Wasting Time

I have a con­fes­sion to make: I’m a time waster. But worse than that, I hate it when other peo­ple waste time even though I have a strong ten­dency to do exactly the same thing when­ever I sit down in front of the com­puter. Regard­less of my hypocrisy, I’d pre­fer to not be a time waster but I haven’t had much luck suc­ceed­ing in my efforts to be more pro­duc­tive. There seems to be three spe­cific instances when I try to be pro­duc­tive but end up wast­ing time.

The first is when I just sit down mind­lessly in front of the com­puter with no inten­tion. This almost always leads to an hour lost to Twit­ter or Face­book or crappy news sites or what­ever. This is obvi­ously unsur­pris­ing given the lack of inten­tion. Other times, I sit down want­ing des­per­ately to do some­thing pro­duc­tive but I have so many projects going on, either in my head or in actual progress that I can’t man­age to pick one spe­cific thing to work on. The result is a kind of paral­y­sis by analy­sis where I just think about all the things I could be doing but never man­age to just pick one.

The final one seems to be a related com­mon thread between the other two and that is that even when I sit down to work on a spe­cific thing, the fact that I have lim­ited time after work­ing a full day, eat­ing din­ner and hang­ing out some with K, walk­ing the dog or doing any other one of a num­ber of require­ments in my life, I find that there isn’t enough time to actu­ally do some­thing con­crete, e.g. a task related to the project that is finite and achiev­able in one evening. This frus­trates me and I end up doing noth­ing instead.

How­ever, the more I think about it, the more I think any action on a task is bet­ter than no action, at least as far as it con­cerns per­sonal hobby projects. Obvi­ously, this is not true for busi­ness projects where doing things just for the sake of doing them adds ter­ri­ble bag­gage to a project. No, I’m talk­ing about a per­sonal project where any sort of progress could march me far­ther down the line to com­ple­tion. Often­times, I envy those peo­ple who are afflicted with an obses­sion, the need to focus nar­rowly on one thing that con­sumes their free time com­pletely. I suf­fer from exactly the oppo­site, I am inter­ested in many things but all shal­lowly with lit­tle depth. Even the per­sonal projects end up being one-offs that rarely make it to a state of completion.

Strangely, by writ­ing about it pro­vides enough focus to delve into a spe­cific project. I think my writ­ing serves the pur­pose that many peo­ple find in a cofounder or project buddy. Work­ing alone on things, even things you are very inter­ested in, is dif­fi­cult as the feed­back loop is usu­ally long or at least strongly biased. Get­ting a project to a suc­cess­ful state where iter­a­tions can start hap­pen­ing reg­u­larly would help though that again is dif­fi­cult to do.

There are prob­a­bly tools out there beyond the aver­age todo list that might help have sim­ple tasks avail­able for nights like this when I have spare time but no abil­ity to pick some­thing to do. Or maybe I could just always write 550 words of blath­er­ing jib­ber­ish and then work on what I should have been work­ing on all along.

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