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Time Management

By MichaelCrawford in MichaelCrawford's Diary
Wed Nov 24, 2004 at 10:20:17 AM EST
Tags: User Diary (all tags)
User Diary

I started to see a new psychotherapist week before last. I hadn't been to see one since I was in Maine, and that was only for a few months. I had the same complaint as before: I have trouble focussing on my work. I have trouble getting enough work done to be able to provide for myself and Bonita.

She recommended I read How to Get Control of Your Time and Your Life by Alan Lakein. It's just a little book, 150 pages. I've read 50 so far. I think it will help.

In his book Lakein says to write down one's goals for one's life, for the long, medium and short terms. When I started to read it, I had only one goal in mind: get work done.

But I have lots of other goals as well. He says to write down every goal one can think of, and to prioritize them. Then he says to write down activities that will advance one towards these goals, prioritize them as well, then plan each week and each day. He says one will find that some goals, and some activities, do not have such high priorities, and so one should avoid pursuing them at all.

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Work has been going a little better the last couple weeks, not great but at least I've made progress. But everything else has fallen by the wayside. I haven't practiced piano in a couple weeks, and haven't made it to the gym much. My sleep has gone all to hell.

For a little while, I was doing both every day, making great progress with my music and feeling great, but wasn't getting much work done.

I decided I would read the book for an hour each morning. Two more days and I should be done with it. Today's going well so far, I got up at six and felt good about it, so I haven't been tempted to go back to bed. It's not my natural inclination at all, but I can see I do a lot better when I get up early.

When I wrote down my goals, the short, long and medium terms didn't just include work, but writing and music as well. I haven't been making much progress towards those goals.

I love to write, but find it difficult to balance with the rest of my life. Whenever I get it in my head to write a new article, I drop absolutely everything and write obsessively, unable to stop myself until I'm done. There's no way I can live like that if I'm to write very much. I need to balance it better with the rest of my life.

For the last year I haven't written much at all.

Bonita and I discussed this and we decided together it would work best for me to write one day each week. On that one day I could focus exclusively on my writing. But since we discussed it, I haven't had my first day of writing because I've been trying to get caught up on my work.

After reading this morning, I really spent some time reflecting on how important my music has become to me. I started to take piano lessons in January of this year because there are many pieces I want to play but cannot. I want to play Philip Glass in particular, and J.S. Bach.

Just recently I head a piano piece on Radio Paradise by Yann Tiersen that nearly moves me to tears every time I hear it. It's from the soundtrack of the French film Amelie. The score is available online for just 20 euros. I simply must learn to play it, but I know that right now it's beyond my ability.

To play Tiersen's music, what I must do is work at my piano lessons until I get good enough.

Listening to it really reminds me of why I resumed my lessons. Lately I've had all kinds of grandiose ideas about how I would study music someday at the University, how someday I would be a professional musician and composer. And then I hear Tiersen's music, and I think, what I really want is just to be able to play it, even if no one else hears it.

I don't know how to type accented characters in Windows. Let's see if I can copy 'n paste the name of the song without it getting garbled: "Comptine D'Un Autre �t� - L'Apr�s-Midi". It's just a short piece, a little over two minutes long, but it's incredible.

After reading for an hour this morning I wanted to read more, but there are only so many hours in the day, and I have my piano lesson today, and was completely unprepared. Piano is a high priority. Finally I practiced for an hour, and feel very good about it. I'm very determined to practice each day from now on. Life is better when I play regularly.

Now, writing is also a high priority for me, but what I want to write are articles and essays, eventually I want to write a book. Strangely, no where in any of my lists of goals did I say anything about hanging out on k5 or slashdot, but that seems to be what I spend most of my time doing. That really made me stop and think.

I don't want to disappear from online communities entirely but I think what I want to do is to contribute more of substance. Rather than simply chatting and commenting on the articles, I want to be writing articles. I think writing diaries is a good use of my time, as it is a productive writing exercise.

A couple of days ago I told someone who wrote to me about reading Living with Schizoaffective Disorder that I felt that writing it was the most important thing I had ever done. It is important when considering the difference I have been able to make in the lives of others.

Nothing else I've ever done has helped anyone so much. I've devoted a great deal more time and energy to doing all kinds of other things, without accomplishing much of substance. But that articlentook me just ten days to write. What could I accomplish between today and ten days from now, if I really set my mind to it?

So many days have gone by, especially in this last year, that at the end of the day I have accomplished nothing but to post lots of comments online.

The only way I am able to get by at all is that from time to time I have a really good day, when I can focus on my work, and I get all kinds of stuff done, either in just one day or just a few days, in fact I'm amazingly productive. So productive that I'm able to live off the pay I get from having only a few productive days each month. I can pay my rent and put food on the table, but I'm not able to live really well.

To excel at computer programming was at one time a very high priority for me, but it is no longer. I can't really see how I could ever write a computer program that does anyone much lasting good. What is a priority though is to earn enough money to pay off my debts.

If I could do that I could get by with much less income than I have now. The only way I can see to accomplish that is to be more productive at writing software. So writing software is not a goal in itself, but a means to an end. I want to live debt free, and change careers entirely.

I've been running Google Adsense ads at GoingWare's Bag of Programming Tricks since September. The ads are making quite a lot more than I thought they would. It's not enough to live off of, but it's enough that if I were able to earn my living programming, the ad revenue could pay down my debts pretty quickly.

