Author Topic: Using your time "effectively"  (Read 4101 times)

mikey

  • Member
  • Posts: 107
    • View Profile
Using your time "effectively"
« on: July 20, 2010, 04:17:22 pm »
I have some newly thought-of theories about using spare time effectively, so I shall now present them to you:

Say my commute to work is via train, and it takes one hour - meaning a total of 2 hours there and back, on the road, daily.
This means that I have 2 hours of time not used for anything else, where I am "stuck" on a train with very few options.

Say I use this time to actually do nothing. It doesn't make me particularly proud to "waste" this time, and I probably think of this or that (what will I do when I get home), but mostly, I am wondering whether to get a smartphone or a laptop for myself and put this "empty" time to good use.

The theory is that by having a laptop, I could spend the time working something out about my project. Or I could get a book and relax by reading, or watch some TV series on a smartphone. This way, I will make use of this free time - relaxing, enjoying some entertainment or working. It's always better than doing nothing.

Sounds nice. But - and I haven't really seen anyone mention this - what if I just don't feel like doing anything? What if I just want to stare out the window, not really relax (I can't really sleep on a train), not really work, not read, not do anything, just sit there with a blank look on my face. Is this wasted time? And if it is, is it actually a negative thing? Because that all really depends on whether "using your time" is by default a positive thing - and I don't quite see the connection there. Just because you use your time well, doesn't mean that using your time is the right thing to do.

I have another situation to explain this in more detail:

Sometimes I am standing in line for the groceries, or waiting for the bus (or being on the bus), and these are 10-20 minute blocks of time which are impossible to use - unless you have a smartphone and use this time to check your mail, read a blog post or watch a short clip. You can also write a comment on a forum, play a web minigame, or something else that takes just a few minutes - activities which, in fact, you don't want to "waste" time on once you get home.

Because I would like to comment on some forum posts, but I never have the time to do it - usually when at home or at work, I have bigger  blocks of time, but those would be wasted on forum posting or web games, I'd rather use them to have a nice dinner, or get some writing done, or just watch an immersive film.

So the resulting logic is that indeed once I get myself a smartphone, I will be able to get involved in a bit of the internet fun - suddenly, I will have time to tweet, I will have time to reply - and it's not like I am taking away time from anything - the time was always there, it's just that the technology allows me to USE that spare time now, the time which I wouldn't have been able to use before.

However, I am not convinced. Because I am worried that even though I am using the time much more effectively and indeed am not taking any time away from my existing commitments and time reservations (evening with the family, work time,...), the fact that I now can be engaged in additional things (even at no extra "time cost") also means that those things will get some of my attention and focus and not only in the times I am engaged with them. Do I exaggerate? After all, it's a harmless tweet or two a day, an article or clip here and there, and people would rightfully say well, it's better than not doing anything, right?

Well, I don't really think so. Because I bet that all of those new impulses that the tweets and casual web browsing will give me, will make me think even in times when I shouldn't. So when I'm out for dinner, I may just think about remembering to tweet how great this restaurant is the next time I get a chance. Or I realize some great wisdom and will like to share it with someone on the internet. Or I will wonder how the cliffhanger of a webcomic ends tomorrow because something I see on the street reminds me of it. I won't ruin the evening with twitter or surfing the web, but that's not my point - my point is that these micro-commitments, additional impulses and mini-distractions stretch beyond the time I am actively engaged with them.

And my thought is that just because you use your time more effectively, doesn't mean it is good for you.

I think that more than anything, this kind of "effective time usage" really takes away focus. So in fact, doing NOTHING, according to this theory, is actually more beneficial to you, because you don't poison your mind and drive your attention away. Of course I'm not saying one should not have fun with the entertainment side of the internet or even get some work done in small bits, but it does seem to be like fast food. It's very time-effective (you don't have to cook, you free up a lot of time), but even in medium doses it is seriously bad for your health. In our case then, it's mental health - concentration, motivation, attention.

