Efficiency or How I Found Lost Time

A few weeks ago, someone made a comment about how emails were the bane of their lives. I have to admit I smiled smugly to myself. My inbox is a rainbow of colours, with each email labeled and tagged on arrival. Emails get answered at specific times of day and progress through a range of colours and stars to finally be left unadorned and abandoned when the job is complete. It’s aesthetically pleasing and very efficient too.

I’m trying to create a sustainable writing practice and avoid all the many pitfalls I fell into before. There are a lot. I thought I had no time, but time was an excuse masking fear. The fear is still there, but that’s a topic for another day. I have no desire to get up at 4 am to write and doubt I’d even manage to write meaningful sentences at that ungodly hour. I’ve intended to work in the evenings but by the time the day’s work is done, I just want to read or watch crappy shows or chill. I will sometimes be moved to do some creative work but it’s a blue moon occurrence rather than a regular habit.

The fact is that writing feels like work. There’s a few aspects to that; first, it is work, it requires thought and planning and action. It’s nice to think of it as a process of ‘flow’ where everything else melts away, but I think you can reach that when you hit a certain point in your writing project after the groundwork is laid and the first faltering steps allow you to hit your stride. It isn’t guaranteed. Second, my job involves constructing words into meaningful sentences every day, which makes it hard to separate the same action into writing for ‘me’ versus for ‘others’. That division doesn’t make sense anyway, we all write for someone else, even if it is only the future version of ourselves.

So if my creative writing is work, perhaps I should treat it as such and include it in my working day. But my days are pretty busy so I decided perhaps I should look and see exactly what I was doing and whether there was any extra time available. So I spent a week noting everything I did during my working day.

Well, it turns out that email is the bane of my life.

View of a colourful inbox obscured by bubbles

On one day of the week I spent over two hours on email alone. It finally explained how there were days when I felt I should get the work done in reasonable time, but was racing at the end of the day to make sure it all got done. When I added in other administration and preparation tasks, it turns out my time to actually work is shorter than I think.

So I’ve been rearranging things to acknowledge that I don’t have as much time as I think. Truth be told, this was long overdue. I was lucky enough not to be affected by the pandemic and welcomed the distraction work brought. This led to overscheduling, which will begin to affect the work I produce if I’m not careful.

So now the next question is how to keep track of my creative projects…