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Idea IS the format

The occasional downtime of Daniel W. E. Light
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Sunday, 7 September 2008

Indivisible processes

I was due to spend this weekend in Southend on my brother-in-law's stag weekend. Instead, after a 72-hour round trip to LA for the Virtual Worlds Expo, I decided to spend the time at home with family pottering around in the garden. Sitting here on Sunday night, feeling nourished and well-rested on the brink a hugely important working week, it feels like the right decision.

Lola and I were down at B&Q by about half nine on Saturday, and spent a happy half hour trolleying around picking up this, that and the other, including this odd little impulse purchase:



Food's a bit thin on the ground for birds at this time of year, so it seems like a good time to do a bit to help. We have a nice view of the box from within the kitchen as well, so hopefully Lola will enjoy keeping an eye out for any regular visitors.

From the picture below you can see that the kitchen garden is now clear, except for some spinach still going strong in the far left and four French raspberry plants over on the right gifted us by my mum and dad. (They went away with a banana plant that's apparently thriving in St Vaast La Houge in a way that it never really looked like doing in Hackney.)



I also put a fresh bag of chipped bark down just to cover up a couple of spots where it was looking a little patchy, and I planted those three lovely looking plants in that bed over on the right. Two of them are spotted laurels, 'an extremely robust, variegated shrub', and in the middle there's an evergreen azalea, 'a small, hardy evergreen shrub producing salmon-coloured flowers'.

I have no idea what the garden's going to end up looking like, or how long we're going to be around to enjoy it, but I do enjoy the time I spend pottering around out there, especially when Lola comes and joins me, giving me the excuse to witter on endlessly about what it is I'm doing at any given moment.

When I finally sat down to deal with some of the work I have to do in preparation for next week, I started by drawing up a things-to-do list, most of which related to business we have to win. In my own mind I had a couple of other things to do as well, one of which was to write up a post about my LA trip, and another of which was to post these photos. Plus I had a backlog of articles and links people had sent me that needed following up.

The conceptual model I initially created for these tasks was one based on mutual exclusion - if I was reading the articles, I wasn't preparing a pitch document, or working on a blog post, and vice versa.

Inherent within this was a fairly rigid chronology - I would do one thing, then another, then another. That said, even though I was trying to itemise and prioritise, the to-do list as a whole was now looming over me, a single insurmountable obstacle.

I contemplated abandoning these efforts entirely. Fortunately, rather than doing so, at this point it registered that this methodology for managing my time and effort really sucked, and that I ought to try and improve on it.

I tried to look at the things I needed to do in terms of the core processes they incorporated - what I'm referring to as 'indivisible processes'. I could see that all the pitch documents would be driven by the same essential argument, even though this would subsequently be structured in a different way. A cursory look through the links and articles revealed that these would inform this argument. It also occurred to me that the LA blog post would sit most naturally off the back of all of this, albeit that I would be forced to publish it later than I might have liked.

Eventually I had a far more holistic model of my 'workload' in mind. Other things began to happen. I started to form a much clearer sense of priority, weighing the primary and secondary value of individual acts against their capacity to deliver the various necessary outcomes.

I also abandoned the model of mutual exclusivity, unless it was the nature of a particular task that it need to be approached in complete isolation.

I detached myself from my computer, and started to work on paper. This is something I've been building up to for a while. I'm starting to see how limited and labour-intensive computers are as a way of completing complex tasks, and am starting to use mine on a far more task-specific basis.

Though I have very little to show for it, I'm certain that the hour that followed was by far the most productive I've spent at my desk in some time. My dissastisfaction with the the things-to-do model has been growing, and I can see that this alternate approach has the potential to be massively liberating, far more enjoyable, and much more consistent with the nature of the tools, media and ideas that form the basis of my working life.

With all of this in mind, I made a first pass at re-envisaging my life in terms of indivisible processes. It brought me here, to the end of this post, in which I've given those dearest to me the chance to catch up with what I think they're most interested in hearing about, and I've taken a first step in arranging my evening's revelations into a form that can be shared and expanded upon.

As a final aside, I'm completely convinced that I wouldn't have reached this interesting place if I hadn't permitted myself a two hour nap earlier on today, at a point at which I was struggling to concentrate on anything. Indeed, now that I think about it, sleep is perhaps the ultimate indivisible process - it has no output within itself (except, in my case, sound waves), but it is the foundation of everything we do in life, and influences our productivity and effectiveness very directly. With that in mind, and an exciting week ahead of me, I bid you goodnight x

posted by Dan Light  # 15:23
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Comments:
Such sanity.......... in one so outwardly insane!! (you know who I am!) xxx
 
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