do my best, and many times it’s brought me a lot of success.

But there needs to be an off button on that somewhere, or at least a pause button. I need to do a better job of looking at a situation and deciding just how much effort I really need to put into it. If I can have a fun time just sticking potato head parts into a pumpkin, why not run with that instead of coming up with something much more elaborate?

Anyway. Yet another introspective, thoughtful post. Don’t worry. I’ll try to review something really inane in the not too distant future. Happy Halloween!

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