Tempering Efficiency

by Dan Walsh

Forgotten lessons amidst chaos.

The hunt for a new apartment continues. The search occupies my mind and makes it difficult to focus or even care about any of my other projects. Solving this problem is so fundamental to my immediate existence that it is all-consuming. Now, more than ever, I need to manage my stress and time or January will be a forgotten month. My normal routines for handling high-volume workloads died off when this new chaos appeared. I need to bring them back. Hopefully documenting them below will be enough voodoo ritual for a resurrection. This resurrection effort might also reveal new methods for tempering my methods and projects.

Scheduling, Planning, and Notes

I have been delinquent in my 2014 scheduling and planning. I have a mountain of projects but I haven’t put any of them on my calendar yet. I currently keep track of my lack of progress in my head, which exacerbates cognitive overload. I need to externalize this score-keeping onto my calendar and free up some mental bandwidth.

One of the best ways I’ve found to reclaim lost time is to leave notes on where I left off on projects. This way when I come back I know exactly what the next steps are without having to run through a mental checklist for 10 minutes. I haven’t been taking good notes lately, which is especially wasteful with the amount of chaos I’m currently dealing with. It’s especially hard to leave organized notes for oneself when running around in multiple directions, but that’s precisely when good notes are most valuable.

Pacing

Because I haven’t scheduled time to execute, my projects are entering cram mode. This is when everything builds up until the last minute and I have to do a marathon session to finish by deadline. This leads to shoddy work and too much stress. It’s ineffective and inefficient.

Double Up Time

I don’t believe in multitasking, but I do believe in using time effectively. If my coffee takes about 5 minutes to brew, then that’s enough time to hop in the shower. By the time I towel off it will be ready to drink. Both are somewhat passive activities that can happen at the same time without detracting from each other. Adequate scheduling and planning should help reveal more situations like this for me. For instance, I can mentally compose writing assignments during my morning run so that I can post them faster when I get back to my computer. I may also need to reschedule other current endeavors to most effectively utilize my time.

Tools

This is a new one for me. As my project-load has increased I’ve become more dependent on tools that help me perform repetitive ¬†or time wasting actions. Finally setting up a password manager for the myriad of my sites has saved a surprising amount of time and stress than I thought it would. Streak for Gmail has also helped streamline my inbox usage. As I look for apartments I can cut out my time spent cruising for listings by setting up alerts and create an email template to send to prospective landlords instead of writing a new one each time. None of these are new or mind-blowing ideas, but they all help.

Decision Discipline

I only have enough decision making power every day before my brain gets fatigued. I need to eliminate wasteful decisions by setting the correct course of action ahead of time, and sticking with the plan. When my alarm goes off in the morning, I need to automatically get out of bed, slip into my workout clothes, and go for a run. No debates. I need to carry this discipline through to other actions throughout the day.

Guard my Emotions

Some problems are worth caring about, most aren’t. I need to step back from some problems and create emotional detachment. I can’t care 100% about everything, and trying to do so just wears me out.

Workout

Working out is one of my cardinal methods for managing stress and being more effective. My routines have suffered lately. I don’t know where we will live so I can’t in good conscience renew my gym membership. Losing my weight room, pool, and sauna has eliminated my lifting, swimming, and meditation routines. All of these were calming and focused me. I feel their absence. Running in the morning has helped, but this is a new habit that hasn’t solidified yet. It’s hit or miss.

No Expectations, No Pressure

Most of my projects for the year were measured by effort. I didn’t want to reach some higher echelon or great achievement, I simply wanted to maintain consistent execution. This was meant to alleviate pressure in many ways, but the pressure has begun to build as I fall further and further behind. I feel the need to “catch up” on missed days. This extra pressure makes everything slower. I vicious cycle is beginning to manifest.

After writing these out, I realize how interconnected they all are. I don’t know where to begin. But perhaps like all good gordian knots the solution is a sword.