#17 – NOW is already THEN?

In previous posts, I’ve discussed the concept of time from a few perspectives.

Time is our most valuable resource. It cannot be stored or hoarded.

Each day has 1,440 minutes. Time is there until it isn’t.

What if time is not actually what it seems? What if now has already passed?

According to David Eagleman, we are actually experiencing the past during the present.

arnold

Stay with me.

Eagleman is a neuroscientist, New York Times best-selling author and host of the PBS show, The Brain. Some of his research focuses on how the brain balances and processes the barrage of information from all of our sensory inputs. According to his research, the brain pieces together data, compensating for delays, and creates our unified perception of the world.

From Eagleman’s article, Time and the Brain:

“Try it: snap your fingers in front of you. Although your auditory and visual systems process information about the snap at different speeds, the sight of your fingers and the sound of the snap appear simultaneous. Your brain is employing some fancy editing tricks to make simultaneous events in the world seem simultaneous to you, even when the different sensory modes processing the information would individually swear otherwise.”

So, if the present is actually the past, does it change the view of your 1440?

I pose this question not to induce anxiety, but only to create awareness.

If you read post #13 , you’ll recall that can’t is a bad word in my house. Another word that carries similar favor is multitasking. Multitasking is the story we tell ourselves when we can’t focus on the deeper task. When you attempt multitasking, you are actually decreasing productivity and increasing stress.

Don’t believe me?

Try these exercises from the author of the book, The Myth of Multitasking.

Exercise A

Step #1 – Start a timer

Step #2 – Write the sentence “Switch Tasking is a Thief”

Step #3 – On the line below it, write the numbers “123456789101112131415161718192021”

Step #4 – Record your time

Exercise B

Step #1 – Start a timer

Step #2 – Write the same sentence and line of numbers with one exception. Every time you write a letter for the sentence, write one number in the line below. Continue until you are finished with the sentence and compare your times.

IE.

Swit ….
1234 ….

Gilby’s Scorecard:

Exercise A: 21 seconds

Exercise B: 49 seconds

Every time we jump from one task to another, we experience something called attention residue (concept developed by Sophie Leroy). Attention residue is the carryover from the unfinished task to the new task. Even the shortest distractions can significantly decrease productivity, and the time to regain focus can be 20-30 minutes.

We’ve all done it …

Conference call + text conversation + email response + a quick peek at twitter.

Hell, I was in a meeting a few months ago and the project manager running the meeting was actually participating in another conference call.

No shit.

Ok, so we are better off focusing intently on a single task until that task is complete.

My name is Jeremy, and I am a recovering MuLtItAsKeR.

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I remember getting my first Blackberry.

Easy with the jokes, youngsters.

I was psyched to have a tool that would let me stay on top of my email. With the introduction of this kind of technology, the work force became less patient and prioritized immediate responses. Managing chaos became a measurement of your worth in the business world.

What if you look at it this way?

Email is technology that allows someone else to add an item to your to do list. If you check your email every 90 seconds, that is giving someone real-time access to your productivity.

Email poses as productive work, but in reality it is a distraction in disguise.

Why in the world would you constantly check your email?

in·fo·ma·ni·a

/ˌinfōˈmānēə/

noun, informal.

the compulsive desire to check or accumulate news and information, typically via mobile phone or computer.

Holy shit. There is actually a named condition for it.

On being busy …

It’s funny how close the words busy and business appear visually.

Maybe business is the art of being busy?

“Lack of time is lack of priorities. If I’m busy, it is because I’ve made choices that put me in that position, so I’ve forbidden myself to reply to “How are you?” with “Busy”. I have no right to complain. Instead if I’m too busy, it’s a cue to reexamine my systems and rules.”

Tim Ferriss (New York Times best selling author, Human Guinea Pig)

Side note: If you haven’t picked up Tools of Titans by Tim Ferriss yet, do yourself a favor. This book is an amazing choose your own adventure collection of tools, systems and tactics from some of the world’s most amazing people.

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One of my biggest challenges is prioritizing my schedule and holding large chunks of time sacred for deep work.

