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Stop it.

Just stop it.

I know, you’ve got a whoooooole day to squander.  Plenty of time, right? You can cook, knit, do the sudoku, do the cryptic crossword, and still have heaps of time left over.  Plenty of time for writing/whatever thing you were going to do today.

Probably not.  I have this conversation with myself nearly every weekend.  I start working on a crossword over breakfast, and then the next thing I know it’s 12:30, I’ve done nothing but drink endless cups of tea and doodled in the margin of the paper. Time wanders away from me like a bored cat when the string it’s playing with goes limp, vague sense of disgust and all.  I’m of two minds about this: one is that, well, I subscribe pretty heavily to the belief that rest and idleness aren’t the same thing: that just because I haven’t written as much as I had planned (or knitted, or cooked, or whatever) doesn’t necessarily mean I’ve wasted time.  I think resting and moving slowly and quietly are really valuable things and good for the brain.  But on the other hand, I’ve got goals I want to get to, and I’m not going to get to them without concentrating on actually, y’know, doing shit.

My To Do lists are a bit stupid, too.  I inevitably cheat and pad them out with things I’ve either already done or really will do anyway, so that I can tick their boxes and feel smug that I have completed “make to do list” and “brush teeth”.  Plus, they get out of hand quick and then get too long and a bit overwhelming, so I end up losing them somewhere over the course of my day, and playing hours of Auditorium instead.  (Actually, just posting that link was risky: I nearly got sucked into playing it again. But man, what a fantastic game.)  I can’t be the only person who has this problem, because the net is chokkers with productivity “tools” and advice sites.  One of my favourites is now do this, which lets you put in a list of things to do, and then it flashes them up to you in your browser, one by one.  As you finish, you click “done” and it goes to the next one. The idea being, of course, that you focus on just one task at a time and chip away at it until it’s done.  (What a novel concept.)  But for me, this has the same problem of getting overwhelming: I quickly end up with a huuuuge list and feel uneasy about it and go off and do something else entirely.

Over on Zen Habits, the author Leo recommends choosing just three things in your day that you want to get done; your Most Important Tasks or MITs.  This is getting a little bit too, uh, “management” for me, but there’s a lot of value in the idea that you forcefully limit your To Do list to just a couple of things and concentrate on those.  My problem has always been that I end up spending an hour or so deciding which of the many things I’d like to do qualifies as a Most Important Thing.  Bam: time suck.

Just before starting this post: I put some bread on to rise, began roasting some vegetables for the soup I’m making, and got halfway through yesterday’s sudoku, which is now sitting next to me on the floor (normally I have some knitting with me as well).  I tell myself I’ll do some writing while the bread rises/vegetables roast, and that I’ll doodle on the sudoku (or knit a few stitches) “while I’m thinking”.  What kind of bullshit is that?  I am not a multitasker.  My Mumini is, to a spectacular degree, but I am not.  I have to do one thing at a time, and it’s probably best that I just accept that.  Actually, it’s strangely liberating to remind yourself that there is a hard limit to how much you can do in just one day, or just one weekend, and proceed at a more comfortable pace.

So, how am I going to get around to any of the things I want to get done? By stopping. I’m going to close the RSS feed reader; close my email program (I just spent ten minutes deleting old emails, what a waste of time); and just open up my text editor and write.  I’ll keep an eye on those roast vegetables, too, but mostly I’m just going to write.  I’m not going to try and knit, surf the web, do the sudoku or anything like that while writing: I’m just going to write.  This is a novel plan for me. (Hah! Write! Novel! Geddit? Ah, nevermind, you’ll figure it out.)

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