Time, and a Total Digression

They say if you want to get something done, give it to a busy person. They have the rad time management skills to make it happen.

I live alone. I have complete control of my time and attention. There is nobody shouting, “Mom! Mom! Mom! Mom!Mom!Momomomomomom!!!” in my ears. [0] I haven’t had cable TV for more than a year, so I should be writing all the time, right?


My secret to getting anything done, in fact, relies on three tools. A well-crafted ToDo list, a deadline, and a kitchen timer. If I get all the errands on my ToDo list done by 1:00, I’ll have the afternoon to be lazy. Writing gets put on the ToDo list, just like laundry, dishes, taking out the recycling, returning books to the library, and so forth.

The kitchen timer is my get started device. I got through two years of grad school by dividing my hours into twenty minutes of being smart (studying), twenty minutes of being physical (do chores), and twenty minutes of being lazy (read or watch TV). And if I have only ten or fifteen or twenty minutes to fill, I can knock a five or ten or twenty minute chore off of the ToDo list. And of course Nanowrimo lives off of word sprints, which work on so, so many levels.

There is, however, one kind of deadline that I suck at. That ‘s the “We’ll come over sometime today and do whatever with you, but I have no idea when.” [1] You know how you’re stuck at home waiting for the repair person because they’ll be there between 8:00 and 5:00 but they can’t narrow it down more precisely than, say, sometime this millennium? Yeah, I hate that. I don’t ask for pinpoint precision, but could you at least ballpark it for me? [2]

For some reason I find it impossible to fill that time productively. You would think writing would be perfect, because it can theoretically be fit into bursts as short as five minutes, and the tools are so portable. But I find I can’t concentrate. My mind is revved up, anticipating an imminent change of state, while I’m stuck in a holding pattern. There is no point immersing myself into an imaginary world if I am only going to be rudely dragged back into this one any second now.

It sounds really rigid, but in practice it’s actually pretty flexible. Just, you know, call fifteen minutes before you’ll be here and I’m good. At least call to cancel so I can pencil in that nice long hike down by the lake I’ve been anticipating.

[0] Except for the cats. As I drafted this, one lay down on top of my notebook and started trying to eat my pencil.
[1] Which in my experience usually ends with, “Sorry we couldn’t make it, we were spending the day with friends.” At which point words spelled entirely out of the letters above the numbers on my keyboard start coming out of my mouth and somebody isn’t getting a Christmas card this year.
[2] If the answer is no, because “your brain doesn’t work that way,” or you operate on “Social-Minority Standard Time,” then I am terribly sorry, but we cannot be friends. Friendly acquaintances perhaps, but not friends.

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