0584 – Get more out of your hours

Started in 30th may, finished aug 1

The biggest tragedy of my life- and I know that I’m tremendously lucky to have such a first world problem- is that I feel like I waste my time.

So the question arises- is there an objective truth here? Is it true that I’m wasting my time? There is no absolute truth in the context of the universe; the universe doesn’t care how you spend your time. So the real constraints are biology, culture, beliefs.

Beliefs can be changed. An individual can modify how his social group influences him, either by moving outright to another group or mix of groups, or by changing the filters that he engages them with.

Biology is probably the biggest constraint but even that isn’t clear cut because it is shaped and influenced by social, cultural, psychological factors. Only the most fundamental constraints apply. Death is the most global biological constraint for humans- we wouldn’t feel like we were wasting our time if we knew we’d live forever.

That said, there are people who die who DON’T feel like they’re wasting their time. Some out of ignorance, which is no longer an option for me. Some by figuring out and enacting an optimal configuration of beliefs, actions, social contexts and so on.

I guess even if the condition is false (you can’t waste time because life is ultimately meaningless) the feeling is real and I have to address it one way or another. And I don’t really want to explore the “it doesn’t matter because life is meaningless” idea as a solution because I can always revert to that when the rest of my options are exhausted, but not the other way around.

Okay, so I feel like I waste my time. What is the source of that feeling? Where does it come from? Probably a big part of it comes from comparing myself to others, and that’s never healthy. But even when I’m on my own and focusing on myself, I still have that nagging feeling. There’s something in my subconscious trying to stir me to act, and I’ve been neglecting and avoiding it out of fear and laziness. Fear of discomfort, pain, shame, failure etc.

I’ve written about this probably a hundred times by now. I did some squats this morning and that really helped. I have fitness goals- I want to squat 100kg. My last PR was 90kg, so it’s definitely within reach. I know that squats make me feel better- they make me breathe a lot harder, and I get endorphins or some other good feels from it. I believe that I need to retrain myself to get good feels out of everything else that I know I want to do. I want to blaze through the remainder of these word vomits. Do at least 1 every day. I have two commutes every work day, I can write on those. I’m doing that right now, but I don’t always do this. I typically do it when I know what I want to write about, when I’ve slept well, when I’ve worked out. Writing is frustrating work except when you happen to know exactly what you want to say and how you’re going to say it.

Anyway, so those are the variables, aren’t they? If I want to write more, I’ll just need to plan ahead of time what I’m going to write, and then get started on each commute. I don’t need to feel obliged to finish every single one, I just need to commit to starting. That should make a dent.

Haven’t I tried this before? What happened the last time I tried this? I got bored of my own prompts, got frustrated and annoyed looking at them, and eventually felt stifled (I couldn’t write new things when I felt like I was obliged to write old things) and then I eventually deleted everything and felt a sense of relief. Okay so clearly these prompts have to have an expiry date). Another thing I’ve done is that I’ve asked people to give me prompts, so I feel like I’m writing letters to specific people rather than just writing into the ether, making up stuff to myself. Knowing in advance that somebody cares about something makes me doubly want to do it. [1]

I stopped writing this around 800 words and left it off there. I’m revisiting it about three months later. And I think if I’ve made any progress, it’s realizing/recognizing that there’s no magical answer to all of this. I’m always going to feel like I’m wasting my time so I have to make my peace with it. I just have to clarify and focus and do one thing at a time and get it out of the way. I waste too much time running in circles. And perhaps one day I will be able to exploit my running-in-circles tendency to create some great art, but in the meantime that isn’t exactly an option. Chasing every whim isn’t fulfilling, anyway. Every sustained success requires discipline and sacrifice. And so it is the case here. I have been repeating this to myself for years now, and will probably continue to repeat it to myself for decades to come. The hope and plan is that I’ll be able to summarize it in shorter sentences, be able to reference old material with a few lines rather than reinvent the wheel over and over.

I know that I am capable of more. I believe that I want more. I need to sit down and dig deep and get it. That requires facing my fears and leaning into discomfort. I already know that the alternative isn’t much better. Life is struggle. Lean into it.


[1] Here I have to start wondering- if knowing that somebody cares about an outcome makes me (supposedly) likelier to want to do something, why doesn’t this translate to me being super productive at work? I know that my colleagues care that I get my work done. So there have to be some extra variables here that I’m not thinking about. I’ve also procrastinated on delivering things for my own side project, surely frustrating my partner in the process. So maybe there’s some common element in both of those things. Is it perfectionism? It’s probably perfectionism. Fuck perfectionism, just ship things!

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