Today

I don’t complain about the lack of time… what little I have will go far enough. Today—this day—will achieve what no tomorrow will fail to speak about. I will lay seige to the gods and shake up the world.

~ Senece, Medea, 423-5

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Net and scaffold

How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. What we do with this hour, and that one, is what we are doing. A schedule defends from chaos and whim. It is a net for catching days. It is a scaffolding on which a worker can stand and labor with both hands at sections of time.

~ Annie Dillard

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Also useful

How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. What we do with this hour, and that one, is what we are doing. A schedule defends from chaos and whim. It is a net for catching days. It is a scaffolding on which a worker can stand and labor with both hands at sections of time.

~ Annie Dillard

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Annie Dillard is right. Also useful for defending against chaos: Principles. Morals. Visualization. To be clear: My first word, “also,” is critical. I’m completely onboard with a schedule. But for me, since I’ve got schedule (and process and optimization and organization) dialed in, I’ve moved inward to more difficult topics of consideration. I find I’m asking myself—continuing Dillard’s metaphor—did I put the scaffolding in the right place?

And even more chin-scratchingly interesting: Am I done with this labor? And should I take the scaffolding down, so that I can set it up somewhere else?

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Which hour to value

However, the value of saving the marginal hour today is to increase the total number of one’s working hours by one, resulting in a new hour at the end of one’s career, not a new hour at their current skill level.

~ Mark Xu from, https://www.lesswrong.com/posts/beK9RBjMfkeSyqYTe/your-time-might-be-more-valuable-than-you-think

I’ve made the point that it’s endlessly useful to put an explicit value on my time. I believe my logic and reasons still hold. But this idea, about needing to consider the value of the additional hour towards the end… well that, I’d never thought about. Which is daft of me, because I do often think about the marginal cost of things, and this idea is simply pointing out the marginal value gained by saving something now.

Hopefully, my occasionally marking, “duh,” on my map as a reminder to myself, helps you in some way.

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How to refuse

One of life’s great lessons lies in knowing how to refuse, and it is even more important to refuse yourself, both to business and to others. There are certain inessential activities—moths of precious time—and it is worse to busy yourself with the trivial than to do nothing. To be prudent, it isn’t enough not to meddle in other people’s business: You must also keep them from meddling in yours. Don’t belong so much to others that you stop belonging to yourself.

~ Baltasar Gracián

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Set a value

They take no notice of it because it has no substance and is not a visible entity, and therefore it is reckoned very cheap, or rather completely valueless. Annuities and bonuses men are very glad to receive, and hire their labor and effort and industry out to obtain them. But upon time no value is set; men use it as carelessly as if it came gratis.

~ Seneca

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Time spent organizing my time

Something organized people don’t often talk about is how much time they spend organizing their time.

~ Cal Newport from, https://www.calnewport.com/blog/2015/11/03/spend-more-time-managing-your-time/

Guilty as charged, Your Honor! So today, something a little lighter than usual—I think?—with a few snapshots of how much time I spend organizing my time.

It is an exceedingly rare morning that I don’t spend about half an hour planning out the day. This little block of time begins with “surfacing:” Ducking into all the many online mediums where I am present, and—this is very hard—not engaging, but skimming over things to see what rises to a level of getting my attention today. Many productivity sources and guides suggest doing this at night, at the end of your day, but that does not work for me.

Every Monday I take an “administrative day”—the entire day. I stuff the day full of all the random things of life. Any errands to run, laundry, lawn mowing if I can, bookkeeping (literal banking and accounting and such). I do my best to resist doing any real work. I do anything like changing the bed linen, or high dusting the house, or stacking firewood, or changing a flat tire on my bike, …anything that I would consider “not important” …except of course if I never got around to doing it, then it’s a critical disaster …that’s “administrative day” stuff. This isn’t exactly time spent on organizing, but still.

I use sophisticated planning/project-tracking software, called OmniFocus, to manage a lot of stuff. (Things from recurring daily things, to true projects that have many steps and milestones and due dates.) Every two weeks—on an Admin Day!—I spend about an hour just going through every nook and cranny of my OmniFocus. (If you’ve read Getting Things Done, this is part of the review process.) I tend to ruthlessly delete stuff in an effort to combat my incessant tendency to take new things on.

At least once a month—again, on an Admin Day—I do the same sort of “look through every nook and cranny” review of the Basecamp system that is used for one of the companies I’m part of. Sometimes I can do that in 5 minutes, sometimes I’ll spend hours on it.

At the least organized end of the spectrum, (yes, my time spent managing my time comes in a spectrum of how organized it is,) I often—maybe twice per month this happens—will go off, (as in “off the deep end,”) and outline some project that I’m considering doing. I’ll whip out my favorite outliner, OmniOutliner, and do a brain dump of some project. This can take from 5 minutes to an hour or more depending on what I’m thinking about. Quite often, I’ll then simply set aside some awesome idea that I don’t have the time to execute, or the resources to have it done under my direction. I used to think this was wasted time, but it is the only way I can get things off my mind: When it pops up later, I either think, “I already did all the thinking,” or I go back to the outline and tinker some more. (What remains, forever, is just to squash the recurring lizard-brain fear of missing out by not executing the project.)

So let’s see, how much time is all of that combined? I’m awake 16 hours a day, but realistically, only half that time could ever be used to some specific end. So 8 hours a day of “self-directable life”. 1 out of 7 days is an Admin Day… 1/7 ~ 0.1428… The rest of that stuff might—maaaaaaybe, but probably not—eat a second day’s worth of each week . . . 2/7 ~ 0.2857…

So in response to how much time do I spend managing my time? I’ll say:

15 to 30% of my entire available life.

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Time management

As addicting as it is, desire is the enemy to proper time management. Poor sleeping habits, unhealthy lifestyle choices, and just plain dissatisfaction are all byproducts of a poorly managed life.

~ Ryan Holiday from, https://dailystoic.com/5-stoic-lessons-on-time-management/

Time management is the only thing—the only major skill critical for leading a good life… Time management is the only thing which no one ever attempted to teach me explicitly. Everything else was covered to some degree: science, religion, morality, philosophy, work ethic, hygiene, sexuality, language, geography, personal finance, and more, depending on how you want to subdivide all the stuff in my head.

Time management isn’t the most critical thing to know. Language and critical thinking are the top two, because with those two and sufficient time you can bootstrap everything else. However, things would be far better for everyone, if the third item on the list of must-have skills to be Human was a basic grasp of Time Management.

For me, I was trying to fix my sleep when it became obvious that I needed to arrange my day around sleeping. That lead immediately to an entirely new need for time management. “I need to be at work by 8,” is not Time Management (with capitals.) I then took a circuitous route discovering the needs and methods of Time Management.

But where do I wish I had actually started? That’s an excellent question. Right around 18 years old, I wish someone had handed me a copy of this tiny book: How to Live on 24 Hours a Day by A Bennet.

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45 minute meetings

Meetings always expand to fill the available time. Therefore, first be sure that the meeting has a goal and when the goal is achieved, the meeting is done. Second, things often go faster and better when there is a known deadline. To this end we almost always set an end time when scheduling a meeting.

But we usually pick one hour for a meeting’s duration. Then we try to schedule back-to-back meetings and are surprised when everything turns into a flurry of rushing to the next meeting… that meeting that starts at 4, right after the meeting that ended at 4. This never works.

Schedule all your meetings to be 45 minutes. Magic happens.

Everything gets done in the 45 minutes—or if doesn’t, you had far too much packed into your usual one-hour meeting—and you have time for the rest of your life between the meetings.

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