Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The Paradox of Planning

I've always known that one of the reasons that it is near impossible for me to make plans and decisions is that knowing what's going to happen, to me, ruins everything. It's so much more fun to be surprised. To be able to fully experience life just happening is my greatest ambition. But most people don't seem to see it that way - they seem to thrive on routine yet strive to accomplish a lot. The self-improvement industry certainly appears to be targeting this quality like mad at least, judging by the astounding number of guides and devices on the market that offer up a means of incorporating more and more activities into our already jam-packed schedules, without disrupting one's routine. To me this is paradoxical, because if you relegate an activity to your routine, then its no more of an accomplishment then say, brushing your teeth, and then everything becomes banal, and the banality of life is something I need to avoid.

So when I started reading The Happiness Project for my non-fiction book club, I just started rolling my eyes. I was thinking a more apt title would be The Banality Project, because the author seemed to be just cutting up her life up into little pieces so she could accomplish more and thus, be happier. Snore. But to my surprise, I kept reading the book, and I kept liking it more and more. I know its not because I would want to do any of the things that she did to get happy. So why did I like it? I think it's because she was so focused on changing herself so she could be prepared to be happy when circumstances challenged her to not be. I like that a lot. So much to my chagrin, this achiever, made me realize that another reason I don't like to plan is because I like to surprise myself, rather than just being surprised. So thanks Gretchen Rubin. Now I have some advice for you - take a day off please.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Mastering the Art of Procrastination

In terms of not doing anything on my anti-resolution list, 2009 was wildly successful. However, I did spend way too much time doing things that I shouldn't care about and not enough on the things I do. In other words, I have not mastered the art of procrastination. I could work harder at it, but wouldn't that be oxymoronic?

Alternatively, I could work on something else. Like - brace for it - time management. Yikes, that hurt to say.

Give me a moment.

Yeah, so if the thought of managing ones time more efficiently (yuck - even worse) outside of work is equally as distasteful to you as it is to me, you'll understand that its not an easy thing to tackle. Unfortunately, unlike just not doing stuff, we can't just not do time. Like it or not, we're doing it. So if we fill it up with stuff we have to do as well as stuff we shouldn't do, then there's no time left to do the stuff we want to do.

There's a TON of information out there on how to manage one's time more efficiently. But if your a procrastinator like me, you're probably not going to consult it. So I'll propose a simple solution - make two lists. One long and one short. The long list is all the things you have to do and want to do, and the short list is a subset of that list. On the short list, put two things that you have to do most, and two things that you want to do most. As you cross things off the short list, replace them with things from the long list. That's it.

In terms of things you want to do, I'm not talking about going to the movies or the museum. I'm talking about things you want to do that take some effort and dedication. The easy and effortless things are priority number one, and chances are (especially if you are fan of this blog) you aren't having trouble doing those in lieu of the things you shouldn't be bothering to do. Things like, for me for example, posting to your blog, writing a book, and playing the piano, take a bit of effort, and sometimes things that you shouldn't bother doing are more appealing alternatives in the short term.

What are these things that you shouldn't be doing? The things that are completely absent from your lists; they are probably different for everyone, but for me examples include picking up after my family members and straightening the house before people come over. They are the things that fill up your time but make no difference in the long run and you simply don't have to do them. Eventually, someone else will pick up their things and who cares if people come over and see how you really live? These things are sneaky; you can spend well over an hour on them before you snap out of the false productivity spell they have over you.

So I guess I've come full circle. The key to mastering the art of procrastination is not doing even more.