So actually, I won't be trying to get more time-effective this way. It may mean that sometimes on the train I will envy people tweeting with smartphones and every now and then get tempted to get into the world of bite-sized news stories, 2-minute funny clips or "networking" with your friends on facebook. But I just know it's bad for me and my project. So like the pizza stand, I will try to walk past that lovely smell as quickly as I can, because it could easily destroy a lot of my efforts. Like staying in shape, which is not a one-time thing, but a constant process where you need to balance things out.

Anyway, I'm not against smartphones or web 2.0 culture, because everyone can decide for themselves. I just wish that at least the fast food nature of it would be recognized. I think about news feeds, discussion forums, e-mails and friends. And I think that for the most part, despite the name, it's entertainment. Entertainment sprinkled with some mildly relevant information, entertainment with a flavor of sharing opinions, entertainment by writing messages to people. Even if I would work on my game, it seems that I'd spend a few minutes doing something and then actually not use the time I have allocated for it, because my brain doesn't feel guilty enough anymore.

Like fast food, there are clearly good ingredients there. But combined with the time you consume it and all the mysterious sauces which make it so appealing in the first place, I really wonder whether it's worth it. Well, I don't - because it isn't. And for me, it's often better in the long term to just sit through the sudden hunger and get home for an actual dinner.

So I'll keep on staring out of the window of the train for most of the time. It doesn't make my projects complete any faster. But the way I have things set up, it doesn't slow them down.



Vatina

  • Administrator
  • Member
  • Posts: 76
    • View Profile
    • White Cat
Re: Using your time "effectively"
« Reply #1 on: July 21, 2010, 08:47:49 am »
Well, you do hear more and more of how this new way of socialising and keeping up with things had its negative sides. Like how these fast ways of reading snippets and tweets and sending text messages takes focus away and instead distracts and confuses the mind. Nothing really sticks because you change topics so fast.
And then there is the whole topic about stress caused by the fact that people feel obligated to make something out of every second in their day. I know this is a great problem where I am, even to me. 'Wasting your time' is almost turning into a taboo. Oh no, then you have to schedule more!

I don't know. Even if I could do those things in my own 25 minute commute to work every day, I don't think it would work. I would hardly have the time to focus on what I am supposed to say or respond to, so I listen to music instead.

Actually I find those bus trips highly productive. I get a lot of creative work done just by listening to music and staring out the window of the bus - it helps me think, and I get a lot of ideas on how to move on with plot and characters in the story I'm working on. This is the time where I really flesh out the ideas that I get at other times. (Actually it can really ruin some of my day if I forget my mp3 player! The trip suddenly feels wasted, heh.)

So it's not so bad for you to choose to leave those things. Maybe it will also help a lot in relation to the people around you - I know it can be terribly annoying to talk to someone who is constantly distracted in their mind! :P
(That's a whole other topic again - some say that young people growing up today are loosing the ability to socialise because of things like mobiles)


Of course I'm not one to talk about these things. I am slowly turning into one of those "but I'm not doing anything right now! I'm a BAD person!" kinds of people myself, which is pretty horrible when I think about it. Even when I tell myself it's ok to slack off sometimes, I still feel awful...
(Don't be like me and my 100 projects! :P)

number473

  • Member
  • Posts: 31
    • View Profile
    • sattotw
    • Email
Re: Using your time "effectively"
« Reply #2 on: July 21, 2010, 08:41:36 pm »
Don't be fooled into the trap that you need to take more time off and rest more. That and the guilt trip on 'wasting time,' they make a nice combo, don't they? The truth is human's are a lot more resiliant than you think - feel free to work as much as you want. As long as you're working in the direction of the goal you have in mind, there's no reason to hold back.

Personally, I get as much done during lunch etc as I can, because it's often the only time I have spare. And I read or study on the train.

mikey

  • Member
  • Posts: 107
    • View Profile
Re: Using your time "effectively"
« Reply #3 on: July 21, 2010, 09:34:40 pm »
Well, the whole thing about working hard vs. working effectively was not my aim. My point was to discuss using unused time vs. not using unused time and how that affects focus.

