Tuesday 9 July 2013

Do More by Being Busy

There is an axiom attributed to Lucille Ball that "If you want something done, ask a busy person to do it." I can see the logic behind it - a busy person already has a To Do list, probably organised according to priority, and it's a simple enough task to add another item. Give it to someone who has very little to do, and they'll spend so much time thinking about other stuff they might want to do, or how they might approach it, and it'll end up taking even longer.

Why am I talking about To Do lists? Well I noticed today that I work a lot faster when I have a To Do list, and I've positively blitzed mine today. I've been exceptionally busy lately, and I've got a lot more to show for it. In fact, I even write better when I have a zillion and one things to do - if I find a spare ten minutes, and I get the urge to write, I'll take advantage of the moment. If I've got a spare hour and no other pressing concerns, I'll easily while away the time faffing about on Facebook or catching up on blogs.

I think much of it is psychological. When you have little to do, you have more potential time in which to do a task, and you under-estimate how much time it'll take since you have so much time spare, meaning you end up being rushed. When you have a lot to do, you're conscious of the passage of time and so spend more concentrated time on the task, meaning you usually over-estimate how long it will take, thus freeing you up to work on the rest of your list.

I guess my point is that I see a lot of blog posts advising writers to give themselves dedicated blocks of writing time, to clear their schedules and turn everything off so they can just write. I'm sure that works for some people who like to work steadily, with no interruptions, but I've got the attention span of a cat so it doesn't work for me. I've tried setting aside an hour to write, and minimising interruptions, but my mind wanders and I end up interrupting myself. Not good. I like to work on multiple projects at once, devoting short bursts of concentration to each of them, meaning at the end of an hour I could feasibly have three or four things almost-finished, instead of one thing completed. Besides, if I set time aside to write, then I won't use it for writing. If I snatch time where I can, then I recognise how precious that time is and I use it wisely.

What about you? How do you cope with your To Do list? Do you manage your time, or try to do everything at once?

Image by Dublindays.


Anonymous said...

I do tend to pile up my "to do" list, and I do get a lot more done than I would otherwise... but I also go in cycles of feeling like I'm not getting enough done, so I pile on projects, then for a stretch I'm working like crazy and start to burn out, so I cut back on as much as possible, and then after a while I start feeling as if I'm not doing enough.... :)
The biggest breakthrough in balancing it all was learning how to say "no" to things I didn't really want to do.
But definitely: keeping busy is the best way to get things done. I have less free time now than I've ever had in my life, except maybe during university, and I'm writing more than ever as well.

Sandra Tyler said...

my to do lists are n numerous stickies stuck to the counter. Which ar still stuck there...

Tony Noland said...

I'm trying to remember the last time I wasn't dashing around, harried by deadlines and putting out fires.

Anonymous said...

You have quite the point there, Icy.
The busier my life is the more I seem to get done, and boy, am I about to get a whole lot of stuff done and out of the way. Just took on several new projects...plus summer family 'fun', new housekeeping goals, promising myself I will take more me time...and of course the necessary sanity reading.
Yup! This to-do-list is about to become a to-done-list. :)

Katherine Hajer said...

I totally agree, and I've seen this in action. Besides, for longer projects short bursts are less intimidating than long stretches.

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