Schedules Vs Priorities

I don’t put a lot of stock in schedules. I think of schedules as a way to plan to achieve your goal. If it’s going to take 3 hours then you’d better put three hours aside. But if you’re late you can catch it up and if you finish early you might as well leave. The schedule is a frame work for the goal and frame works are flexible.

For some people schedules are a matter of character though. The schedule itself is the goal. These are the people who say on time is late and other bullshit. Being super early because you know you have a lot of work to set up is good, being super early when you’re already totally prepared is a waste of people’s time. But for some people it’s a signal of virtue, they want it to say something positive about their character.

This idea is beaten into us as kids so it’s pretty hard to get away from. We have adults basking in the subconscious imaginary praise of teachers and principles as they bore each other with tales of how early they like to be. Those school schedules fucked us all though, it stuck kids who weren’t in ideal mindsets to learn with adults who weren’t in ideal mindsets to teach. Blah blah my usual rant about public school destroying learning blah blah.

Rather than a schedule I like to have a priorities list. There’s a difference between things we want done and things we want to do. I want the kitchen cleaned, I want to be playing videogames. One is trying to live in the past tense of something that hasn’t happened and the other is totally present and enjoying the moment. The Done vs Doing problem.

In that situation I’ll write down all things I want done and pick the one I want to do least to do first, otherwise it never gets done. And lists don’t matter if you have no sincere intention of completing them so suddenly nothing gets done. Thinking you can start with the easy ones and build up to the tough one doesn’t work, it just causes you to think you’ve done enough when you’ve done the two easiest things and nothing actually important.

Making schedules is just procrastinating procrastination. You put off something by scheduling it for later and you wait until then to put it off completely. I loathe that kind of inefficiency. I flake on everything I’m going to flake on all at once and get on with my life.

To accommodate our schedule driven world I’ve been focusing on raising my baseline levels of energy and motivation. I think it’s a shame of our culture that jobs are so narrow. I often think of retail customer service jobs because there’s maybe 4 days out of a year where I’m excited to be helpful and gregarious. I’d be fantastic at that job during those bursts and truly, truly, awful at it all the rest of the time. That feels like a teeny tiny waste. I think the world would be fantastic if adults somehow got to try on professions like children do, like when we pretended to run an ice cream parlor for an afternoon.

Instead we’re forced to pick narrow jobs that suite us as high a percent of the time as we can manage. Maybe you’re in the ideal mood for your job 48% of the time and the rest of the time you’re just slogging through it. That doesn’t seem like human flourishing to me.

Anyway, schedules and baselines…. I’ve been getting up earlier and earlier these days because if I’m going to get any writing done it has to be before work – I have no creative energy after work. At work I aim to get everything that needs to be done in the afternoon done before lunch, really attack the day, because I read that tasks tend to swell up to fill the time allotted. If you have 8 hours to do 8 tasks we humans tend to make the tasks take the time. So nowadays I prioritize and smash so there’s time left to find the tasks that got missed, or to look for inventive new tasks.

After work I know that if I relax for a minute I won’t do anything but relax for the rest of the day so I’ve got to dive into something. Then I prioritize relaxing a few hours before bed in order to get my best possible sleep and do it all over. It’s not about schedules and not even that much about routines or discipline, it’s about not talking yourself out of your priorities.


Singer/songwriter, jerk.

Posted in Pragmatism
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