I also studied on the train, and worked on things during lunch - this is perfectly fine when you indeed need to get those things done. But now I don't have to study or work during those times and I was wondering whether I should do something just because I now can (because of better technology). And the answer was no.

I do agree on the subject of people who use these things as an excuse. Usually people who read advice about how to stop being workaholics aren't workaholics, but slackers who need to justify their slacking off. But again, that was not the point I was making, I didn't want to get into this "productivity" discussion. My aim was how "productivity" affects "creativity".

I like Vatina's approach with MP3s. I usually listen to music whenever I need some creative thinking to be done. And I absolutely know the feeling with the forgotten mp3 player. :) I don't know, it's like I'm in this little shell, surrounded by music - which brings it to the point, I would say. You eliminate at least one impulse input (audio), and you are more creative. If you have lots of inputs you can be productive, but creativity suffers.


Vatina

  • Administrator
  • Member
  • Posts: 76
    • View Profile
    • White Cat
Re: Using your time "effectively"
« Reply #4 on: July 22, 2010, 11:09:57 am »
But, but... I want to slack off! I need my computer gamez!

Ok, joking aside...
Yeah, I was also thinking mostly about that - how stuffing more tasks into your day may not necessarily make you more effective. Mikey pretty much already pointed out why in the first post.

Time management can be a good thing if done right, but I don't think it's only about spending every second of your day on something work/project related. It's also about giving time to "switch off". As with the deal about listening to mp3s and close yourself into that little shell, I believe most good ideas come when you're not trying to force them. Relaxing makes you realise things you didn't think of before.

(Although with that last paragraph, I think I deviated from the topic a bit... just some random musings while slacking off and writing script snippets during my day job <_< Yes, I am a bad example of everything I say.)

lordcloudx

  • Guest
Re: Using your time "effectively"
« Reply #5 on: July 22, 2010, 06:26:51 pm »
I do agree that all these newfangled technologies are sort of like "fast food" in that at their core, they're still just letting us do the same things we would've done using a free tag-board or a guest book on a less-interactive website just a few years ago, but a lot more easily.

I any case, I sort of take a Bruce Lee philosophy to all these things; I just try all sorts of things and find what works best for me and discard what doesn't. I like using live bookmarks in Firefox for the world news via BBC, for example, but I don't use them to keep up with the latest gaming news or anime-related tidbits since I prefer to visit those websites manually whenever I feel like it.

As for using unused time... it really depends on what I'm trying to do. If I'm trying to visualize a new VN or a story, I find that having lots of time to do absolutely nothing helps me to focus a lot when I finally get down to actually planning the plot and possible methods of execution. If I just want to draw something, well, I can just grab my sketchbook and a pencil and get right to it without any pause in-between...

like my new avatar, which was inspired by this :D http://i.servut.us/i/1279642637246.png

I do find that I want as little distractions as possible when I want to be creative, (this excludes drawing, since I personally consider it a distraction rather than something meaningfully creative) including assigning these little "productivity tasks" to myself. I'd rather just lie down and think (in a very unhurried and casual way) about how I'm going to accomplish a particular creative endeavor.
« Last Edit: July 22, 2010, 06:29:04 pm by lordcloudx »

mikey

  • Member
  • Posts: 107
    • View Profile
Re: Using your time "effectively"
« Reply #6 on: July 22, 2010, 07:30:24 pm »
Hmmm, I think this is what I really wanted to say - there is a difference in "administrative productivity" and "creative productivity".

The former is a typical work day where you deal with your agenda and fill the non-work time with entertainment.

The latter is you writing a screenplay and fill the non-work time with ... and this is my point ... not entertainment, but "rest".

And I'm glad that lordcloudx pointed it out, because I also see the MP3 connection here - you recover your creativity with ways that shield you from additional impulses (mp3, sports, etc). You don't recover energy for creativity by watching a TV show, because that in a way still stimulates you and makes your mind inspired which means you lose even more energy for creating.

