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.