Friday, 9 January 2009

Principles of Productivity

The further along the road of life that I plod, the more I come to realise that most of the people considered great in this world for their deeds and accomplishments did not achieve what they achieved through luck, sheer intuitive skill, or innate intelligence. The majority simply work hard for it and are as a whole incredibly productive a lot of the time. I think everyone realises that the time they pour in to sitting in front of a television or a computer or a pint or f*cebook is probably always too much and that they could be using that time to much greater effect.

Time, it would appear, is a trick. A wholly human construction to codify the positioning of the sun so that we can end up being late for work, I often wonder if the brain was actually built to accommodate a sense of time, as it is so remarkably easy to lose track of, both intentionally and unintentionally. If one sets out to do nothing, the time will fly past and it will be time to sleep, yet equally if one is engrossed in a project, the time will go equally quickly. There is also a middle ground where time stops which is when you enter a state of boredom, or that odd slice of time that is too close to something else to start anything with, but too long to just sit and wait it out. Regardless of the ways in which time flies around, the only thing that is consistent about the way it feels is its inconsistency.

I have had periods of my life where I have become incredibly productive. I have the initial workings of a series of very promising children’s books that have begun to form a pre-book soup on my computer thanks to a week or so of frenzied typing. I also have some basic knowledge in programming thanks to a “Teach Yourself” book that I actually sat down and read thanks to a weekend where I became quite compulsive in my efforts to get to the next chapter. I have a vast array of semi-coherent comic pages, some of which containing semi-complete narrative thanks to an absolutely absurd idea I had whilst reading a graphic novel which went somewhere along the lines of “I’m sure I could do something as good as this”. However, the things that I have created have happened in bursts when some random mood has gripped hold of me and not let go for a few days and I can’t find myself in the mood to carry things on with any regularity.

The key to mixing the trick of time with productivity is clearly not easy. I’m tempted to say it is a simple issue of willpower, which it could be, but I think routine might be more appropriate. I know that whilst I was still at school, I had orchestra rehearsals on a Wednesday evening. There was never any issue of whether you felt like it or not, that was the night that orchestra happened and so that’s what happened. With this, there wasn’t an issue with motivation, or not being in the right mood to play “Take Five” or “Tequila” again, it was merely time to get the saxophone out. With anything that comes up now, it is far too easy to decide not to do it and watch television instead, because there’s no routine. If you think to yourself that you can do anything you want with your spare time, chances are you don’t want to do anything, so it’s probably best to decide what you’re going to do before hand and not to think of it as spare time in the first place.

There are some of those out there who are naturally driven to do great things. It’s not because they are talented, or intelligent, or even particularly lucky, but because they just keep at it. I have a friend that wanted to learn the guitar that essentially just started playing and hasn’t stopped to this day. He was not a natural per se, but in a relatively short space of time, you would now believe that he was born with a silver plectrum in his mouth, just by continuously learning by doing.

I think what I’ve really come to realise is that spare time has become remarkably precious to me, yet I still succeed in wasting it. My days at work are filled with me daydreaming about all the projects I can work on once I get home, and I genuinely get fired up about them, yet the second I walk through the front door, any motivation I may have sustained on the bus ride home evaporates. If more people spent their time in a more productive way, I’m not sure what sort of a world we’d live in, but I’m betting it would be a happier one.

Additional Notes:
There is also another type of time which only exists during working hours whilst at work. This is an odd functioning of the fourth dimension in which time has slowed to a near-standstill, yet you can feel your life whizzing past you.

I like “Take Five” with its five crotchets per bar time signature. I think it’s a genuinely interesting and amusing piece of music. The only problem that I have with it now is that I can’t hear the tune without superimposing a conductor yelling “ONE TWO THREE, ONE TWO, ONE TWO THREE, ONE TWO” in the style of a confused drill sergeant in my head.
The real irony behind this whole post, of course, is that right now I’m procrastinating and putting off a myriad of job and training contract applications.

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