It seems odd, but it makes good sense. If I had to write a screenplay in 24 hours, my breaks from writing would probably not be watching TV, but going cycling, because that's an activity that recharges the energy by not giving impulses to the mind. Would I be watching TV, I would not recover that much energy, because the entertainment is also stimulating for the mind.

I suppose this works for studying as well. That is a really demanding mind task, and taking breaks while studying for a test has very similar rules. It is better to do something physical and non-mind-stimulating to recover learning energy than it is to watch TV, check the internet or play a game, because you recover much less energy, because your mind is still working or being stimulated.

number473

  • Member
  • Posts: 31
    • View Profile
    • sattotw
    • Email
Re: Using your time "effectively"
« Reply #7 on: July 22, 2010, 08:53:31 pm »
Well, i can see the point in taking a break. If you go at doing something too long you get a bit stuck into doing it and doing something else can get you unstuck. Something active is good, but it doesn't have to be. Since you're creating, taking in something someone else has created can also help to change things around, like music, etc.

Well, i don't know if i'm reading into that incorrectly or, but you really don't need to worry about running out of ability to create. If you want to create, just create!

mikey

  • Member
  • Posts: 107
    • View Profile
Re: Using your time "effectively"
« Reply #8 on: July 23, 2010, 06:06:59 pm »
Quote from: number473
Well, i can see the point in taking a break. If you go at doing something too long you get a bit stuck into doing it and doing something else can get you unstuck. Something active is good, but it doesn't have to be. Since you're creating, taking in something someone else has created can also help to change things around, like music, etc.
What you said about a break having a point when one is stuck or exhausted is spot-on. But I wanted to be a bit more specific - as you said something active is good, or it may not be good - this is precisely the discussion, to get into more detail on this. So when is sports good and when is internet good? And what I've come up with so far is that:

- if your project is largely administrative (organizing a wedding), breaks with entertainment (internet, TV) are more helpful. And...

- when your project is mostly creative (writing a novel), then breaks which don't engage the mind are helpful (mp3, sports). Even more specifically - if you have entertainment breaks instead of non-mind-engaging ones in this situation, they actually have a negative effect.

Quote from: number473
Well, i don't know if i'm reading into that incorrectly or, but you really don't need to worry about running out of ability to create. If you want to create, just create!
I think you're right in saying the ability is always there. But it's seems a bit oversimplified to say that if you want to create there is nothing stopping you from doing so. I understand you meant it in a very general way, probably to say something like "don't whine, start writing", and that's fair enough.

However, you have to consider many factors, and (to continue on topic), I think you need to be aware of things which can hinder you in creating. Some of them are obvious, like "don't just talk, do it", or "don't watch TV, work".

But some of them are somehow hidden or just seemingly helpful - for instance announcing your project on a forum or to your facebook friends and then spending time in discussions. This gives you the illusion of valuable input, but actually the little valuable input is accompanied by a relatively large distraction element, loss of focus etc. I often hear people say that weren't it for a facebook discussion, they wouldn't have come up with something. Which seems logical, but my question always is how many other ideas have not been able to occur to them because they were busy chatting, or even what makes them so certain that they wouldn't have come up with the idea through a different impulse?

So for me it's about being aware of the dangers of distraction-creating elements and the quasi-helpfulness of things which are in the end just a form of "instant gratification". This can bring you pleasure, but not satisfaction.

I guess none of this is relevant if there isn't a crisis or if your project isn't stuck or tough to complete. Much like one needs not to worry about eating all that healthy when in their teens. But it becomes a topic especially when you try to balance it with other things which are equally as important. I'm not saying that this only affects working adults with a family - you can easily get into a situation at any point where you have multiple commitments which pretty much eat away all your time. Finding space for a personal creative project or following through with it becomes a much bigger challenge in that case.

But again, in this discussion I only wanted to point out how using your "unused" time one or the other way can affect that process - positively or negatively.

 

anything