2012-10-25

The Evolution Of The Projects-Driven Lifestyle

Last year, I wrote about Motivation and the Projects-Driven Lifestyle. I defined the problem as follows:
Like many people with a wide variety of interests that they take somewhat seriously, I often found myself short of time. It started getting difficult to, for example, record an album, plan a series of gigs, write articles, and work out hard, while still meeting my day-to-day obligations such as household tasks and, uh, going to work. Not being able to "do it all" is a problem we all face from time to time. This problem compounds itself the more seriously one takes one's hobbies.
The solution I came up with, was this:
Rather than focusing on what I want to do "in general," I instead decided that I needed a paradigm shift. I know conceive of all my objectives as a series of projects. The major advantages of projects is that they are associated with specific deliverables. Focusing on these deliverables costs nothing, because there is an associated end point. It becomes a matter, not of opportunity cost, but of inter-temporal substitution. This has the rather amazing effect of clearing items off my plate and also allowing me to accomplish more of them.
I still consider this to be good advice. In fact, writing this blog post had a big impact on me at the time, and I launched into a particularly productive period. I also recall a good friend telling me that it made an impression on him, too. (I am happy to report that his various projects have really taken off, and he has probably taken this concept to a whole new level.)

Too Many Items On The Menu
Having said that, though, I find myself in a situation where I now have too many projects and not enough time to complete them.

Sure, I have my excuses. I relocated to a different country, which is obviously a disruptive process. Such a relocation involves not only logistic and time challenges, but also a long list of things that must be re-established once you get from Point A to Point B, i.e. one's routine. I won't bore you with the gory details, but it takes time and effort to reach a point in one's day-to-day life where one can simply relax and start clicking-off the projects.

Notwithstanding all the excuses, though, I am discovering that my list of pending projects is much, much longer than I would like it to be. This presents a dilemma: Which of these projects will I complete first?

You can compare it to going to a restaurant with a big menu, versus one with a small menu. The bigger the menu, the longer it takes to decide what to order. Then, once having ordered, one is often fraught with doubts as to whether some other choice might be better. Later, one feels inclined to return to the same restaurant to try some of the other menu items. If one does go back to that restaurant, the whole process is repeated. If not, one often does not because one wants to try food at other restaurants!

To be sure, having a surplus of good choices is the kind of "problem" one is thankful to have. But on the other hand, just how is a person supposed to get anything done? Projects - particularly long and involved projects undertaken when time is scarce - require a lot of commitment; when one project is undertaken, the others suffer. It's frustrating.

The Challenge
I'll give you an example: In just the last two weeks, I've written five instrumental pieces, but only managed to record one of them. Add that to the literally dozens of songs I have written recently but have yet to record. Realistically, I am looking at two or three albums of material that is fully written, rehearsed, and ready to be released. But, at this point, I am so far behind in the recording process that I would rather write something new then "go back in time" and record something that has been placed on the back-burner.

The challenge, then, is to deliver on this immense backlog of existing projects while keeping track of new ideas as they come along, and yet not running completely out of time.

How To Succeed
Considering all this, I have come to the conclusion that the one and only way to sustain high productivity for long periods of time is to become extremely obsessive and miserly over one's time. Of course, one shouldn't drive oneself crazy, but how else can one apportion time appropriately?

We live in a wonderful, technologically advanced society. We carry little calendars in our pockets, capable of interfacing with the calendars at which we stare all day when we are at work or any other time. Technology surrounds us at all times, instantly accessible. It begs for us to use it.

While we can easily become distracted by all this technology (here I am blogging right now - could I have used this time to write a song?), we can also bend it to our significant advantage. One can use technology to learn a new language.

I've been using Google Calendar for some time now. I absolutely love that I can integrate this calendar with my phone, with Windows Live, with my blog, and so on. To accomplish what I want to accomplish, perhaps all I really need to do is track my time a little better. This time-tracking can follow me around everywhere. If I put the time in correctly, I should be able to stop losing out on lazy moments that I let slip through my fingers.

More importantly, I should be able to put project-specific time toward a specific project. That is, if I have time set aside for music, writing down exactly which musical project I'm working on will go a long way toward ensuring that I spend that time on Project X instead of Project Y.

Conclusion
Well, we'll see how it goes. It may not be a home-run, but it should improve the situation a bit. The bottom line is that I now find that motivation is not the main obstacle in a "projects-driven lifestyle," but rather the amount of surplus creativity I have is churning out more potential projects than I can realistically achieve in the near future.

So, I'll try to use my time a little more wisely, and in a more organized way, and hopefully overcome the "curse" of being buried under a heap of good ideas that I can't seem to make much traction on due to the sheer number of them.