Friday, June 06, 2008

Time after time

In a comment on the last post but one, someone has lamented that she (I think it was a woman) can't organise her time better, a problem I am all too familiar with. If it hadn't made me feel like such a hypocrite, since I can manage only occasionally to follow this advice myself, I would have offered her two strategies for time management that I've learned, both from blokes, that do actually work.

1) With certain tasks you don't ever feel like doing -- housework, say -- a bloke I know, let's call him X, swears by what he calls 'fifteen-minute modules'. It's quite astonishing how much tidying up you can do in fifteen minutes, and a module as small as that means you can stop before you actually die of boredom.

2) Quantify the tasks, not by time but by units of work, and mix up the quantifications so it doesn't get boring. Another bloke I know, name of Y, is an academic. On a weekend day at home, he'll say to himself 'Right: this afternoon I'm going to mark five essays, and then I'll read two chapters of that Susan Faludi book, and then I'll prune the three rosebushes down the side fence and then I'll file one of those piles of administrative bumf over there and then I'll do two loads of washing.' He always finishes everything. In time.

If neither of these work, you might like to investigate the concept of Bergsonian duration. (If you can manage this, you'll probably find Stephen Hawking's A Brief History of Time no more than a little light reading as well; personally I gave up on page 6.) Thinking about what Deleuze, Bachelard, Heidegger and Merleau-Ponty thought about Bergson lends a little dignity to cleaning the toilet, even when you know that's five minutes of your life you'll never get back.

(In reading that link about Bergson the most striking thing to me is the huge gap between the complexities of some people's thought and the humbling relentlessness of their physical lives, something that's always haunted me about Virginia Woolf. The passage that leaps out of that article at me isn't in any of the tortuously complex philosophical stuff but in the introductory biographical section: of Bergson's death in German-occupied France in 1941, the article says 'In any case, the Vichy Government offered Bergson exemptions from anti-Semitic regulations, but he refused. It is also rumored that he contracted the cold that killed him while waiting in line to register as a Jew.')

11 comments:

innercitygarden said...

I suspect my problem is not a lack of time management skill, but a huge shortage of motivation. I think deep deep down I believe that if I leave the task it will either go away or get done by magic (or someone else). My partner clearly believes the same thing but it works better for him because I cave more quickly.

When faced with very boring things I tend to turn my alarm clock on, and I'm not allowed to stop work on the Boring Task until the alarm goes off. It's important to keep the units of time reasonable though, otherwise you'll wet your pants (or declare the whole idea stupid).

Lunar Brogue said...

My problem is commitment. Once I'm in with the demouldification of the surfaces above my bedhead (for example), all's fine. I'm as industrious and goal-oriented as the next home cleaner. It's the hours, days, sometimes weeks, of anxious contemplation involving questions such as "I could live with chronic asthma, couldn't I?", "what IS mould anyway?" and "oh dear, am I sliding into a dark Charybdis of irresponsibility, personal neglect and indolence?" that make the simple act of acting seem so difficult.

bernice said...

well that's 37 seconds I wont get back...

Bernice said...

The previous remark relates to my feeble attempt to read the Bergson article, as per Ms Cat's effort re Hawking, and not to Ms Cat's blogpost. A case of virtual temporal dislocation.

Ron C. de Weijze said...

Bergson's concept of duration is not a time-management idea but one of cleaning up the mind. We are too caught up in our preconceptions, prejudices etc. The intuition of duration is to really be in-the-moment, immediately recollect whatever the situation calls for and improve the quality of your life.

Pavlov's Cat said...

Yes indeed, Ron, and that was why I was recommending it (to those who had the endurance for it) -- that, and as a general indication of how complex these things can be. Rest assured that I was not mistaking a bit of complex and seminal 20thC philosophy for a Ladies' Corner Handy Hint.

Anonymous said...

Maybe this idea about housework is a bloke thing, 'cos that's pretty much the way I work it: pound away for about 15 minutes on repetitive and boring tasks like cleaning the bathroom and then give myself a reward by going off to read yet more weblogs, or another chapter of the current book, or ten minutes of the footy on tv.

Trouble is, I can't seem to apply this same principle to such tasks as doing my tax.

Perry Middlemiss

Stewart said...

I'm hopeless about putting off boring/unpleasant tasks, and I'm sure that I too would remember that personal detail you mentioned about Bergson, much more than his phiolosophical musings. My wonder is how are these things related, in the cosmic bureaucracy?

The fifteen-minute thing is a good start, i agree.

Ron C. de Weijze said...

Steward, "how are these things related"

When we get closer to war, like during a Vichy regime, the intensity of reality increases, in Bergson's words, the intuition of duration.

Mindy said...

I think it was you,PC, who passed on the thing about never leaving a room with your hands empty if you can take something and put it back in it's place. Very useful advice which also helps with the cleaning.

Pavlov's Cat said...

Yep, I got that quite recently from my dear friend D and have been doing it myself ever since. It makes an astonishing difference.