My son went to bed at 8:14pm. My wife will be home at 9:30pm. That gives me 1 hour and 16 minutes to be productive. Now what?
Well, I really really really want to:
– Write a couple blog posts for the week.
– Keep working on the new IGotNewsForYou site (to be launched soon)
– Catch up on my blog reading.
– Finally get going on that technical document I was supposed to write last week.
– Email the guys at the office about tomorrow (I won’t be in, they need instructions).
– Catch up on my email, responding to a few people.
– Respond to David Seah who wrote a great follow-up post about ideas in response to my argument that ideas are NOT worthless (in which I link to one of his past articles saying that ideas are worthless.)
All of this has been swimming through my head all weekend, and I’ve had very little time to do any work. Weekends are meant for fun anyway, but when I have to take a day off the following week it sets me into a bit of a panic.
So, that’s my rough sketch of a to-do list. Super. But what really goes through my head is something like this:
“Wow, I’m exhausted. Chasing the kid around all day has worn me out.”
“I haven’t been able to follow the NHL’s free agency craziness, which started yesterday.”
“That couch looks COMFY.”
The brain pipes up, “Ben. Focus.” Right, sorry brain…but…
“I should check my email one more time.” Done. Nothing to report.
“Is that my stomach rumbling? I wonder if there are any cookies left?” Yes, there are. Grab a couple.
“I wonder how my blog traffic is doing?” Eh. Comme ci comme ca.
Crap, it’s 8:25pm, what have I done so far? Oh oh.
The above tale is a common one for anyone that has a busy life, particularly a life that involves a LOT of activity outside work. If you constantly work, including weekends, then you’re used to staying focused on that, but when you’ve got a young kid (almost 2!) and a wife who is working late, and a day off the next day to take care of the kid (who’s daycare is closed), and you’re STILL cleaning your damn house constantly cause no one has bought it yet…well, you’re distracted, extremely busy and time becomes an impossible commodity.
And when you finally get an hour or two alone to get some actual work done, you falter – distracted by everything around you, but more importantly, panicked by trying to squish 50,000 tasks into 50 seconds.
Now there’s no question: there’s a ton of ways to get organized and stay organized. There are entire concepts (like Getting Things Done) designed to help you be more productive. But you still can’t force-feed productivity.
Sometimes the best thing to do is “give up,” and do something other than those “productive tasks.” In fact, taking a bit of time out for yourself will
help you be more productive in the long run. Step out, go do something fun, relaxing and/or mindless; your to-do list is still percolating and prioritizing in your brain (which is a great multi-tasker even if you don’t realize it.) Come back to the task-at-hand a bit more refreshed and ready to take charge. And even if you don’t get back to that to-do list right away and take a more significant time “off” you’ll thank yourself for it.