Schedules and Procrastination

The good news is that I’m at 55k in The Tapestry. I finished Ivanhoe (you can read my woefully short review by clicking). And The Cherry Orchard by Anton Chekhov. (Unfortunately this one’s review is even shorter). I’m getting up in the morning and exercising about five mornings out of seven. I am making progress in math. My professor recommended The Beginner’s Guide to Mathematical Logic by Raymond M. Smullyan. I am enjoying it thus far—but I move very slowly through it.

About this slowness anyway—when did it start taking me a week to finish a 100 page play? Or a month to get through a 500 page novel that I would have devoured at 15? I was certainly writing much less five years ago, but the gist of it is that I did not have a smartphone, I did not use websites that stream or social media (e.g. Facebook or Snapchat). I did not have friends to message (this may be crucial), and I certainly did not watch YouTube videos. I was also motivated. That may be because schoolwork was boring at the age of fifteen. (Was it?) It may be because I had a greater capacity to focus. It may be because I had fewer distractions. (Scratch that. It’s definitely because I had fewer distractions. And more motivation.)

I still have a great capacity to focus. If it’s something I like, I’ll look up once in two hours. Just last semester I did one particular math problem three times, trying to figure out where 1) my drawing had gone wrong, if it had, 2) where my calculations had gone wrong, if they had. I ended up going to the professor’s office, having basically memorized the problem. I can no longer remember the solution, but I do remember the pure exhaustion after, I kid you not, almost three hours of trying to finish that problem, and when that failed, to move on to another. Unfortunately, I was still very fixated on that problem and it took time to focus on the rest of my homework. It’s obvious that when I want to, I can still focus very well.

The trouble is that typically, I don’t want to start work. I will—and this is embarrassing, but not as much as it should be—look at my computer, know that I’ll be very happy and proud of myself if I finish Chapter 21 of The Tapestry today, and then pass over that in order to—*cough* read a romance novel. (Another good thing? Monday I’m quitting those. For permanent.) Then I beat myself up for the rest of the day for not responding to my professor’s e-mail about “Smullyan’s Problem 6” (Chapter 2, in case anyone is wondering), with a question about “Smullyan’s Problem 10” (Chapter 2 again). When do I get excited about doing work? At about 5pm, when the work day is almost over. In college, my workday will be over by 5pm.

So this has to be fixed—I’m instituting an absolutely no-work rule between the hours of 6pm and 8am. I’m also trying to cut that back to 5pm, and to not work at all on Sundays. 

I’ve tried this before. Then I don’t do any work, to call my own bluff—I resist for about three days, then I cave. Now I’m not going to cave. It’s my grades or working before 5pm. Quitting romance novels will help with that—my schoolwork is going to be fascinating (I’ll make that the subject of another post, perhaps), I have friends that I can talk to at college, and I’ll be finishing the novel. If at any point I’m bored, I have ballroom and belly dancing, and if that isn’t enough, there’s doing more math with the guidance of the math professor via e-mail. Plus minor procrastination. I dislike procrastination. I’m trying to figure out how to ruthlessly curtail it to Sundays, when it’s allowed, and to evenings… when it’s allowed. Will this be hard? Yes, quite.

The plan:

* On Monday, when my SelfControl thing runs out, peruse the list of websites and add more time-wasters to it. Migrate the ones I never want to visit again in my life to the hosts file on my computer. <— This will probably include Netflix

* Stop checking e-mail or reading the news before lunch. <— this morning I spent about 10 minutes longer than needed upstairs because I was reading about Cecil the Lion and trying not to cry.

* Have to-do lists (I’ll make a post at some point about how I use Habitica)

* Have a flexible schedule for the day-to-day. I’ve realized that while I love scheduling things ahead of time, I also really like spontaneity. That may be why I really like Mark Forster’s Final Version (when I actually get around to it). The trouble is when I don’t have enough to populate it with, though I’m certain I could if I went through a trigger list of things I want to do.

* Happy thoughts! This one is a big deal. It works when I’m running on the elliptical*, it should also work for writing.

* I never quite understood this thing called a runner’s high until I ran on an elliptical. I like the quantification I get, and the fact that I don’t have to depend on the weather or people staring. I’ll get over the staring part soon, though.

That’s the plan—tomorrow I start work by 7:30am (I’m preparing for college when distances between buildings are larger—starting earlier while at home means that travel time impacts me less. I hope.)