Deep work? What is that?

“Deep work is the ability to focus without distraction on a cognitively demanding task. It’s a skill that allows you to quickly master complicated information and produce better results in less time. Deep work will make you better at what you do and provide the sense of true fulfillment that comes from craftsmanship. In short, deep work is like a super power in our increasingly competitive twenty-first century economy. And yet, most people have lost the ability to go deep—spending their days instead in a frantic blur of e-mail and social media, not even realizing there’s a better way.”Cal Newport (Professor of Computer Science – Georgetown, Author)

Sadly, I’m still guilty of refreshing my email during points of the day. Apparently, I am still trying to shake a nasty case of infomania. My prognosis looks promising, though.

Let’s look at one of my latest experiments in making the most of my 1,440.

Paul Graham is a programmer, entrepreneur and one of the founders of Y Combinator (YC). YC is a start-up incubator that spawned many successful companies including Dropbox and AirBNB.

In a July 2009 blog post, Paul wrote about a dichotomy that affects nearly all humans.

Simply put, there are two types of personalities related to time management:

MAKERS

maker-bax

Athens, GA  guitar maker, Scott Baxendale is one of my favorite makers. He crafted a beautiful custom mandocello for me a few years ago.

Makers spend time in deep work. Large chunks of time are spent making guitars, developing code for an app, writing a song for a TV show, writing an article for a company blog, writing a screenplay, developing a detailed technical deliverable, writing a book, designing a building or conducting research.

MANAGERS

welch

Managers spend their time in hour long blocks, usually in meetings. They meet with leadership teams, boards, investors, research & development teams, operational teams, new business prospects, and networking contacts.

Great. So what if you are a little of both?

Throughout the day, I bounce between various states of manager and maker. My current experiment is to flip the idea of a to-do list around a bit. I’ve been a to-do list junkie for years, but all it ever did was grow larger. I always found myself in a blur at the end of the day questioning what I actually accomplished. Now, at the end of every day, I write down three tasks that, if completed, my day would be a win. These tasks usually require more time and are focused on deep work.

Unless you are independently wealthy, you usually can’t make anything unless you’ve found someone to make it for, which requires some manager time. Confused yet?

Once I’ve committed to my three maker tasks, I fill in the remaining time with my manager tasks. Maker tasks get the MK tag. Manager tasks get the MG tag.

Both are critical factors in accomplishing my goals.

While I’m still early in the experiment, planning my day with the MK and MG tags has helped me stay focused, reduce anxiety and increase my productivity tremendously. Batch processing email and limiting social media time have also been valuable.

Another tool that I’ve been testing is Rescue Time. It tracks your connected journey during the day on your devices, and it tells you where you spend your time.

If you remember #14, I shared my story of a failed optimization experiment. Optimization and hacking need to be balanced with breathing and being. A simple investment in one can even make room for the other.

Back to the space time continuum and flux capacitors …

NOW is already THEN.

The PRESENT is actually the PAST.

80ms deficit to be precise.

great-scott

Don’t stress over it.

Let it be a gentle reminder to make time for things that bring you joy and happiness.

What have I learned?

– Making the most of Your 1440 shouldn’t create anxiety.
– Productive does not mean busy.
– Multitasking is a joke.
– Making and managing have different requirements.
– Allocating time for both is essential.

As always, I would love your thoughts and comments below.

Thanks for reading!

JG

Links

The Brain With David Eagleman

Sophie Leroy and Attention Residue

The Myth of Multitasking Test

Paul Graham’s Maker Schedule

How the Brain Creates Reality (Eagleman – PBS)

Cal Newport’s Books

Check out Scott Baxendale Guitars

Y Combinator

7 thoughts on “#17 – NOW is already THEN?

  1. Can’t help but love you. I’m a list maker too & try to do something on my list every day. Hope you are planning to publish these post🤔🤔🤔

  2. Good read, as usual! I too have reduced my to-do list. I can usually get those things done which allows me to have more time for deep thoughts! Thanks so much! Love you♥

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