on productivity

I used to be a really busy person.  In high school I took all the AP classes, was active in my church, and spent 15-30 hours per week at the dance studio.  In college I spent 30-40 hours per week (sometimes more) at the dance studio as I pursued my BFA while still taking English courses as I simultaneously pursued my BA.  I graduated with both in just 4.5 years, coordinated a major arts benefit during my junior and senior years, and had a relatively active social life.  None of this is particularly groundbreaking, lots of people are busy in high school and college, but I also graduated from both institutions with a 4.0 GPA, which for me considerably upped the busy-ness.  When The Guns and I started dating he was shocked to see my calendar that I filled with colored boxes that represented every class, rehearsal, commitment, and activity.  There was very little white space between the hours of 9AM and 10PM on most weekdays.

I don’t point this out to say how awesome I was or how I had it harder than anyone else. I point this out to say that I am the world’s biggest slacker post-college and now, at least in comparison to how I spent my time from the ages of 10-22.  Ever since I graduated, even when I was working 6 part-time jobs, I had a HIGH value of free time (ie, time to watch tv, relax with The Guns, eat junk food, surf the internet, and generally do nothing).  I don’t know what it was… was it because I was burnt out from an over-scheduled life from the previous 10+ years?  Was it because I left the highly structured world of “work hard, follow degree plan, and graduate with important paper?”  I don’t know.  But I’m trying to change little things about my post-college free time habits.

You won’t see me giving up television or over-scheduling myself again… While I loved parts of high school and all of college, I don’t miss that overflowing calendar. At least not right now.  And although I thrive on a school/work related regimen, I can’t see myself following a self-prescribed routine outside of my work life (there I follow a very strict schedule of when I complete tasks, when I arrive, what order I do tasks in… I’m very type A in that way.) because I enjoy spontaneity and taking time to rest now (this is something I learned from The Guns, I think).  I know some people enjoy scheduling out their entire day, and sticking to a routine, but I just don’t.  Unfortunately for me, though, when I don’t have some sort of schedule, I tend to just do nothing.  And sometimes that’s ok.  But all the time… that can lead to… well nothing.  Or self-loathing at the very worst.

And the truth is, even though I work every single day and expend a LOT of energy at my job (which I love, in case you didn’t know) I do have most of my evenings on the ship free.  Which equals about 20 hours of my waking hours where I could be doing something, but sometimes I just watch Julie & Julia for the 15th time (I will never tire of this movie).  So here are some things I’ve been trying to do lately, so that I don’t just do nothing:

  • 30-45 minutes at the gym, or stretching in my room
  • 30-45 minutes reading
  • 30-45 minutes (or more) writing for the blog, or just for personal reasons
  • watch a news show, and try to develop an opinion.  Make a note if I need to research something later
  • go out for a social activity
  • pray and/or meditate on scripture/spiritual song for an extended period of time
  • write out/develop ideas for future creative projects or endeavors
  • write e-mails and other correspondence

I don’t try to do all of that every single day. But between the hours of 7 and 10 PM (when I’m on the ship, if we’re in port at night, and I’m out, then I’m either taking advantage of my access to travel or I’m being social, which are high on my list right now) I need to do at least one of those things.  And to be honest, that’s really easy, and usually leads to me doing more than just one of those things, or spending more than the allotted time doing one of those things.  Whereas if I just plop down and watch tv, then I’m going to be stuck there for 3 hours, doing nothing.

There are a few other guidelines that I follow…

  • If I spend any more than 60 minutes of my 7-10PM time catching up on work-related things (which rarely happens) then I can be lazy that night and do whatever I want
  • It’s not that I can’t watch television (anyone who knows me, knows I won’t stop doing that… I’m oddly passionate about television. Make what you’d like of that), but I can’t JUST do that.  I need to do something else (stretch, blog, write e-mails, etc.) while I’m watching, so that I can complete at least one of the things listed above.
  • If I’m just dead on my feet one night and can’t fathom the idea of being productive, I will occasionally allow myself to just have an off-night where I have no requirements of myself.  But if at all possible I should try to spend at least some time doing tedious/mindless tasks (ie, reorganizing photos and other digital files, e-mail inbox clean up, laundry, etc.)
  • Whatever I’m doing, I will stop the second The Guns comes home from his evening shift, because relationships > productivity.

I haven’t been doing this for very long, but so far it’s working. And I feel much less like a slug than I have in the past.

So what do you think?  Do you have a similar structure set up for yourself?  Or are you way less lazy than me and this isn’t so hard for you?  Let me know if you’d like to join me!

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2 thoughts on “on productivity

  1. I was the same way in high school. Insanely scheduled, all the time.

    College was a little more lazy, but not by much.

    After-college was back to insane. Work? Insane.

    I’m trying to find that balance. I’m always going either ZERO or 60. Nothing inbetween and I need to find a way to be productive without going crazy. My worklife is so nuts, that I tend to let things at home falter. For instance, I worked 19 hours on Friday. Then, I did mostly nothing on Saturday and Sunday.

    Like I said, I need to find a balance.

  2. I don’t know, Jess, I actually think that’s a fair balance… 19 hours of work and then 48 hours of rest, especially if the rest of the week was crazy too! That being said, I think I can’t continue with my “balance’ from work to vacation either! I am always tempted to spend my 6 week vacations doing NOTHING because “I just worked for 110 days with no days off, I can be lazy for 40 days” BUT if this is my life for the next year or so… well, I guess that’s not the best plan either! We’ll both find a balance, and part of that balance (I think) is knowing when it IS ok to take a day (or 2) to do nothing.

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