Saturday, 28 January 2017

Getting my act together. Or not.

Two years ago, around this time, I wrote a post saying how bereft of ideas I was for writing. Two years on, I feel there's plenty to write about - not least the dire geopolitical drift of our time - but I just can't get round to it; it's a time (mis)management thing.

Among my New Year's resolutions was one to increase my productivity; I've signed up with ToDoist, and find that a useful tool for writing down my 'to-do' list and striking off the things I've done and adding what needs to be done, and getting an email alert each morning, reviewing the list, adding new tasks, striking off what's been completed.

Also for the New Year, I've upped my exercising (another big thank you to my on-line fitness guru from Australia, Michał Borzyskowski). Having now logged my daily health and fitness goals for what is now the fourth year in a row, my simple goal is to beat the targets set last year, in 2015 and 2014.

I've returned from five days in London, where distances between meetings slow down productivity; it's impossible to get more than three meetings into a working day when they're scattered all over this massive metropolis from Ealing to Stepney Green, from Marylebone to the Old Street roundabout and points in between. Plus the follow-up e-mails.

I'm not a lazy person, but I'm not a fast person either. Things take time. And what worries me is that they're taking longer than they used to...

Take yesterday for example

I'd set myself a target to leave home at 9am. Not an ambitious target, given that half of Poland is already at work at 8am. I find myself waking naturally just after 8am. It's a dark time of the year, and I'm catching up after a late arrival into Warsaw on Wednesday, and our Burns Night supper on Thursday. Can I get ready in 60 minutes?


Getting ready involves the following: exercising, coffee, showering/beard trim, getting dressed, breakfast, getting packed, putting on outdoor clothing and leaving home. Should not take long - and yet doing all this took me a full two hours yesterday.

Exercises: 90 sit-ups, 20 press-ups, six chin-ups on the bar; three sets of weights exercises (15 x lateral raises with 2kg weights, 15 x arm rotations clockwise/15 x anticlockwise with 1kg weights, 15 internal rotations). This takes time, especially the recovery between each set of weights. Around 20 minutes.

Coffee is a ritual in its own right; switch on the coffee machine, let it warm up; boil some water in kettle and warm coffee cup. Pile three teaspoons of ground coffee into machine, press it down and begin, watching the hot black liquid emerging into the cup (lots of noise as steam is forced through the grounds). Drinking the coffee is not something to be hurried. So I read The Economist, which spends all week in the kitchen, getting read from cover to cover. And with the coffee, an apple juice, pressed, not-from-concentrate stuff, mixed 50/50 with mineral water. So 15 minutes, easily.

Then into the bathroom, shower, get dressed... A further 20 minutes.

Breakfast: a large bowl of porridge. Recipe: one cup of oats (organic); two cups of water. Drop of olive oil in pan, pinch of salt, bring to boil, simmer for eight minutes, stirring. When nearly ready, add a splash of soya milk and stir in two heaped tablespoonfuls of ground walnuts. Serve with fresh fruit. Preparation and eating time: 25 minutes.

Getting all my stuff ready for the day in rucksack, devices, cables, food, clean shoes, getting dressed for the winter outdoors: 10 minutes.

Tot that up, an hour and half. So why did it take me a full two hours to get ready and leave the house? General bumbling around from one activity to the next. Not rushing, taking it easy. Rush is bad. Things get overlooked, blood pressure and heart rate rise. Take it easy. Do it slowly, but do it.

One thing - do not waste time on the smartphone or laptop before leaving home. It's a real time killer. There are just four things to check: calendar - to what meetings are arranged, ToDoist, to see what tasks need to be done today (Eisenhower Matrix - focus on the Important and the Urgent), check the weather to see how to dress for outdoors, and check bus/train times for delays etc. Unless I'm planning to work from home, I wait until I'm in the bus before opening my overnight emails or checking the news on Twitter. Seamless mobile internet means public transport is the better option for productivity than the car or bicycle.

Wake up earlier? At this time of year - difficult. I'm a firm believer in sleeping naturally, untroubled by the alarm clock. Yes, there are days when you have to make an early start - a 03:45 alarm to leave home for a six am flight or train, or when that 9am office meeting just cannot be avoided. In summer, I sleep less, waking up with the day. In winter, those early starts are, I think, unnatural and unhealthy. Go to sleep earlier? But then that would cut out creative time in the evening.

A worry. Am I simply getting slower as I get older? I must say, I do feel a vague, nagging dissatisfaction with my ability to get things done effectively. Should I worry? Feel guilty?

There are many things to juggle. Health is the priority, then comes creativity. But what's the point of a long, healthy life if I'm not creating, doing, working?

Time to get moving on.

This time last year:
The Polish Individualist

This time three years ago:
The Holocaust and the banality of evil

This time four years ago:
Snow scene into the sun

This time five years ago:
More winter gorgeousness

This time six years ago:
New winter wear - my M65 Parka

This time seven years ago:
Winter and broken-down trains

This time eight years ago:
General Mud claims ul. Poloneza

This time nine years ago:
Just when I thought winter was over...


Ian Wilcock said...

Is it not also the case that when you need to be at the airport/office for a 6 am flight/9 am meeting you are there however when there are no time constraints you are confident enough to take your time. I think I have learnt that being in the office at 8 am does not mean you were the most productive in the company and so manage my time to be the most effective where ever I am.

Michael Dembinski said...

@ Ian Wilcock

Yes, Ian, there's a lot of truth in that. There's nothing like a 'must-meet' deadline to focus the mind.

Still, I made a start by identifying the problem.

On Sunday I made a dry run. No deadline. The goal - to beat 2hrs from bed to front gate. Exercise - breakfast - shower - get ready... Go! Done it. 1hr 31mins. Great! Nearly half an hour saved.

This morning (Monday) I went one step further. With a 9am deadline at work, I woke at 6:15 and was out of the door at 7:34 - 1hr 19mins, with everything done.

So it is possible - just a question of setting goals and measuring performance.

Ian Wilcock said...

1 hour 19 minutes including excercise is pretty impressive, it will be difficult to trim anything off that. I have yet to master the morning excercise regime which frees up so much of the day.