Planning your un-productivity

I live in the lap of chaos, but that doesn’t keep me from getting things done . . . usually. I’ve been able to achieve certain things based mostly on intuitive methods of loosly planning months or weeks ahead – in the vaguest of ways. But I’m beginning to see its limits and it still relies heavily on luck. My luck fell short earlier in July when I was preparing my monthly (+/-) newsletter. In this case, the stars aligned in such a way that I had to essentially deliver three updates on the same day; more or less.

Those updates included my monthly PLUGOarts MUSEletter (which I’ve committed to delivering to inboxes on every second Tuesday of the month). Added to that, I was overdue for a backer update regarding my Kickstarter campaign; particularly the details on fulfillment and who might still be waiting for packages. Lastly a newsletter update was long overdue for as I hadn’t reached out to those subscribers since the end of May. The problem was that poor planning left me working on them with too small a margin. Trimming my planned content down to what was achievable resulted in plenty of overlap between those updates. Too much in fact, I lost two subscribers; not egregious, but still. There’s a lesson to be learned here somewhere about a bit more efficient planning.

So what would it be like to focus on planing a single week?

It seems like a very short amount of time span to devote a planning session on. But would sitting down and planning out two weeks in one time make it any easier? To try to get a grasp on the rhythms and patterns of obligations that are happening in the week ahead is not easy. To look at that calendar and see which days are more busy than others is challenging enough, but what if I work with a quarterly plan to get a sense of where I might be within the bigger picture?

There must be a way to more systematically use those intuitive functions that help me recognize where can I gain ground and make progress. And to extend that metaphor further, there’s also space to be more conscious with what kind of terrain I’d seek to gain ground on. I think I’ll need to explore that concept visually, which may be another tool to use for scheduling.

If I’m to engage in actual scheduling, I think I’d need to reduce the footprint of the planning I’m doing to make it reasonable. Rather than planning less often (every two weeks) which would make that planning harder and less likely to be of use. I should look at what I can do to simplify weekly planning?

If I were time block-out my entire week, I would need to pay attention to my level of detail. I’ve been told of scheduling days to the hour, but that sounds pretty fine grained. Maybe instead I should have faith that future me would be able to figure out what to work on to make progress on specific task or focus on a particular date. Let’s say I have no zoom calls on Thursday, so that’ll be the day that I want to try to finish up X illustration or page. That might be more effective for me than saying from 10 to 11:30 on Wednesday, I’m going to generate 700 words for my next blog post.

Another thing I know I can do to reduce the footprint of planning is to separate inbox cleaning from weekly planning. I remember doing this while working as part of an in-house art department and I get the sense a lot of people do this to get ready for the week. Going through your inboxes to start from a blank slate is not a bad idea, but it takes a long time. Not only that, it’s cognitively draining. You have the context shift back and forth while you’re cleaning your inbox; each different message represents a different unrelated obligation of some sort. That can be a quietly draining experience, usually time consuming and not always rewarding. Attaching that to weekly planning could make the whole thing a drawn out exercise, with diminished returns.

So separate the inbox cleaning from the weekly planning. That’s something a know and do currently. Spread out in various sessions throughout the week, I’ll apply my relevant collection of color-coded tags then return later to sort or continue to delete.

Color coded tag allow me to organize and address emails over multiple sessons

So how about this? Doing the weekly planning on a Friday at the end of the day. It’s 7:49 PM on a Friday as of this writing and the thought of finishing this and then turning to next week has me conflicted. Of course, if I’d actually planned my week I could have blocked out this writing for earlier in the day.

Still, there’s potential value in working on the weekly plan at the end of a Friday as opposed to the beginning of a Monday: particularly if you’re working the common 5-day work week. In that case, it can be less like a chore and more like wrapping up a productive week by tying up loose ends. Getting ready for the week ahead with Friday planning offers an additional benefit of a lower anxiety over weekend. In that context one would know what’s locked in and what’s going to happen in that next week which offers some clarity and could deepen one’s relaxations during that weekend.

Outside of that framework there’s still a potential benefit from the psychological trick. That same amount of time spent on weekly planning before a day off may not feel the same as those 30 minutes spent on at the very beginning of a work cycle. Same time, different impact depending on when you spend it. But without that weekend, the concept makes a strong argument for including down-time or play-time in one’s scheduling; a day of intentional un-productivity. Well here I am on a Saturday evening where I could’ve said I’d done just that, except for proof-reading and editing this post.

So let’s see if I can set up a plan for the following week on this coming Friday – for that First week in August. How hard could it be?

One thought on “Planning your un-productivity

  1. After last week’s post of a vision for my new organizational method— Planned Un-Productivity (some call it a weekend) & Friday Evening list making.

    Well: my day off lasted a day longer than expected & I ended up working on that list on Saturday afternoon instead of Friday evening.

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