[In Other Words] My Productivity Paradox

So you know how people will say that the busier you are, the more productive/happier/etc you are?

I think that must apply to me, even after years of believing otherwise.

See, here’s the thing: I am an imminently lazy person.  I like to roll around and lounge and I like not having any obligations … but at the same time, I’ve noticed, it also simultaneously drives me crazy.  I can last maybe a day or two of utter laziness and then I start feeling bad — not just physically, but also mentally.  I start to feel guilty about the things I could have done, and should have done, and in fact, would have liked to do, but instead passed up for the sake of aimlessly surfing the internet.  It’s really easy to fall into that trap for me (and I have to assume most people out there, or else there wouldn’t be fifty thousand meme sites) (that’s an exaggeration) (but only a little, I think).  It happened to me in college (my busiest quarter with my hardest classes netted me the highest GPA of my college career at 3.8, and that was with physical chemistry on the roster) and it’s happening to me now that I am a boring grown adult.

Case in point, this past weekend, I went to the Fremont Fair/Solstice Parade on Saturday, and I accomplished grocery shopping, but for the most part I wandered around and looked at stalls and at food (new grocery stores are like my grown-up version of toy stores; I love just looking at new different foods, or just at foods for sale in general) and then I came home and was promptly downed by a headache that blossomed into a migraine.  I managed to get my writing done, but only the bare minimum of 1000 words.  Sunday, I accomplished getting dinner ready (bless the invention of the slow cooker, seriously) and had pretty much no other obligations.  I still only managed to right just barely over 1000 words.  Looking back on it now, I’m disappointed in myself, because there was a lot of time I could have used to write more — the novel I’m working on, the AU scenarios for my original fiction that I promised my editor for her birthday, even some stabs at preliminary editing.  I didn’t do any of that.  If I look at my wordcount since I started my new “adult” schedule for writing, I’m managing an average of 2075 words/day.  If you cut out the weekend wordcounts, that jumps to about 2500/day and that’s not insignificant!

(I should add that I don’t actually know what an average word count for a professional writer is.  I have friends who can write 2000 words in an hour and friends who can write 300 words in an hour and obviously I land somewhere in the middle.  I don’t know what is a “good” pace for other people, though I know that the average I maintain on weekdays seems to work to keep me from getting burned out.)

But the thing is, I would instinctively think I’d get more done on weekends — we usually eat out during the weekends, I don’t have to go to my day job, and there are errands, but they only take a small portion of two days.  Instead, those are the days I usually struggle to hit my usual 2000 for the day, whether by laziness or distraction or some other indeterminable thing.  On weekdays, when I have work, and dinner, and dishes, and the next day’s lunch, and also to shower so that my hair is dry before bed (as opposed to just staying up no matter when) — it feels like I have so much less time, but I always end up writing so much more during that time.  The same holds true for my writing vacations — as long as I strictly set it to myself that this is writing time and that is my obligation to myself, then I can get a pretty decent amount done.

I am one of the first people to say that if a hobby starts to feel like work, that’s when you should reevaluate it, and I do think that — but when it comes to writing, I’m a lot unhappier when I don’t get something done in a day.  Beyond the 240+ day streak I have at 750words.com, I just feel a whole lot better about myself when I actually accomplish something, even if it’s only another scene, or even just a part of a scene.  And if I let my natural laziness take the reins, I absolutely won’t get that stuff done.  So as much as on some level, I really balk at scheduling my free time, I think it’s safe to say that after two weeks of trying this out, it’s definitely working for me a lot better in terms of overall productivity/happiness.  With luck, I can keep ramping this up — this year, my major writing resolution was to make it to 365K words for the year; maybe next year, I’ll try to at least scale it up to 1.5x that, and then maybe even double it the year after.

(Quite possibly I will end up lying on the floor metaphorically and crying, but at least it won’t be for a lack of trying.)

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