The last several weeks I’ve faced the freelancer’s conundrum. Work is always feast or famine, it’s the name of the game, but should you turn down work when your plate is full simply because, well, work is work? I think the answer is different depending on the person, the work at hand and whether Mercury is in retrograde.
I read something recently where someone opined no one needed more hours in the day, we simply needed to use the hours we had more efficiently. I’ve been known to say more than once
a week that I need more hours in the day with a hint of sarcasm. But only a hint, because I don’t have enough time to pile on the sarcasm. Reading the piece, I got over feelings of defensiveness and doubt pretty quickly because I know I use my time well, and I don’t believe that it’s true that life is so simple.
Time has rules. Life doesn’t always play by rules. Life’s not fair.
I look at my life and think how will I do it all when I am married with kids if single and childless I can’t always get everything done I am trying to? But I believe it’s all relative. We adapt. Priorities change. Days I can’t get it all done aren’t a failure. They’re simply a day where the satisfaction of a finished to-do list wasn’t met.
I never whip up If Emily Posted posts with the quasi-stream of consciousness style I do most posts. Ethics isn’t law, but I spend a great deal of time between writing work and photo shoots collecting info, researching and reading for IEP. I find it fascinating, but I also believe in having informed opinions when it comes to this notion that I have that we can make social media civilized.
And so, I thought I’d return to my own words in an earlier IEP, to remind me that time spent well isn’t time wasted. And that a post written hastily, sometimes isn’t worth writing at all.
Math was never my favorite subject, but in college I took a course in sacred geometry that blew my mind. At 20, I found an appreciation for the way numbers, nature and our everyday lives intertwine. I wish we were taught sacred geometry from childhood, made to see math as more than rote exercises. In middle school, as I’d head to Drama Club after school, I never understood the why someone would join Math Club. Now I do. There is beauty in numbers.
But the thing about numbers is that they are what they are. Ten minutes is ten minutes. An hour is an hour.
Time is something I never have enough of these days. And it’s probably my least favorite thing about living right here now in this very moment. The future was supposed to filled with all sort of modern conveniences but the speed with which we can move, read, watch and share is exhausting (thanks, conveniences!).
I feel super old, but happily nostalgic, sharing with my young cousins stories of waiting to get photos back from the lab (a whole day?), of waiting for the video store to get back one copy of the movie you wanted (queue wasn’t really a word used Stateside until Netflix, kiddos), of waiting until someone got off the phone to be able to reach them or leave a message on their tape machine (when they ask what a tape is, try not to cry).
We used to listen to lots of busy signals. And yet, we weren’t so impatient.
Yesterday I was discussing to-do list strategies on twitter with other freelancers. Most weekends I call workends. My work lacks that sort of definition. The sort of thing we’re primed for in school.
I was once told by a teacher that we had antiquated bells between classes to prepare us for work in factories.
Imagine if those bells were to prepare us for a life online – it would be a cacophony of chimes and whistles and twittering birds.
I recently read about something called Attention Deficit Trait (ADT). Dr. Edward Hallowell, who coined the term, was interviewed by TIME magazine:
“The pace of most people’s lives these days induces it. We’ve never seen in human history the technology that we have today. I think it’s basically technology driven. Why are we doing it? The short answer is because we can—because we can transmit so much information, we do. Because we can access so much information, we do. Because we can sign up for so many tasks, we do.”
It’s fascinating, and I think it’s something most of us can relate to. The really scary part?
That interview was from January 2006.
Facebook was barely two years old and still just for students. iPhones were a year away. As was twitter.
In January 2006, we were practically tree sloths. Cue those bells.
I think there’s value in all of these social media tools, totally. I disagree when people say they’re just toys.
But here’s the thing: I have accepted the fact that I will never read, write, see or do all the things I want in a day. Or in this lifetime. But how I spend my time is of value to me.
I was at a dinner with some blog friends last summer. A small dinner party celebrating with Holly Becker and Leslie Shewring upon the release of Holly’s book.
Over sangria and pomme frites, the question of how you decide what to read in this sea of information came up. My answer was this:
Offline I buy books and magazine subscriptions. Online most content is free. So, I imagine if I had to pay to read blogs, where would I subscribe? Where would I put my money. Because time has value. Time is money.
Make a list of the sites you’d want a yearly subscription to. Highlight the ones you’d even want to give gift subscriptions to because they have info you often share.
Quite easily I can make a short list of the sites that I find the most useful, informative and entertaining. It doesn’t mean I won’t visit others, but it shows me that I can create some ordered chaos in my online day.
For productivity, nothing beats an old fashioned egg timer. I used to use a kitchen one but now my iPhone does the trick. I first read about it in a magazine and then some bloggers mentioned it, too. It works well when you have various projects and need to allot time to them through the day. It also forces me to take breaks. Breaks are important. The more I use the timers, I create good habits. I narrow my focus and get more done.
Creativity is about habit, Twyla Tharp reminds us time and again (love that book). As lovely as it would be to imagine writing as a fountain of inspiration into which we can dip when we choose, it’s not. It’s a lot of staring at a blank screen/page and really great ideas that don’t pan out. And some that do.
The timers help me keep me focused, keep me productive and keep me from losing my mind.
Maybe bells aren’t just for factory work after all.
(Originally posted on March 20,2012)