Thursday, December 15, 2011

On Efficiency

Recently I started having thoughts about how to limit my futzing-around-on-the-internet time in order to allocate it to more productive ventures.  I do spend a lot of time browsing around, consuming random articles about random topics, reading facebook and the like.  However, in the middle of my efficiency plottings, I realized that I’ve tried this plan twice before already.

The first time was back in college, when I spent a lot of downtime reading Livejournal and participating in various forums.  One year for Lent I decided to give up non-school-related internet activity, with the intention of using all the freed up time on all kinds of wonderful personal projects.  A cunning plan that surely could not fail!  So, when Ash Wednesday came and my habitual forum-browsing time arrived, what did I do?  I took a nap.  And that’s how it rolled for the whole time.  All the time I saved by giving up those internet ventures went straight into sleep.

Several years later, after college, I had a similar scenario turn up.  It was during my World of Warcraft prime, when that game consumed up vast amounts of my free time, that I at some point decided to limit myself in WoW so I could work on more productive personal projects.  Again, I stayed true to my promise and strictly limited my time, but all that was freed up was quickly consumed again by sleep.  Naps galore.

So I can only assume that the same thing will happen again.  Is it my body’s way of demanding a certain amount of downtime from me?  When I go into overachiever mode, it just counters by inducing sleep?  Or is it some test or obstacle that I just haven’t overcome yet?  Afterall, time is the one true currency.  Am I wasting it?

When I give it some honest thought, I don’t ever feel guilty about the time I spend not-being-productive.  I have no regrets about all those hours playing WoW, and in spite of my growing list of Someday/Maybe projects, I don’t feel like I’m missing out on something by not getting down to them.  In fact, I’m rather content and happy with things right now, so maybe this is just something I need to shrug off.


sabrina said...

i think many creative people can relate to this quest. i know i can. my suspicion is that you exert a lot of attention, analysis, and creativity at work, as you did at school. your "futzing around" on the internet or playing WoW are your down time. in that theory it becomes easy to see why you move on to naps when you cut out these forms of down time.

down time is important, even waking downtime. there are lots of theories on how sleep and dreams help you sort out your experiences or solve problems- that while you sleep your brain is incubating on real topics you've been thinking about in your waking life. i suspect the same is partly true for waking downtime- playing games, reading books, watching tv. i don't think these things are necessarily useless. your brain can do them at less than 100%. maybe leftover resources your thoughts are still turning over that design problem from work. and the potential boon of waking downtime is that you may also be providing new input or experiences into your brain which can then be cross referenced with your current problems. trying to solve that design issue? maybe something mentioned in an article sparks a mental connection, now or later, when you're dreaming.

you may have found your equilibrium of active project time and waking/sleeping downtime. i think you can learn to push the limits on this. some people seem to be able to be much more productive over longer hours than others. but something that also works is to increase your efficiency/lower the costs of your current active project time- ie, your time at work. If you can improve your work processes, take a vacation, or find yourself between projects, you may find that your ability to do personal projects goes up- because you aren't exerting as much active energy on your job.
that's my theory for you.

if you looking for a more "you can do anything all the time if only you had the right mindset" approach- i recommend this book: The War of Art (it's short, i might recommend it no matter what you think about my waking downtime theory )

good luck!

Lisa Brown said...

Thanks for the insights, sabrina! It's funny because just recently in a conversation with my lead about how not-doing things and planning too much makes me antsy, he lent me his copy of the War of Art, and I'm reading it now :)