I’ve been thinking about time management lately because I finally got around to reading Getting Things Done by David Allen. I’d previously avoided this book because it’s cover is so ugly and because I doubted that it could teach me much, the whole thing being if not obvious at least obvious to me: organise your stuff into meaningful projects and actionable tasks. Well duh.
(I was right to have these reservations, though I found a nugget of value in the word “trusted” when Mr Allan describes a “trusted system”. This is key. You can only stop your mind working overtime, replaying and rehearsing unnecessarily, when you trust the system you’ve set up for recording and managing your ideas. Once you trust your little system to keep track of the essentials, you can flop back into lovely, proper life with all its contingency and serendipity and general fertile mess.)
I read the book because a friend thrust his old copy into my hand but also because time management is useful to understand if you want to survive through self-employment while also succeeding as a bohemian layabout. You need to use time wisely if you want to “waste” time thoroughly.
Anyway, timely Momus posts this little thing today, summing up some my own issues with productivity and time management versus life.
Because my time is valuable, I waste it. Because I waste my time I make good use of it.
A paradoxical maxim that occurred to me as I was setting out on a cycling trip, waiting for a ferry. When you’re setting out aimlessly on a trip, you have to throw away all ideas about the productive management of time. The valuable things (a photo you spot, a new shop you discover) will be contingent and haphazard. Now, I’m as Calvinist about the productive use of time as any self-employed person has to be. But I also know that, trying to be productive, one ends up in cramped habit routines that dull the sense of being alive. To save time, to master time, is to waste it. Trying to cram value into every minute ends up making my time worthless. That’s why I hate productivity and calendar apps. I need to “waste” time — by, for instance, setting out on a pointless, objectless trip — to really sense my own aliveness. I need to surrender to contingency to reach what is essential.
I’ve finally fulfilled a long-standing ambition. That’s right. All of my socks are now the same.
This means pairing them up after laundry will be a breeze and there’s now zero risk of leaving the house with a paisley-patterned right foot and a TIE fighter on the left like some sort of sock-illiterate clot.
This might seem trivial to you, reader, but to me it saves a lot of precious synaptic action early in the morning. It helps me to harness the zombie.
Why did it take so long to reach the relatively simple state of sock perfection? Well, there was a policy clash for one thing. Ever experience those? Operation Omnisock dictates that you throw out all of your socks in one big go. But I also have a frugality ethic and it felt wasteful to bin the motley crew and spend money on a whole bunch of not-strictly-needed new socks. After all, the trusty old socks had done nothing wrong.
Of course, this is precisely why there’s a need for replacing the whole drawer in one go. When you have, say, ten pairs of decent but non-identical socks, you end up replacing some of them sometimes and enabling a constant stream of sock use and sock replacement for years and years until you yourself are worn out and condemned to landfill.
It is up to you to wrestle control of this maddening situation and to escape eternal sock hell.
Wear and tear took their natural course this week and, understanding the significance of being down to five pairs, something awoke in me and I leaped into action like a crazed, invincible sock-replacing ninja.
Anyone who thinks I’m bored is wrong.
I think the delay in reaching this state was also down to a kind of scepticism about efficiency gains dependent on standardisation. I like diversity and I like having certain kinds of choice. I don’t doubt the efficiency of the personal uniform (the idea being to remove the decision-making process of getting dressed, freeing you up to start making apparently more important decisions) but I doubt whether we’re really living once that kind of decision-making has been removed from life. It’s surely better to have fun with getting dressed according to your mood, it being part of the substance of life. I mean, why not just replace all that inconvenient food with soylent and have your pesky sex drive nulled with diethylstilbestrol? Why, then you could really get on with stuff!
But back to my socks. I bought 15 identical pairs on eBay for £6. When they arrived, I slung the retired five. The nuisance of pairing is gone, baby, gone. Life is bliss now. It’s like having your brain removed. Pass the soma.
We made it into the top 100 of the Amazon.de book chart and ordered a second print run after just a month.
Here’s a scrapbook of press cuttings, largely interviews and reviews.
In case you’re wondering though, I’m not rich yet.
Who among us does not think we’re trapped in a cycle of working for no real reason, detached from personal joy?
Delighted to see Ol’ Russ talking about the Protestant Work Ethic, about how “Capitalism uses [it] as a sort of rocket fuel,” and that “leisure and sharing” are valid alternatives.
Sharing and more leisure time. Those are the only things you need to consider. Anyone who talks about those things… give ’em a little bit of a break.
It’s been pointed out that my latest entrepreneurial idea is remarkably similar to my first. Everything comes full circle.
It struck me at the age of ten that one could eventually become a millionaire by simply strolling up to someone, convincing them to give you £1 and then repeating the process a million times.
The solution was purely mechanical. To become a millionaire, you must first become a kinetic sculpture capable of performing the same rotation one million times. So I set out to become a child millionaire.
Not bad. It might have worked as a child too, since all of my living expenses were covered by my parents but it’s probably too late now.
The aim this time is not to become a millionaire but to keep New Escapologist going as a post-print project. If you’re willing to contribute a pound (or $1.35) a month, I’ll send you a brand new Escapological essay each month written by yours truly or the occasional special guest. Your contributions will allow me to continue writing about Escapology on a regular basis as well as keeping this website and blog going and (hopefully, eventually) granting me the time and space to write another book.
It’s a bit like how we funded Escape Everything! through Unbound (another plan that failed to make me rich) but with tiny monthly contributions instead of a big one-off. We did it before and I daresay we can do it again.
“Can I have a pound?” I asked my dad, who was in the mid-stages of building a scale model of the Clifton Suspension Bridge, the original of which had been designed and constructed by his boyfriend Isambard Kingdom Brunel.
“What for?” he asked.
I told him my plan. He sighed and told me it was time for a chat about how money worked.
Kablingy had, in his opinion, to be worked for. Just like Isambard Kingdom Brunel might work hard to build a bridge or a tunnel or even an aqueduct. An aqueduct was a bridge that carried water, and they didn’t just fall out of the clear blue sky without hard work.
Please visit our page at Patreon today to see exactly what’s on offer and, if willing, to contribute a pound.
Today we praise the Spanish children and parents currently considering a homework strike.
The homework load of Spanish children has long been a sore point with some parents, who argue that the burden is too great, places too much pressure on pupils and eats into family time.
It’s been a few years since anyone at New Escapologist (maturing, childless, once largely truant) had to worry about homework but we couldn’t agree more.
There was always too much homework from school, most of which was work for it’s own sake and more about instilling discipline than learning anything, worthwhile or otherwise. It was stressful, time-consuming ad ultimately pointless.
“We’ve lost a bit of common sense in this country when it comes to talking about education and we’ve got a system in which boys’ and girls’ free time has disappeared,” said José Luis Pazos, president of Ceapa.
“They should be happy when they’re little and learn that life isn’t just about someone telling you that you have to suffer inexplicably,” he said, adding: “The model needs to change because society has changed.”
It’s bad enough having to muddle through algebra and trigonometry at the age of 14 in school without bringing the dam stuff into the sanctity of home.
Sprogs of the continent, we stand with you!