Protect Your Time

The best advice I got recently was: “Protect your time.”

It came to me from a man speaking quietly, thoughtfully, not looking at me, simply advising me. I heard it and cringed. There was no time to protect my time. We were too busy.

I’d lost my way.

Days later, I’ve re-listened to those words and heard them better.

 

Check, Show, and Do

I live in a world of technology. We all do, but mine’s a bit deeper than yours, probably. I’m often drowning in the stuff.

When technology started, it was simpler and deeper. Now there’s a statement that’ll probably get me flamed.

But things changed over the years. Early on, it was about discovering magic and creating social movement around a new way of doing things.

Oh, but I guess that’s still the same.

Still, something seems different. It seems like there must have been a time when you could sink deep into a technical problem without simply drowning in stuff that really isn’t very important.

But that’s probably not true. It’s nice, sometimes, to think of the past world romantically as a place where contention with persnickety people and machines just hadn’t been invented yet. To think of today’s difficulties as being somehow new, unique, worthy of new ways of solving them.

The old adage about having learned everything important during kindergarten gives us a good lesson – we can learn new techno-gizardry, but none of it is actually particularly new. Still, it seems to help to have new ways of looking at things – ways that seem to help us grapple with today’s not-so-new problems in ways that make sense in today’s not-particularly-inventive-or-new world.

When looking at a technical system (from a technical point-of-view), there are only three things that matter. (Do you like my reductionism?)

Check. Show. Do.

Check what the system is doing versus what it should be doing. Show what the system’s current state or configuration is. Do something to change something about the system.

That’s really just a (not-so-new) way of saying, “Take your time and pay attention to what’s happening. Think about the darned system and it’s problems.”

In other words, give it all at least as much care as you do yourself when you brush your teeth. If we all paid as much attention to our information and technical work as we do to brushing our teeth, we’d get better results and more enjoyment out of the whole thing.

But who has time for that?

 

Yoga, Writing, and Seamanship

I used to work with a guy who would say that the holidays are a time for catching up on work projects that you couldn’t get to do during your regularly salaried hours. Yes, I know, salaried employee means you don’t have limitations on your hours. But in truth, when you are working for a decent company, you do. No good boss expects arbitrary amounts of work from you at vaguely defined times scattered throughout your life.

If at all possible, you should only work for good bosses.

This is always possible.

As much as I sometimes claim I don’t like it, my life is a big routine – one after the other. I have a long urban commute daily, and this is probably the toughest part of my routine, the part I am continually working on finding ways to tweak. I sometimes claim I don’t like routine but if that were true I would toss it all out. Overnight, I could make my life more vague.

But I don’t do that. I believe we all end up doing what we most want, on the whole, most of the time. Whatever it is, in general it’s at least kind of sort of in line with our core values and needs, or else we would toss it out. Sometimes that’s confusing because the thing we are doing seems to be something totally counter-productive to what we tell the world we are working toward.

I’m saying this because I do it all the time. I point fingers at bits and pieces of my life and call them out as nags or short-term glitches. But then years later many of those same nags are still there. There’s something else going on, there’s some core value or need that causes me to hold onto the nag or glitch, for years, even when I claim it’s something I don’t want to be doing or having.

Not to say my life is all stuck. Not at all. After all, just recently I conquered my fear of deploying a “Hello World” application to my Android phone. Just never got around to working through the details before but then I did. It wasn’t hard. Just something that I never got around to devoting the hour of focused time to that was needed to get it done.

That’s a stupid example, because nobody cares about a “Hello World” application on their phone. But you should have seen the smile once I got that nag off my mind!

So that’s not a stupid example.

For me, the holidays are a chance to take a step back and do something outside of the routine. Even though I like the routine in my life (you can quote me on that), when it never gets broken, I stop growing. I need the routine to break, pretty frequently, and not in predictable ways. So the holidays, being days where you tend to do something a bit different from the other days, are at least a tiny little basis for finding that tiny little chance of experiencing a broken routine. If any of this sounds like a recipe for disaster at the holiday dinner table, then… maybe I’m not making myself clear. Then again, that’s why I’m blogging about it instead of publishing this stuff in a hardcover book and going on a lecture tour. 🙂

It always takes me at least a day or two of routine derailment before I really start to enjoy the benefits of the routine being broken. And this time around, the long Thanksgiving weekend, I’m in a mood to do two things: To look back over past and current notes to myself, and to share what I find out more publicly than is usual for me.

Looking back, I find…

Physical fitness is important to me, but it’s something I never do a good job with.

So is home time.

And exploring creative projects.

I’ve also always got some nags going on, as I mentioned briefly above.

I’m constantly on the lookout for doing new things, seeing new ideas.

I like to get better at stuff.

I like using cool technology, and finding ways to let the best tech support non-tech goals.

I like to have fewer goals than ideas.

My work is important to me. And if something is important to you, then it is probably important to me too.

And I like to write.

But I haven’t really figured out, among the so many interests and goals and priorities I have, which of these are the ones most important to me. I have to think that the ones with me the longest – writing and fitness – are likely the most important. Maybe that’s true.

The best I can come up with this morning is that everything I do, I do it in the name of:

Yoga, Writing, and Seamanship

If you are reading this and you feel alienated by that, then that just means I need to do a better job at the Writing of it next time. Which is why this is a blog.