Monday, January 04, 2010

A New Year's Challenge

Everyone knows that New Year's resolutions don't work. That is often because they are formulated as vague goals (e.g., "lose weight", "quit smoking") rather than well-defined programs (e.g., "meet J. on Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings at 6:15 to go for a jog"). We can only resolve to do something, not to successfully achieve our goals. With that in mind, let me restate my standing 16-week writing challenge.

There are eight weeks from the first of February until the Easter break. There are then another eight weeks til the end of May. 16 weeks of 5 working days each is 80 days. If you imagine writing for three hours a day, that gives you 240 hours. Let that be the maximum limit.

Now, look in your calendar from February 1 to May 29. Block out the Easter and May holidays. Resolve to write every remaining weekday for at least 30 minutes and at most 3 hours. Book these sessions into your calendar. In an ideal world you would book 80 three-hour sessions (from 9:00 til noon). But you'll probably have to settle for about 75 sessions, many of which will only last 30 minutes. It all depends on your time (and, to an extent, your resolve).

How many hours of writing time does that give you? How much do you realistically think you can accomplish in that time? Set some writing goals on that basis. Then break those goals up into smaller tasks ("things to do") and assign those tasks time in your calendar. Like I say, try to be realistic.

Here's the challenge: write always and only when your calendar tells you to. Don't write when "inspired" to do so (unless this coincides with your writing schedule) and do everything possible to keep your appointments with yourself (the writer). I'll write a post soon about how to deal with fits of inspiration.

Use January to make this plan and think about what you want to get written before summer. Then resolve only to stick to your plan. Happy New Year!


Charlie Bravo said...

I'll take the challenge! Looking forward to your tips on how to deal with inspirational fits (hope it entails pocket size notebooks as I've just stocked up on that for next semester).

Presskorn said...

Second Langauge always pretends to be concerned with the partitioning of time, but it sometimes strikes me as being more concerned with an injunction to do (a connection perhaps already vaguely indicated by the nice post

In any case, your stuff about New Year’s resolutions reminded me of my favorite aphorism by everyone’s favourite fictional doctor, namely Dr. House, which disregarding its apparent disregard for time says something which strikes me as quite in the “sprit” of Second Language:

Eve: Time changes everything.
Dr. Gregory House: That's what people say, it's not true. Doing things changes things. Not doing things leaves things exactly as they were.

Tentatively, we might say: Time is merely the form of doing.

Thomas said...

Yes, Charlie, a notebook is the key. I'll have the post up this morning.

Presskorn: you've nailed it. In fact, while transcendental time is the form of all doing, we might say that, immanently, doing is the form (of empirical) time. That may be a bit off, but I'm trying to distinguish, say, historical time from work-a-day "being-on-time".

Bergson said that time is just what keeps everything from happening all at once. And you are right that the most constructive approach to "time management" is "task management", not simply carving up your day into sessions. Planning is what keeps you from having to do everything all once.

Thomas said...

I meant tomorrow morning.