(My column for the October 2017 issue of the Tetbury Advertiser)
People often say to me “I don’t know how you do so much”.
But I have plenty of sins of omission, because, as an optimist, I am constantly trying to fit more into the day than can physically be done.
I wish I could bring myself to subscribe to the Fall Off the Desk rule invented by my former boss. She held that if you ignored a task for long enough, there’d no point in doing it.
Harnessing Time’s Chariot
Not being that defeatist, I decided last month to re-embrace the timesheet. Years ago, working as a consultant, I had to keep timesheets to demonstrate I’d spent no more hours on a client’s business than they had contracted to pay for. These days, my chief client is me, but I hoped the practice might help me get more ticks on my action list each day – or at least excuse me from wasting precious time on the ironing.
The last time I filled in timesheets was before the invention of smartphone time management apps. We got by with paper lists or commercial systems such as Filofax. Such systems may look smart, but they’re not exactly exciting. My novelist friend Alison Morton‘s husband’s collection of Filofaxes earned him a place in the book Dull Men of Britain, alongside a drainspotter. No, that’s not a typo.
Squirrelling Time Away
So this time round, I decided to go high-tech, choosing from a wide selection an app called Toggl, because it reminded me of Tog, the red squirrel from the 1960s children’s television series Pogle’s Wood.
Toggl lets you set a timer running as you begin each new task. My first experiments were fun, but flawed, due to pilot error. I kept forgetting to turn it off when I went to lunch, logging five-minute tasks as taking an hour. Usually I turn my computer off before I got to bed, but when I forgot, Toggl recorded a gruelling night shift. I may burn the candle at both ends, but I’m not that bad. With constant mistakes reducing its accuracy, Toggl’s novelty started to wear off, and I wondered whether to send the little squirrel into hibernation.
Tuning into a New Trick
Then by chance over breakfast, I heard an article on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme promoting the importance of idleness to the creative mind.
To be more productive, it suggested, I shouldn’t be managing my working hours but increasing my down-time.
I already knew my best ideas arise when I’m not actually trying. Sure enough, after the programme finished, I got the idea for this column not at my desk but while in the bathroom cleaning my teeth. Well, it could have been worse.
Here’s to a season of mists and mellow idleness for us all. I think we deserve it.
If you enjoyed this post, you might like to read my collected columns from my first six years of writing for the Tetbury Advertiser.
Now available in ebook from all good eretailers, and in paperback online and from your favourite independent local bookshop – just quote ISBN 9781911223030 to order.
The Tetbury Advertiser has just won another award for parish magazines – best for content and third place overall. Congratulations to the Tetbury Lions, who run it to raise money for charity, to the tireless editor Richard Smith, and to all my fellow contributors. What a team!