Nothing is so fatiguing as the eternal hanging on of an uncompleted task. ~William James

Thursday, November 11, 2010


Chris Baty's Time Finder, to be employed in preparation for wading into the Herculean depths of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month, to the uninitiated), appears to share some DNA with Neil Fiore's "Unschedule."  But food-processed, and with a generous dollop of humor.  

The main difference between the two is that the Time Finder is a post hoc accounting of how we are spending our time. It is supposed to result in the identification of "forgo-able" activities, and blocks of time to go with them that can be freed up to spend on the novels his followers will attempt to churn out in the allotted 30 days of November.  To Baty,
[t]he Time Finder is to novel-planning what the Jaws of Life are to accident scenes.
And here's where it resembles the Unschedule on steroids.
[R]ather than extracting precious things from tight places, the Time Finder does the opposite: It helps wedge large valuables into impossibly small spaces.
After a week of retrospective bedtime jotting of each day's activities and the time they absorbed, our would-be-novelist is ordered to "bust out the highlighters or colored pencils, and go to town," identifying REQUIRED, HIGHLY DESIRED and FORGO-ABLE activities.  The latter will make up our "sacrificial lambs" during "the noveling month."  (I read that gerund, and I can't help hearing echoes of "the wizarding world.")

Baty's examples of the forgo-able include surfing the net, conversing with in-laws ("Sorry, I can't deal with Tom's alcoholism this month.  I'm writing a novel."), yard work and picking up the kids from school every day.  He advises the truly maxed-out among us to wait for another month to learn to work more sensibly, arguing that "If you haven't had a heart attack yet, odds are good you probably won't next month either."

Taken to the extremes required by NaNoWriMo, which Gretchen Rubin refers to as a type of "creativity bootcamp," this time diet is like the "emergency subsistence" basis of food stamp allowances.  The kind of plan that is not meant for long-term use.  But its elements can be adapted to a less stringent approach.  

It is useful, I think, to know what rabbit holes our time is disappearing down.  My Time Finder log for today, for example, would show that I spent nearly two hours, for some irrational reason, attempting to install the Winter Solstice Countdown gadget now occupying a slot in this blog's sidebar.  Not only was that too much time to devote to this less-than-vital achievement, but I'm not too happy with the results, since the only version I had the html expertise to adopt is littered unattractively with ads!  (Let the record show, however, that this exercise did allow me to focus my distress over the return to Standard Time, and the sudden lopping off of an hour of light at the end of my workday.  And to concretize my crossing off of days until things start to improve.  Think of it as my hatch marks on the prison wall of darkness.)

I wrote yesterday of my wistful feelings about having let the NaNoWriMo train leave the station without me this year.  I can, however, extend my vicarious participation in this way.  I am going to use the Time Finder over the next week, and begin to identify my forgo-ables.  Serious yard work went by the way years ago (just ask my neighbors!), but I am pretty sure there is still an activity or two that might be productively replaced.  I don't really have in-laws, but I'll keep digging. . . 

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