How to do it all

Oct 07 2014 Published by under Uncategorized

Tyler Cowen wrote a piece on time management and recently revised it. I have been reading a bunch of these recently. Some of what he has to say is useful (to me, at least).

Here are my suggestions on his suggestions (Cowen is in italic)

2. Do the most important things first in the day and don’t let anybody stop you.  Estimate “most important” using a zero discount rate.  Don’t make exceptions.  The hours from 7 to 12 are your time to build for the future before the world descends on you.

This is easy to impliment for morning people. But its good advice even for night owls. Even if you are more creative at night, the day can lay significant burdens on your mind and your energy. Get yourself going, shut your door. And do what needs to be done.

3. Some tasks (drawing up outlines?) expand or contract to fill the time you give them.  Shove all these into times when you are pressed to do something else very soon.

When I was teaching a biology department load (3 classes a year, on a quarter/three terms a year schedule) I chose to do all three in one term. Teaching, for me, would expand to fill the available time. By getting it all done at once, I was less tempted to revise every lecture. This is another version of knowing how much energy to put into a task, an artificial assist to help you.

Rahul R. asks me if I would like to revise the list.  I’ll add these:

6. Don’t drink alcohol.  Don’t take drugs.

I find this one difficult, as I like a glass of wine with dinner. But I understand the logic. The older I get the less I want to alter my mind. And I certainly do not want to wake up hung over or in less than full possession of my mind. Its partly why sleeping in on the weekends is a bad idea.Its setting yourself up for jet lag for the rest of the week.

7. At any point in your life, do not be watching more than one television show on a regular basis.

This is easy for me. I don't have a TV. I do realize that I could see things on my ipad/laptop. But its easy not too. On the other hand twitter is an endless rabbit hole into which I can easily fall. I think the idea is to exert enough self-control that you are not passively using TV/Twitter/Graphic Novels as an escape. When I need down time, and can't even read, I sit. With a cuppa, and think. Or not. But I sit. I have a quiet place to sit and think. Everyone needs one. See Virigina Woolf: A Room of Her Own

8. Don’t feel you have to finish a book or movie if you don’t want to.  I cover that point at length in my book Discover Your Inner Economist.

This one took me for-evah. Its like once started I had some commitment to finish. Life is too damn short for that nonsense.

I also have come to believe that multi-tasking is a myth or a chimera or an illusion. I end up doing two things badly. If something is worth doing, to quote Lazarus Long, it is worth overdoing. Do not do things you do not want to do. That is simple to say, and absolutely unrealistic. No one wants to go to department meetings. And I admit to doing something else during the meetings. But for the large things in life, if you don't like doing it, ask yourself why. Why you don't like it and why you are doing it. Really ask yourself. Think about it. Make time in the week to think about things. What you will save, and how you will feel about yourself will change.

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