Posted May 22, 2008on:
Over the past few days I’ve realized something important: there isn’t enough time to do everything that I want to do. I can’t play all the games that I want to play; I can’t watch all the films and TV shows and YouTube channels that I want to watch; I can’t listen to all the music that I want to listen to. This might be blindingly obvious to everyone, but, even though I guess I already knew it in some way, I’ve think I’ve been living my life as if I’ll eventually be able to get around to doing everything that I want to do, and it’s becoming clear to me that it probably isn’t the best way to live. So there are two things I’ve decided to do to deal with this (re?)realization:
Firstly, I need to prioritize. I find lots of different things interesting. I can follow my nose and click about on Wikipedia or YouTube and lose hours and hours. There are lots of different types of music that I enjoy. Same with films and games. So what happens is that I aimlessly stumble around, find something interesting and do that. Sounds fine, but I’m worried that in the process I’m missing out on the really good stuff by just focussing on whatever I have to hand. For instance, I bought the game Worms for the Xbox 360 a few weeks ago and spent a good few hours playing it. It’s a pretty cool game, but at the same time I’ve barely scratched the surface of Super Mario Galaxy, which is a sublimely good game that I’ve been meaning to make time for ever since it came out six months ago. So I think I need to simply up my standards and stop accepting “this is interesting” as adequate justification for spending time on things. It needs to be — y’know — very interesting. Today I walked past someone watching the news and there was an item about the most complete dinosaur skeleton ever found in the UK. I paused to watch it because it looked interesting, but then I decided that paleontology is not one of my primary interests, and if it was then there are probably more interesting things that I could be learning about it, so I kept on walking.
Secondly, I feel like I waste an awful lot of time by doing things slowly. In my life at the moment there are very few deadlines to worry about. That sounds very luxurious, and I don’t mean to complain, but it does make it hard to get things done. Tasks tend to fill up whatever time is available for them, and when there’s no deadline at all, that means that trivial things can end up taking far too long. I also tend to pay a lot of attention to detail in everything I do, even when it there really isn’t any benefit to doing so. By way of example, the other day I was shopping online for a USB hub. Those things are plain old commodities these days: the difference between the best one in the world and the worst one in the world is not worth caring about. But that didn’t stop me from spending a few hours looking for the best looking, best priced one from the most reputable seller and brand.
So what I’ve decided to do is to keep a log of what I spend my time doing. Each time I start a new activity I’m going to make a note of the time and what it is I’m doing. I highly doubt that I’ll ever go back and analyze the logs, but I hope that just the act of making them will help to focus my mind on how much time I’m spending on things and force me to make conscious decisions about what to do, rather than just idly procrastinating with whatever shininess catches my eye. I might also notice some useful trends. For instance, today it was 3 hours and 35 minutes from when I woke up to when I started working: far too long by any standard!
So… wish me luck! (PS The first person to point out the irony of writing about time-wasting on a blog that no one reads gets a free slap).