What I’m thinking right now

Productivity report

Doesn’t that title just make you want to cry into your soup.

It’s not as boring as it sounds, really. I just wanted to update you, the internet, about my ongoing battle to get more stuff done at work and not have to work all evening to catch up.

The problem, natch, is the internet. A knee-jerk reaction often sees me opening up a blog or news site almost without realising; then it’s comments and blog posts and before I know it an hour has gone past. The hours I spent in 2008 I spent re-desiging my main blog, even though no-one reads it!

I’ve spent some time and effort (see the “productivity” category) working to improve this. I’ve used PC timers to plan my breaks, I’ve set myself goals and offered myself expensive prizes.

Last week, I opened up a new front in the war against procrastination. I bought a mobile broadband thingy and took an old laptop into work. Now if I want to do some personal-internet stuff at work, I have to do it on the laptop. So I write it down, and I do it all in one go when I take a break.

That’s the theory. And it kind of works. Or rather, it worked for the first few says of the week. I’m conscious when I’m using the laptop that everyone can see I’m not working, so that helps keep those breaks down to a sensible length. But it also disincentivizes me from using the laptop, and not just doing things on my work computer, where it’s harder to control.

So when, as I have been the last couple of days, I’m tired and finding it hard to concentrate, it’s still tempting to disappear off to internetland when I’m supposed to be working. So tonight, for example, I’m supposed to be visiting my mother, but I didn’t finish catching up all the work I didn’t do this afternoon, until 8pm, so now I’m not going until tomorrow morning.

I keep mentioning being tired. I’ve had a full time job for ove four years, and I still find it incredibly hard to go out even some weekday evenings and not be an exhausted wreck at work by Thursday. This usally means I get up later and later, and get into work later and later, as the week wears on. If I don’t arrive till 10.45, over an hour later, I’m not exactly going to be out by six, am I?

I did think the answer might be to deliberately, in a planned way, work later. So today I didn’t get in till 10.45, and I resolved from the start to work till 7. I took my breaks, my lunch, and everything an hour later. If I could pull this off, I figured, I could not get to bed till 1am weeknights, and still be OK.

But in truth, it doesn’t work. Why? I know it sounds silly, but it’s antisocial. If I have to be anywhere in the evening before about 7.45, it doesn’t work. If I want to have lunch with someone at 1, it doesn’t work. If someone I need to interview wants to speak to me at 10, it doesn’t work.

This stuff matters. I think I’m realising that in some of the things where I prize myself on thinking independently, the concensus is actually right. I used to think working 9-5.30, as opposed to about 10.30-7, was crazy and old-fashioned. And I suppose, if your social life means meeting people for a drink and being out till 11.30, it is. But there’s a reason for it: kids. Society is structured by people with kids, and for them you want to be up early and out early. Coming to terms with this is part of taking my place in a society, not of isolated individuals, not even of funky twentysomethings, but of families. And that’s something I’m learning to do.

So. I need to get into work by 10. I need to work till a break at 11.45, get back to work at 12, stop for lunch at 1.30, start again at 3, stop for a break at 4.30, start again at 4.45, and stop at six. That still leaves plenty of break time, you notice. But when I’m working, I need to work.

The truth is, I don’t have to be tired. To do this only requires me to wake up at 7.30. If I ‘m in bed with the lights out at midnight, I’ll be fine. And most nights out still see me back home by a quarter to midnight. The trouble is, I’m not happy with a night out with friends. I always seem to need some time alone in front of the TV too. So I stay up till one watching TV – and smoking, which I also need to stop doing.

So that’s the battle so far. I’ll kep you updated on how I do.

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