Monday, March 26, 2012

Balancing Time Dedications

I'm slowly figuring out how I want to incorporate the mental trio of reading, speaking, and writing into my life.

Writing I should do more of in the morning, if I could possibly establish it as a routine. One of my favorite pastimes in the morning is to walk and do contemplation, as the creative faculties of my mind seem to be at their strongest at the point of the day. Freshly awoken, I simply want to exercise my mind on its own terms, free, for a while, of actually consuming something.

For reading, unless I'm trying to formally study something, is best done both before work and at night. Going back to that input/output thing I've said about my brain before, there's really not a period where I need to totally relax from doing mental work. I either want input (external stimulation such as books) or output (internal stimulation such as thinking or writing). If I wake in the day in an output mood, then as I gradually wear off the energy in that area it only makes sense that I convert to an input mode. Some of my harshest studying days were ended with the deep satisfaction of watching science shows: The exhaustion actually aided my concentration. The stimulation reading provides me offers a lasting satisfaction, so I think I should do it everyday about 45 minutes before going on shift since my work right now isn't mentally intensive, so I need something to satiate me beforehand. Also, my new favorite routine is to disconnect from the world at night and finish off with reading but under a small lamp, so I want to keep that up. The evening seems to be the best time to do the greatest amount of reading.

Speaking is still a conundrum. I can do it at anytime, but so often is it that I get absorbed in a train of thought that I almost totally forget to do it at all. Rather than worrying about actually cutting out a time period for it, I just need to work more at making it a standing order in my mind to do it during those activities devoid of any intellect, such as wiping down the mirror, or when I'm stumped at something, like writing, and need to brainstorm. In other words, I need to create a habit of noticing when I mentally idle, such as daydreaming while driving, and use the awareness to push me to rubberduck. Though, I also need to figure out how to incorporate this technique into my formal studies once I regain my productive composure and get back to it.

Now, beyond all this I think I may have identified a bad premise in my thinking that's been holding me back from productive ventures, particularly writing. If you've known my online presence for any amount of years, you'll know that many points I used to be an on-again-off-again writer, where I would have periods of very regular articles that gave away to dead periods, only to be revived and die off again. It wasn't because I was flip-flopping in how well I maintained my habits, but rather because I've been conflicted these past years on what role writing should play in my life.

You see, while I was growing up I wanted to be a professional writer. That is, if remembered correctly, why I started a blog in the first place. But then I understood that I really had no passion in that area and didn't think about it in my daily life as a passionate person would, and consequently gave up that dream. That smashed my motivation to write, made it really hard to consistently construct pieces, and eventually stressed me out enough to quit. However, all these years spent cultivating the skill has led me to become very attached to it, so a scant few weeks left me severely craving the practice. I then went forth to abandon my first blog *Benpercent* to dedicate myself to *Musing Aloud* in order to focus solely on self-improvement, personal thoughts, and general contemplation.

But then the one thing that got me the second time is noticing how much time it takes to write. It can be amazingly time-consuming, not just because of the effort needed for a polish piece, but for how entrancing the process can be if everything goes right, making you effortlessly go on for hours. I once spent 10-12 hours writing in virtually one sitting, because the piece was so interesting it kept beckoning me to go on and on and on, eventually whittling the whole day away. With how interesting the whole process was, it wasn't hard at all to go on at length like that. With the right effort, one can practically go into a trance.

But I want to become a chef. One would think that I'd spend more time cooking than writing given that, no? So I -- if remembered correctly, as my memory is fading on that issue -- abandoned my second blog, *Musing Aloud*, after realizing how many hours writing can actually take up. A lot, and many times without your bothering to care.

In thinking of writing, this perspective spread to other areas in my life, and I questioned everything. If I dedicate a portion of time to this, then it means less time for that. Is that really how I want to spend my time? There's a finite amount of time in a human's life, so am I spending it in ways that reap maximum value and will lead to my happiness and realization? Without inducing anxiety this type of thinking kind of paralyzed me, so in questioning the value of dedicating time to anything I dropped almost all my productive ventures and became the pitifully stagnating person I am now. The uncertainty of measuring a particular activity's value always drove me away since I looked at it from the negative: time spent here is time spent away from there. But of course, as I now have made myself realize, it's a preposterous answer to stop doing those activities, as now I'm left with drastically reduced value overall.

To solve the conundrum, I think I should simply not worry about it. The error is being over-technical. So long as I am pursuing the values that I believe are relevant to the achievement of my long-term happiness, then I shouldn't worry about measuring the value of one activity against another. Just take it in stride: If deemed valuable enough, try to incorporate the activity, and make changes as the long-term shows how other activities are affected. The most important thing is that I need to be willing to act, experiment, and make changes; not worry about getting it right the first time. Just experiment, make mistakes, and revisit the thinking. To err is to be human.

In regards to writing, I think the only true question is what types of pieces I should allow myself to engage it. At this point, I think it's unquestionable that writing does play a positive role, as even when I try to give it up I either get an intense urge to do it or have the urge be satisfied somewhere else. For instance, while I've been pitiful in maintaining *A Giant Doing*, I've been excelling at writing commentary on various things on Facebook, so while I'm bad at getting regular articles here my writing urges are unleashed on Facebook. After all these years, I simply do not want to stop writing.

How to do it most productively, on the other hand, is still in need of experimentation. Right now I'll just satisfy myself with the conclusion that it does need to play a role in my life, especially in intellectual life, and rest content with however many hours an article calls me to put into it, even if three or more in a sitting. Since I'm not working hard at editing -- since my purpose here is actually to engage in the writing act, not worry so much about a polished piece -- the stress has been greatly lessened.

With other activities I cut out time for, such as doing a cognitive exercise for ten minutes, should be viewed as a value pursued and gained, regardless of the validity of my thinking at the time. Just depend on honest judgement, experiment, err, correct, etc. 

So for now, I'll try to get some daily writing in, read at the particular times I've dedicated (45 minutes before work and all evening afterwards), and work on establishing a standing order on speaking.

Oh, and I'll also work on getting some more interesting articles up here too. Don't worry; I won't go on forever about my exciting daily routines.

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