Justin Jacoby Smith is an organizer, web geek, Buddhist, and poet.

Filtering by Tag: gtd

79 hours a week

There are 24 hours in a day. Over 7 days, that makes 168 hours.

Subtract the 40 hours you need to spend earning your paycheck, and the 49 you should be spending asleep.

Take 89 hours out of 168--that leaves you with 79 hours a week for The Rest of Your Life: creative passions, friendships, fun, love, activism, self-care. That's a lot of things to fit into 79 hours.

How are you spending them?

I'm not asking what specifically you're doing with your time--your priorities and the demands on your attention are probably different than mine. I'm asking if you're spending the time you have in ways that make sense given the things you tell everybody you care about. We all say we have values, we all have these ideas of who we are, and about the rightness of what we do--but what, daily, are you spending your time *doing*? Are the things you do every day moving you toward not just your visions of justice, but your visions of your own future? Or are you spending your time at a job that sucks so you can come home to Twitter and Tumblr and feel righteous about your choice of retweets?

79 hours is all you get, and the only person responsible for whether you spend those hours in a way that's fulfilling and meaningful to the pursuit of your goals--big or small--is you.


A minor edit--it's been pointed out that I didn't include 'commute time' in these calculations--for me, that alone takes up at least 21 hours of the 79 'free' hours a week.

I lumped those 21 hours in with the 79, though, because I've found that the commute is one of the best times to organize my work on my passion projects: review prior and upcoming commitments, draft e-mails, read items I've queued up. On top of my paid work, of course, I still do something like 12-16 hours of work a week doing hosting, sound engineering & booking for Voices of the 99%, and I have other mercifully smaller organizing commitments as well. Using my transit time to do some of this work means that the otherwise 'wasted' 15 hours on the train goes towards work on a project that I claim matters to me.

I have to use my commute time making progress on my passion projects, or I'd be lapsing on my promises regularly. I don't expect that's true of everyone, though, so it's fair to say that maybe rather than 79 hours, your time is even scarcer than mine: you only get 58 hours. Your hours are indeed fewer and more precious under this new math, but the question remains the same: are you being smart with your time, or not?

about that notecard--

Adopt the habits of intelligent work and the various rewards of intelligent work will tend to bend toward you--or at least they ought to. People deserve recognition, remuneration, and influence when they can manage competing demands on their attention effectively. If those rewards *don't* start bending towards you, if you aren't recognized for what you've proven yourself capable of accomplishing, maybe you should ask yourself if you're working in a place that's worth your time.

sometimes there's no next action

Not everything in life contains a 'next action.'

There are some things--moments of joy, senses of loss--that have no urgent bearing on your projects, your time, your 'work.'

Part of the reason things like 'ubiquitous capture' and attention management are worth pursuing is that they allow you to experience these sorts of moments in a purer, cleaner, and more unfettered way.

All of this cognitive machinery is ultimately implemented so that you can stop thinking and start experiencing your life in all its fullness.

Sometimes life hurts. But a purer and more honest hurt is always better than a distracted, disinterested smile. Once you've burned through the noise in your mind and found the quiet at the bottom, you know who you really are. And you know whom the hurt in life is really hurting. And you know how to move on.

on the value of echoes

I've kept a Someday/Maybe list, on and off, since college. Back when I was juggling a 20 hour class week with a 2 hour commute and a full-time customer service day job, I needed *just enough* of a productivity system to get my classwork done, keep my job, and stay sane in the process. I stole a few bits and pieces from David Allen's "Getting Things Done" to help me stay on top of things, like context-sensitive ToDo lists and the do/defer/delegate framework. The most enduring piece, though, turned out to be the Someday/Maybe list. In Allen's GTD system it's a place for projects you'd like to start, but for some reason can't quite yet. It's supposed to be a big conceptual bucket for things as small as "learn how to change my oil" or big as "climb Mount Everest"--the sole uniting factor is that if it's an idea that you'd like to act on someday, but can't do it now, the Someday/Maybe file becomes a place to capture it.

The key to the file's usefulness, and the bit of magic that prevents it from being a hole for unfulfilled hopes and dreams, is that you're supposed to check it regularly to see if any of the items on it are now feasible. Once a (week/month/season) you take a fresh look at the thing, top to bottom, and ask yourself if your life has room for anything on it. Ask yourself what's on the list that you can take steps to carry out this week. And so forth.

What I've found interesting, though, is that as I've stopped and started my use of a Someday/Maybe list over the last 6 years, certain items recur. Wading through old hard drives I've stumbled across a half-dozen abandoned "s-m.txt" files, and the same sorts of projects appear on the lists across the years.

-"learn R." -"learn to program in R." -"read R for informatics." -"read data mining in R."

One of the benefits of taking a regular birds-eye view of your projects--and your life--is that you have the opportunity to recognize these sorts of patterns. You might even find that a persistent want to pursue certain kinds of projects reveals a deeper truth about what you want out of life.

But you don't even have to wait 6 years to figure this out--if you see yourself writing "write more poetry" on your list for months, maybe you ought to sit down and write some damn poetry instead of adding "write more poetry" to your list again. Pattern recognition is valuable, but only if the patterns you recognize lead to smarter and more fulfilling action.

Don't just write stuff down. Do it.

What projects go on your Someday/Maybe list? Do you see patterns trying to tell you something?