When I say that beginnings and endings are significant, I'm talking about the beginnings and endings of units of time, not manuscripts.
The beginning of a new calendar year (I've written many times here, I'm sure, about how much I love the month of January), a new school year, and summer break...fun times, huh? We tend to get excited about our plans for "new" blocks of time. Oh, what we're going to do this Christmas season! NaNoWriMo! May Days! If we can perceive some upcoming time as something new, as something different, a change, it's far easier to believe that we can make a change in how we're going to behave in that new chunk of time than it is to believe we can just change what we're doing now in this ho-hum unit of time we've been living in.
If we think about the unit system I wrote about back in February and the research that suggests that people are productive for the first 45-minutes that they work, there may be some logic to our love of new beginnings. Experience has taught us that we're more productive when we start something new, and we like feeling productive. We like the surge of starting something new. I swear, we once got new living room furniture, and just that change led me to start a new plan to keep everyone from eating in the living room. That probably didn't even last 45-minutes, but I remember the rush I felt not because I had a new couch and two new chairs all at the same time, but because the new furniture changed something and I was going to do something different because of it.
The end of a unit of time is a different story, particularly if things haven't gone well during the time period that is drawing to a close. Take last week for me, for instance. I ended up taking one elder to a doctor's appointment on Monday, wasting a lot of time Tuesday reading a book (on my Kindle!), visiting an elder on Wednesday, visiting the first elder again on Thursday (as well as doing life maintenance work while I was out of the house). It got to be mid-day Friday, and I thought, Ah, the week was wasted, anyway, I might as well surf the 'Net. And start again next week when a new unit of time will begin.
In this situation, you can see the parallels between applying self-discipline to work and applying self-discipline to "problems" such as eating, smoking, etc. Oh, this day of dieting is ruined, anyway, because I ate a second cupcake. I might as well eat a couple more and start again tomorrow. How much time is wasted at the end of a bad work unit because we're too disappointed in what we've accomplished to continue? And how to make better use of that time?
Well, yes, we could suck it up and apply some self-discipline, but if you aren't aware that I'm low on that, you haven't been reading this blog regularly. I wanted to come up with another way to make better use of those bad ending hours. While driving home from my taekwondo class last night, I did. (This is an example of a breakout experience, by the way. I'd been thinking about this situation for three days, and an idea for a solution came to me after an hour of practicing joint locks and knife defense.)
Doing absolutely anything work-related during those lost hours at the end of a unit of time would be better than just blowing them off because things didn't turn out the way we planned in the days leading up to them. Anything. So we can keep fallback work to do then. For writers, this will not be difficult. We have piles of promotional work, research, projects that we've started and not finished that we could shift to when we realize that we're blowing off time. Filing. Checking up on the status of submissions. A table covered with three inches of books and paper in the office. (Oh? That's just me?) Getting some of this stuff done will positive in and of itself, but getting it done will also free up time in the future for other kinds of work. Win-win, as they say.
How am I going to do those things when I've just mentioned that I'm weak on self-discipline? The plan (And I love a plan! It's as if I'm starting a new unit of time!) is to plan for those situations. The plan is to have fallback tasks ready for when the first task doesn't pan out.
I am going to call this Situational Time Management. I will write more about it next week, since I just came up with the idea as I was getting off the stationary bike less than two hours ago. Any idea benefits from thought.
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