Last year was hard. This year is going to be even harder.
But I hope that doing the assignments for this class will keep me in touch with more creative activities; I really DO need to be creative every week. For my own well-being. My plan is to do the class work over the weekends, and I know a lot of students do that too, so I'll probably be on this schedule:
Saturday: commenting on people's blogs and projects from the week before, doing reading for the coming week
Sunday: writing my story and working on my project
Then, during the weekdays, if I find some spare time, I'll try to do some extra credit stuff, like Tech Tips and Wikipedia (which I really enjoy) so that I can build up a cushion of points for weeks when I actually miss assignments.
Because I know I am going to miss assignments. And if I get a C in this class, I'm not going to worry about that either: I always tell students who are dealing with a lot of pressure that just passing the class is a victory. And I am going to be under a lot of pressure this year...
For the article, I knew I wanted to re-read Why Time Management is Ruining Our Lives by Oliver Burkeman. I remember being deeply impressed by this article the first time that I read it, and that was true again this time. Caring for someone who is dying makes you think differently about everything, especially about time and what it means to have a lifetime and to have led a good life (or not).
My experience matches this part of the article most closely:
As with Inbox Zero, so with work in general: the more efficient you get at ploughing through your tasks, the faster new tasks seem to arrive. (“Work expands to fill the time available for its completion,” as the British historian C Northcote Parkinson realised way back in 1955, when he coined what would come to be known as Parkinson’s law.)I really do always have things to do. And I'm pretty efficient at doing them. The real trick for me is figuring out what is BEST to do. And honestly, that is really hard to know sometimes. When my dad looks back on his life, he is most proud of the books he wrote. He published a book last year, in fact, the week before his 90th birthday. He keeps that book by his bedside, and he gets it out frequently to look at it.
If I get to 90, is that how I will feel? Should I try to find a way to retire early so that I can write the books I think I want to write? Or can I squeeze more writing into my life now, even while I'm working? And, if I can, should I...?
As the author says near the end:
Which paths will you pursue, and which will you abandon? Which relationships will you prioritise, during your shockingly limited lifespan, and who will you resign yourself to disappointing? What matters?And if I do decide to write, and really dedicate myself to that, well, creative work demands a lot of time. Not necessarily productive time. Not necessarily efficient time. Patient time. Open-minded time. Slow time. Not watching the clock to even see what time it is.
“The best companies I visited, all through the years, were never very hurried,” DeMarco said. “Maybe they used pressure from time to time, as a sort of amusing side-effect. But it was never a constant. Because you don’t get creativity for free. You need people to be able to sit back, put their feet up, and think.” Manual work can be speeded up, at least to a certain extent, by increasing the time pressure on workers. But good ideas do not emerge more rapidly when people feel under the gun – if anything, the good ideas dry up.As you can see, that is a paradox really relevant to this class too: I hope you will enjoy doing creative work for this class, but under the pressure of time (so much schoolwork, so much work-work, so much real life going on!), that might not work out every week. I've tried to provide a lot of flexibility and slack so that the creativity can happen when it happens. It is going to be a good experiment for me to see how the storywriting goes because, like some of you, I'll be working full-time while I take this class. And if I find myself rushing to write a story because of limited time, I know it won't be my best story. But it will be something... and some creative moments in my week are better than none; I know for sure that is true, at least for me.
Basically, I don't want to be squeezed like this: OUCH! (Illustration by Peter Gamlen accompanying the article.) And right now anyway it is a lovely Saturday and school is about to start, so I'm definitely smiling. Everything seems possible at this moment! The squeeze has not yet begun (as this long blog post shows, ha ha).