Saturday, June 2, 2018

It's Not Weird it is Good

I've started using Toggl to track time spent doing lots of things.

It's part of an overall organizational rubric I've been trying to implement for about a year. I'm provisionally satisfied with this rubric. The idea is that there are five categories, and that if I'm doing okay in each of these five categories then I'm doing okay. And the idea is not to complicate them too much with too many sub-cats. They are:

Write (good)
Write (world)

"OToYS" stands for "on top of your sh*t".

The categories are self-explanatory (I think!); more importantly, their specifics aren't important for our present discussion. The point is: I use these across everything. My to-do lists are thus organized (again, there are sub-categories, but I try to keep them from proliferating wildly); bookmarks in my browser are organized by this rubric; tasks in Toggl; habits in HabitBull; I squeeze everything into these boxes that I can, which turns out to be almost every thing. There's a color code that persists across all programs / apps (as above), although that can be fussy when the colors don't quite match up.

Point is, I'm tracking anything work or work-esque in Toggl. Recreational stuff, including fitness stuff, doesn't get tracked on the hourly basis (although it does get marked in HabitBull). I'm writing (listening to this lovely, relaxing music) on this nice Saturday because

(a) I never get to talk about this stuff with anyone, and
(b) When I imagine myself talking about this stuff with anyone (most of my interactions--I suspect I'm not alone, here--most of my interactions are between myself and imaginary interlocutors) I always kind of laugh it off with some kind of self-deprecatory, "lol, I know I know, it's a little bit crazy and compulsive, ha ha." This is also the posture I take (in imaginary conversations, but also in glancing kitchen interactions in the group-house type setup I currently live in) towards the fact that I keep a reasonably careful running log of my caloric intake throughout the day: "ha ha, I know, it's so nuts lol."

I wanted to write because I think it's not nuts.

So there may be an edge to some of these words, and you--Reader-friend--you may be like whoa, slimb, why are you yelling at me? I don't mean to be, Reader-friend. Sorry. It's not even that I imagine 'you', whoever you are, when I'm having these imaginary conversations. Unless there is some specific scenario I'm thinking about (rare), those imaginary conversations are pretty much with myself or an 'audience.' I'm talking to me; these words are at me.

Every Time Someone Asks What I Do

Them   What do you do?
Me   I'm a writer. Prose, mostly.**
Them   Oh! What do you write?
Me   [short version:] Well, I'm writing this {interesting non-fiction project}. 
[long version:] Well, I do non-fiction stuff that's mostly how I, y'know, make money, and I also have this quixotic undertaking of writing a masterpiece sci-fantasy serialized novel that I've been working on for a few years and that is never done and that's kind of my heart and my passion etc. 

And always, always when I say this last thing

I wonder (in my head) 

Me   [in my head] yeah and how much time do I spend, on each of these categories? Am I working on Erra enough? Am I working on Erra too much? What's the deal???

** I promise, saying 'prose' is not as tacky or naff or unclear as it sounds. I live in L.A.; most people everyone who say that they write, in this place, mean a specific thing. When I weirdly say 'prose', people probably don't know exactly what I mean, but I've found it's a simple way of saving the conversation about fifteen seconds (big savings!).
So yeah: no, me: ur a d1ck. It is, in fact, super-great that I weirdly track all this stuff.

For the work-hours, Toggl and I all that. First of all let me note that, beyond the material pressure to make some kind of living, which (at this second) is going okay, I have no real external to...anything. ever. And while I'm self-motivated, that also means that there is no measurement, no management, no oversight. I have to self-manage.

To wit: I often feel unproductive. I often wonder if my lack of output is in fact due to lack of effort or focus, even if it doesn't feel that way. I often wonder why I'm more (or less) mentally exhausted on a given day, or at the end of a given week: if I actually worked more or if perhaps something else is going on. I often wonder--basically every time I explain to someone what I do--how the ratio of my time expenditure on various projects works out, because...look to the sidebar for this one.

(I don't know why I'm writing this, or trying to convince you! It's not like people are unaware of the benefits of time tracking, outside just client billing or whatever. That latter application ("client billing or whatever") seems to represent a small portion only of what these firms that sell all these time-tracking apps are selling.)

I think what I want to say on this--to myself, mostly; also to you, Reader-friend, of course; and if you disagree then yes right str8 2 u--what I want to say on this is that

having an actual empirical tracking mechanism, having numbers, helps me at least make a start of creating quantifiable metrics around things that are important to me. Things for which I'd otherwise have to resort to 'sense's and 'feelings', or very rough time signatures ("I guess I spent yesterday morning working on [that project], so...").

We all live inside them, these 'senses' and 'feelings'. That is what it is; I myself spend a lot of time (deliberately, on-purpose) following them.

And I know that I can't/won't achieve actual "empirical" mastery of the expenditure of the minutes and hours of my life; I know I can't in fact capture and quantify all this in a way that is even close to complete. I also know that thinking I could do that, and attempting to do that, (a) would drive me crazy, and (b) still wouldn't get me to that total mastery, and thus I'd be at risk of a bigger/more dangerous mistake than just resorting to senses and instinct; i.e., I'd be running the risk of thinking I knew more than I do.

I know nothing. I know that. There's no way to end-run my innate, reptile-brain, heuristic stupidity; I don't know myself that well, or the world, and certainly don't have a clear view on how I'm navigating through it effectively or not.

So / but, trying to do these small things--keeping track of specific, measurable work-flows that feel like they matter--does help keep me grounded in what feels like an at-least credible attempt to anchor my views of my workweek / time-management in something real; gives me something to look at that is, hopefully, 'directionally correct'. Something outside myself to guide...whatever it is that goes on in my head.

I'm sure I'll still find myself laughing this off, in these imaginary conversations I have on...whatever, long runs. Sh1t like that. But I wanted to say this and I'm glad that I did.

Thank you, as always.