Unstructured Time

Today’s post comes from Barbara in Robbinsdale

The plan was to finish going through my file cabinet today – we’ve been in the deep freeze here in Minneapolis, and happily there is nothing on the calendar except maybe calling my sister, and chorus tonight. So I figured it’s a great time to complete that project and hopefully write a blog post.

It is now 2:08, and I haven’t gone anywhere near the filing project. Here’s what happened – knowing I have the whole day at home, everything I’ve done today led to something else that needed doing… you know, those tiny one- or five-minute tasks that can be done ANYTIME. As I was making pancakes, I used up the non-gluten flour mix, so went ahead and made more. At the computer I cleaned up the email folder and finished some replies that had been waiting to be done. Saw that some small shelves needed to trade places (it’s not a fun day at home without re-arranging furniture!), and that always involves some cleaning. While doing that I came upon the lost earring I was going to fix for my mom… You get the picture. This is what’s DANGEROUS about a full day at home – it feels like there is infinite time, but the time taken by all these little tasks adds up. Suddenly the day is gone and you’ve done nothing you’d planned to do.

Burger is thawing for supper, there’s a load of clothes in the washer, and I’ve returned two phone calls. Having written this much of a blog post, I think I can now see where I left off last time I tried purging files. Maybe I’ll even get to read the Sunday paper before choral rehearsal.

How do you get back on task when you’ve been distracted?

44 thoughts on “Unstructured Time”

  1. My mother always said a big project to do is a blessing. Set your sights on it firmly. Then you will be sure to do all those pesky little annoying tasks you somehow never get to.

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    1. i am all about that today. i have three projevts all coming due right now and i didnt really need the sleep anyway so the pesky little things are my checklist on route to the top of the mountain. trello is my new best friend as a task master. i am really impressed with getting stuff checked off lists these days

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  2. ive never been able to get back on track once ive gone astray. it is my number one challange.
    someone told me once important things always get done and urgent things are what pop up while you are trying to get important things done.
    i had doug
    doug was the right hand man i hired 20 years ago who was very comfortable getting done what needed to be done. he would show up at 901 sit down and get to work and at 459 he would close his computer and go home.
    as my life took a left turn and the sales to menards and mills fleet farm went by the wayside it became obvious that the next step was going to be new and unfamiliar. i took it and showed doug what needed to be done to get there.
    he did most of the leg work because i am the idea guy who meets and networks and trys to get a handle on how to go but….. if it doesnt go right the first time it needs to be redone.
    20 years ago when i hired doug he was a kid straight out of school and a puppy dog who could figure out anything and i loved his ability to do what was asked in a way that worked until we got it.
    as we turned the corner on the new life and started down uncharted paths he did that but….his wife started questioning how long he was going to play second fiddle for less than he was worth and wen was he going to quit and get on to plan b
    he couldnt explain all the plan b efforts going on and after a vailient fight i believe he has given in to popular demand at home and packed it up.
    a year ago he started having health issues that he needed to go to the doctor for and a day or two a week was not unusual. then he started working form home because to come all the way in to work was just taking away from his available work time but….. not too much was getting done. so in november as we had 3 things on our magic it list to get done before the corner was turned he went home and stopped answering emails texts and voice mails.
    doug is a special person. very capable but when he gets sick he pulls the covers up over his head and wallows in the misery. he doesnt call in sick and its just plain odd but a true fact so i asked him nicely of the end was imminent and was he bailing and he asked for patience and understanding. today i have written him off and need to figure out a plan to get on with my life without him even though he holds the keys to the castle in many respects.
    the answer to how do you figure out how to stay on track is not hire someone to do it for you, its hire two people to do it for you so when one goes south there is another available to pick it up.
    onward and upward is the motto around here.

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    1. Our company fell apart because we were always doing big projects with people of different personalities, styles, and skill sets, which was good for doing our projects right. But our doug was pure concrete-sequential and grew to dislike my work style and plain out hated me. He was’t the one who screwed me over but he was the bug in the ear of the guy who did.

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      1. doug was fine wen he was coming in to work bt as soon as he started to work form home where i could not remind him of the big pictuere and the goals to be reached for he fell into the cancer of his homefornt.
        i really like im and his family and it is too bad but i realize i have been waiting for years for his overdrive to kick in and thought that when we got there hed be ok. truth is without his being ok we cant get there in the current scenario

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  3. Unlike my mother and more like the opposite parent, I hate big projects hanging over me. If I can, I divide it into small bits and do a bit each day, setting short goals and making sure I meet them each day, often making myself a Gantt chart (I forget, is that how you spell it?). Not looking at the end but working there is the secret for me.That’s how I did my novels and now third book. Amazing how in 6 months I can have 350 pages of decent text.
    If I cannot divide it, I take a big breath and plunge in, preferably in an isolated place. I am a true concrete-random. I have trouble getting started, but once I do, I am on it. Near the finish it is lethal to distract me. So I just start somewhere. I have learned to accept false starts as part of it. The false starts piss me off and get me going.
    I learned all this as a publisher/technical writer/project manager.

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    1. Kate DiCamillo, who has written several children’s books, at least one of which won the Newbery Medal, writes two pages a day. She started doing this years ago, when she was working in a warehouse and one of her coworkers teased her about it. You write two pages a day? Where’s that going to get you? etc. etc. Well, it got her to the point where she no longer had to have a warehouse job and it got her the Newbery Medal.

