A friend of mine said to me the other day that she sees I like to be busy.
It’s true, up to a point. I’m very happy to be busy. When I was first downsized, I worried that I wouldn’t know how to fill the hours as I transitioned to whatever was next in my life. That was part of the reason I started to blog.
But being busy without being productive doesn’t feel satisfying. I’m still trying to fine-tune the balance between productivity and downtime, as well as working in all the other things that foster productivity – eating well, and getting enough sleep, exercise, intellectual stimulation, and meaningful connection with friends and family.
Sometimes I wonder where the time goes, when I’m busy but not as productive as I’d like to be. Yesterday – in an attempt to figure that out while I was home waiting for a delivery – I decided to write down everything I accomplished, and how long it took.
That lasted less than an hour, because I had too many small items to tackle before working my way up to “bigger” tasks.
It occurred to me that it might make sense, instead, just to list what I was accomplishing hour-by-hour. Maybe it would tell me something about what time of day is most productive for me, too.
But I think it told me more about the effects of recording all this information on paper, in my little orange notebook.
Even though I was the only one who knew about this experiment, the act of recording what I did made me accountable, and motivated me to make better use of my time.
Dividing the day into hours made a difference too. Every hour, I was able to make a fresh start. I assessed what I’d accomplished the previous hour, and used that information to help me decide what to do next.
I hadn’t planned it that way, but I guess I was using the “Swiss cheese” method of time management. The concept – from a 1973 book by Alan Lakein, How to Get Control of Your Time and Your Life – involves breaking down an intimidating or labour-intensive task into manageable chunks.
I tried to alternate small tasks with larger ones, and computer time with non-sitting activities.
I was busy all day, I was reasonably productive, and best of all, I gained insight from my experiment. I guess that means it was productive, too.