One Apple A Day #859 – Time Optimization

I’m not a big fan of concepts like “time optimization” or “time management”. I’m terrible at both so I may be biased, but I don’t think you can manage time. At least not time as we know it, the one we measure in days, hours, minutes and seconds

What we can work on is our experience of time.

I believe it’s an essential difference because while days and hours are the same for everyone, its experience is unique.

So, what we are trying to optimize or manage is how we use the time.

Our energy, our attention, our presence are the ones on which we should focus. It’s an important distinction.

In their effort to understand how the brain processes space and time, a team led by Edward and May-Britt Moser discovered that our brain does not have an internal clock ticking measuring time in hours and minutes. Instead, our brain uses experiences and memories to track time. Our mind creates a subjective perception of time by organizing our continuous flow of experiences into a sequence of discrete memories.

Realizing this distinction between time and the experience of it has changed my way of working. Before I was trying to fit into existing models and technics for time management; dividing my day in chunks, creating structured todo list and plans, planning the whole day in advance and so on. It never worked, leaving me frustrated and with a great sense of failure.

How comes that so many people can do so much in a day while I feel I just waste most of my time?

One day, an incredibly productive friend wrote me a message. He asked me how I could do so many things at the same time?

It was a wake-up call; we all experience time differently.

I began to experiment, and I’m still doing it, with different ways to optimize my energy, attention, and presence during the day.

One Apple A Day #849 – Planning

Do you know what you will do tomorrow? And next week, month and year? Do you have planned your next moves?
If the answer is yes, then you’re probably gifted with the strength of planning, and I may need your help because I don’t even have a plan for today.
The fact is that I love a well-crafted plan. It gives me a sense of accomplishment to see all the details about what, when and how I’ll do something. As if I already did those things.
Unfortunately, as much as I like a good plan, I struggle to follow through. The main reason is that a good plan pleases or soothes, depending on the situation, my rational mind, but when it comes to action, I’m driven mostly by my emotions and intuitions. Plans engage me on an emotional level only at the design stage, but once they are done, they are far less attractive.
So, most of the times, I don’t make plans, not elaborate ones at least.
But I invest time in planning.
Planning things is a great way to think creatively about what I have to do, in particular when it something that worries or even scares me. It helps me get clarity about what my goals are, identify obstacles and resistances and set the directions. Planning gives me the belief that I know what I’m doing and the confidence to begin.
Once I’m set, I trust my intuition knowing that if I get lost, I can always go back to planning again.

One Apple A Day #828 – protect me from what I want

I love to read, watch and learn new stuff, even useless things. I believe that there always some golden nuggets hiding in what I don’t know.

I consider this curiosity of mine one of my strengths.

However, like many strengths, curiosity can quickly turn into a weakness if left unchecked. 

In my case, curiosity is a wellspring of distractions.

I remember the chorus of a Placebo’s song saying “protect me from what I want´╗┐“. 

So, I have to protect myself from my own desire to explore any new shining thing that crosses my attention. 

Not an easy task. For sure, I can rely on my willpower, considering that it’s not in the same list of strengths with curiosity.

That is why I create structures that help me harness my curiosity without being overwhelmed by it. 

The funny fact is that to create sound and efficient structures, I have to rely on my strengths, in particular my curiosity.

The best structures are the new ones that allow me to experiment and use my curiosity to keep me focused. 

These days I’m experimenting with a new way of defining my daily priorities and “wifi off” zones for writing. This last one is particularly interesting because it forces me to separate research, that’s often a magnet for distractions, from the actual writing.

One Apple A Day #759 – urgency

There are days in which I’m late since the moment I wake up.
I rise pervaded by a sense of urgency for the things I want to do and the ones I have to do. Those days feel like a race, trying to keep up with the next thing to do with a constant feeling of being behind.

This morning I woke up with that feeling and I don’t even know what I have to do today. I struggled to meditate and keep my mind from rushing to the list of things to do.
The sense of urgency is a powerful propeller into action. At least, it is for me. In the right dose, it creates pressure that helps me become laser-focus on the tasks at hand. It is, however, a risky strategy. Too much urgency and I lose focus on my priorities running in circles without getting anything done.

Urgency manifests when my attention in on the final goal more than on what I am doing. In that case, everything happening around me is a distraction; achieving the goal is all that matters. Creating urgency is an effective strategy when I need to be productive.

When I need to explore and be creative, however, urgency limits my range of attention, narrowing too much my perception span.
It is then, at least for me, about finding a rhythm between moments of urgency and moments of unbounded exploration.

One Apple A Day #752 – the doing nothing time

I read somewhere – sorry, I can’ find the source at this moment – that only 16% of intelligent and creative ideas come to us while we’re at work.
Looking back, I think I had my best ideas while I was doing something else than working. Walking, cycling, taking a shower, having a conversation, reading a novel, watching a movie.

I believe ideas are out there. We just need to pay attention enough so we can see them.

To do so, we must expand our senses. We must reach the boundaries of our peripheral vision so we can see what hides in the liminal space; between our limited knowledge and the unlimited wisdom of the universe unknown to us.

I grew up with the idea that the effectiveness of work is measured by my productivity. So, when I work, my attention is narrowed on what I’m doing to avoid any distractions that could compromise my productivity.
Plus, sometimes the agenda takes over, so I work in a rush with a continuous feeling of being late.

What I’ve realised over the years, is that this approach dries out my creative wellspring.

I know that I’m falling trap of this productivity trap when I begin to have the same ideas over and over.

When that happens, I now know that it’s time to unplug and do anything but work. To me, that means doing something for the pure pleasure of doing it, without expecting any outcome.

Like walking, cycling, having a conversation, reading a novel, watching a movie.