I would like to build up the Google ad revenue to the point where I could live off of it. There's a very reasonable way I could do that: write more articles. I think that if I published new articles there regularly, readers would start coming back to look for new material. I haven't published anything new there for a year. My goal now is to write one new article - one new substantial article - each month. I should be able to do that.

Something I've realized increasingly lately - maybe it's a sign that I'm getting old - is that although there are so many problems in our world, so many problems so deserving of everyone's attention, I have a very limited capacity to make much of a difference.

It's very common in the software industry especially to motivate workers by telling them they're going to change the world. But that's not the result most people achieve. At best one just makes a good living, at worst one just contributes to the greed and corruption that are endemic in the industry, and to the public's obsession with technological materialism.

I can get quite obsessed with politics. Despite being unhappy with its outcome, I'm very glad the US elections are over, because I can rest now and think about something else for a while.

There is a way I can make a difference, and that I can see that I could continue to make a difference, and that is through my writing. It's hard to predict whether any given article is going to have much of an impact. The best I can do is publish them and see what happens. But from time to time something I write strikes home with the readers.

One thing that's nice, that's quite a relief actually, is that if I write an article that's really good, something that really affects people, once I publish it on the web I don't really have to do any more work to have it keep affecting people. Readers will find my articles, and they will keep working for positive change while I'm able to rest or go on to other things.

There's a lot that I want out of life, a lot that I'm not getting now, but I see how I could get it. I must learn to manage my time well. I must learn not to waste time on things that aren't important to me. I must spend more time on the things that are important.

After I submit this I'm going to walk to the gym. I'm going to do twenty minutes on the step machine and then lift weights for an hour.

Thank you for your attention.



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Time Management | 16 comments (16 topical, editorial, 0 hidden)
MC Rockin' Da Haus (none / 0) (#1)
by CheeseburgerBrown on Wed Nov 24, 2004 at 10:37:14 AM EST

Of the several elements in this post I can relate to, obsessively-writing-and-all-else-be-damned! is a familiar bane to me. I neglect to sleep, and shove aside all of my work that, like yours, sometimes struggles to be as rewarding as it could be as far as my debts are concerned.

For me, it is related to stress. When I can't handle being pulled in seven different directions I immerse myself in one thing, a writing piece, and try to live there for a spell of peace. Take this week, for instance: I'm busy as all hell and yet I will shortly be posting my second labour-intensive diary in a week (I'll post right after I finish this comment, actually, so I can feel free to get back to my actual work).

Shit -- your entry deserves a more fulsome response, but now I'm thinking about all the work I'm supposed to be doing...


If you can read this signature clearly, you are sitting too close to your monitor.
Thank you (3.00 / 2) (#2)
by wurp on Wed Nov 24, 2004 at 12:15:32 PM EST

I really enjoyed your diary, and just wanted to say thanks for writing it.
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Good luck. (none / 0) (#4)
by misfit13b on Wed Nov 24, 2004 at 12:28:13 PM EST

Life is distracting for all of us sometimes.

I must say tho that I was a bit concerned with this line: "I have trouble getting enough work done to be able to provide for myself and Bonita." before you then talking about concentrating on playing piano.

I gather that I overreacted tho, and things are ok.  Atleast, I hope that is the case.  :^)

Perspective (none / 0) (#5)
by MichaelCrawford on Wed Nov 24, 2004 at 12:43:59 PM EST

I had wanted to include a poll in this diary, but I couldn't think of one. I'm no good at coming up with polls.

Bonita called just now to say she'd be coming home early. "But don't you have class this afternoon?" I asked. "The instructor died," she replied. "Oh my God, what happened?" "He had a massive heart attack Monday night. Everyone's pretty upset".

One of the questions my time management book asks, and it asked me to write the answer down on paper and consider it carefully, is "If I knew now I'd be struck dead by lightning six months from today, how would I live until then?"


So here's my poll: If you knew you had six months to live, would you still spend time at Kuro5hin?

I would, I think, but I'd change how I spend my time here.

The answers I gave to the question when I read the book this morning were that I would spend every day with Bonita, I would travel, I would play piano, and I would write.

What's your answer to the question?


The only winner is Michael Crawford. After the fall of society, the only currency will be Free Music CDs. -- ensignyu

Thank you.. (none / 0) (#9)
by GrFxGrL on Wed Nov 24, 2004 at 03:35:33 PM EST

.. for sharing this diary.

There is so much that I can relate to especially right now. I have put so many of the things that I find pleasure in on the back burner because of work that's it's been hard to even live in recent months. I think I'm going to pick up the book, and give it a serious read.

Thanks again!


Cogito Ergo Sum
Lakein's book is good, but (none / 0) (#12)
by Dont Fear The Reaper on Wed Nov 24, 2004 at 07:05:34 PM EST

I like "The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People" by Stephen Covey even more. Much bigger picture, and more emphasis on the inner foundations of effectiveness and time management than Lakein.

If (none / 0) (#13)
by Ni on Wed Nov 24, 2004 at 07:06:05 PM EST

If there was a (very small) K5 meet at a bar (or somewhere) in Halifax, would you be consider attending?

<mrgoat> I can't believe I just got a cyber-handjob from ni.
Time Management | 16 comments (16 topical, 0 editorial, 0 hidden)
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