Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Work Hygiene

So, I volunteered to take a bunch of craft stuff off a friend's hands and today I got another crafty friend over here and we went through it, making three piles - one for her, one for me, and one for a friend who LARPs. Naturally we discussed undone craft projects. And undone writing projects. And how digital scrapbooking distracted her from NaNoWriMo so she got an app that's intended to focus her on writing, but she got distracted by designing themes for it.

The whole trouble with computers is, that whereas you used to be able to shut yourself into a closet away from all distractions and write, now you shut yourself into a closet with your laptop to write and all the distractions follow you in there. But it's not the computer's fault. The computer gives you newer, shinier, high-tech ways to procrastinate, but they're all variations on things we've always done.

Everything we think of as optional is like this. We need to treat certain things as requirements. Like brushing our teeth or showering or making the bed. If you were raised to do those things, and life comes at you so hard that you don't for awhile, you know that life is out of control and you do something about it. Why? Because you feel uncomfortable, dirty, and miserable until you do. But brushing your teeth confirms that you are not, in fact, on the skids. My mom always made us take baths when we were sick, saying we'd feel better - and she was right. We weren't any healthier, but we felt less grungy and more as if we were going to get well sometime than we did before the bath.

We need to treat certain elements of work hygienically. Which ones will vary with the individual and the circumstance. My biggest needs are to update the ledger every time I spend or receive money instead of letting them pile up on the desk to be done all at once, and to write every day starting at eight o'clock. Sometimes I put off those things for something more urgent, but you know what? If my work hygiene has slipped, the urgent thing won't get done either; while if my work hygiene is good, the more urgent thing will get done later in the day. Having a prioritized list of things to do is a help with managing administrative, creative, social, and household duties.

However - there is always a however - there's also a point of diminishing returns. Brushing and flossing is good. Stopping dead after every single meal to brush and floss every single tooth is excessive. Having a list of things to do today is a good thing; having a list of things to do that is a little longer than you can do is not a bad thing; having lists of everything you want to get done and making sure you mark off every element of everything you do and add every new thing you realized also needs doing and break down all the steps of each project so you can cross it off later is a procrastination technique.

Here's a rule of thumb: if an individual act of hygiene goes for more than five minutes with no visible result - you're procrastinating. Quit it. Go do something useful.

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