      All this to say, doing a little bit every day on a big project can definitely get the project accomplished.

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      1. Actually, I prefer chunks of time, too. I would rather work on a big project and go all out until it’s finished than chip away at it bit by bit. However, I’m trying to make peace with the fact that that is often just not possible. For one thing, there’s the daily stuff of living that can’t be neglected (at least not for long) and for another thing, some projects are just too big to get done all in one shot (even one shot over several days/weeks).

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        1. One of the things I’ve discovered about myself is that I always over-estimate how long a project that I don’t like will take. It is pretty usual that when I finally get around to doing something that’s been hanging over my head I say “that didn’t take nearly as long as I thought it would”.

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  4. I do those things I very much need to do at least most of the time. There are a lot of other things I think I should do that take me a long time to do or I never do them. I will never get all of the things done that I think I should complete. I do try to proceed with my work in a somewhat orderly manner. I hope I am slowly getting a little better at planning out what I should do and when I should do it.

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  5. One last comment and then I am downstairs to see to Sandy.
    I keep asking why I am writing, to which there are many answers. But I know it keeps my mind young, or from getting old, Research is saying such is true for people my age. The process of reworking my work is the key, the puzzle of finding the best word, best structure, what to leave in, what to leave out makes my mind work in ways the research says is good for me. I am still writing, doing it with pen right now.
    Health report: Sandy is on a new drug for her most disabling problem, not her lupus, but that does shows more and more. The drug is giving us good signs for its first three days. Hoping.
    As for me, a Cub check-out person rushed out of that little hole in which they stand without looking and stepped between my legs as I was going to bag the groceries. I went down. I wrenched my neck, back, hip, and knee on my right side. My hip is not recovering.

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    1. sorry clyde. its tough enough looking after yourself . when you need to watch out for the other folks out there that will affect without thinking or having a consequence it is hard. i think about this with people whose children die because of drunken drivers or soldiers who die or are disabled because of an idiot sargent or general. i am thinking the insurance company at cub needs to compensate you. i have a lawyer who will help you no charge if you are interested. he is a friend and he is great. he will ask if there are witness or if a claim was noted filed etc.
      dont let it pass un responsively

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  6. I used to work for the most awful boss imaginable. He was lazy, deceitful and inconsistent. He’d give me a task, then change his mind and give me another that was more important. He’d become obsessed with a task, but by the time I finished it he was already thinking of something else. He was generous with criticism but tight with praise, and he was terrible about compensation.

    My boss (and you’ve figured this out already, haven’t you?) was myself. The worst person I ever worked for! And I was stuck with him for 18 years.

    All I can say is that after all those years I began to figure the SOB out. He’d say one thing while actually meaning something else, but I got good at decoding his mixed signals. After all, I had one big thing going for me. As much as he would have liked to, he couldn’t replace me.

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    1. Speaking of bosses…
      I have a work study this semester. Great young lady, very interested in theater and dance and she’s majoring in math and she’s fun to work with and just all around great.
      But she hasn’t done much theater and so I’m teaching a lot and she’s learning a lot and it will be fine (although she’s stressing out over her economics class).
      Last semester I had a kid around who just wanted to help. And while he knows how to do a lot of stuff, he didn’t know everything, he just thought he did. And he could do whatever job I asked, just not always the right way or the way it needed to be done (for whatever particular reason). And I think about these two people and why I asked her to be my work study and not him and realized I am better at ‘teaching’ someone than I am at keeping them actively busy with projects.
      Not that that’s good or bad, it’s just different I think.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Morning all. Like tim, I am NOT good at getting myself back on track if I get off, although I know myself well enough to know that if I’m off track it’s because I don’t really want to deal w/ the project I’m ignoring. I try to tell myself that the sooner I start, the sooner I will be done. Sometimes this helps, but most of the time in these casese I have to admit that a looming deadline is the most effective for me.

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  8. A friend coined the word (I think she coined it) – procrastitask for the little things you do to avoid doing the big thing.
    At least you are getting SOMETHING done as opposed to bouncing between FB, the Trail, email and various Youtube wonders.
    Being retired leads to having huge chunks of time that can be frittered amazingly well.
    This afternoon, I’m going to Second Harvest Heartland to do some sort of food organizing and/or packing. There’s no doubt it will be productive.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. In a kind of funny turn, yesterday I ramped up working on a big project here in my cube that doesn’t really have a looming deadline and that I’ve been dinking around with for months. A little intense…

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  9. Afternoon.

    I love starting new projects; it’s all shiny and new and exciting!
    And then as it goes on it gets dull and boring and there are too many details to deal with and my enthusiasm kinda drifts….. off…. to Ooh! New shiny thing over here!
    My wife is not a fan… and I’m sorry about that.
    It’s hard to get through that middle point. As the finish line approaches it gets exciting again… it’s just hard to push through the middle.

    Liked by 3 people

  10. I am very good at procrasti – tasking. It does lead to lots of little projects getting done. As to big projects – a looming deadline usually makes me very efficient unless…..squirrel!!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Husband and I are doing a duo presentation on Family Therapy next month. He is a slow and steady guy. I am last minute bombast person. I will try to get some work done this weekend so I am not so last minute.

    Liked by 1 person

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