Oh Woe: Time & Sanctions


So, usually I hate maxims and wise little sayings, etcetera ad infinitum, but I make an exception for Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project because I often find myself nodding my head at her posts. The other day, she posted a list of the secrets she’d learned in adulthood that changed her life once she figured them out. One in particular stuck out to me, since I was in a fit of multi-day procrastination:

What you do EVERY DAY matters more than what you do ONCE IN A WHILE.

I decided I was going for force myself to put this into practice. The three things that offer the most instant rewards when I do them every day, but which I have the hardest time actually being consistent about are: 1) WRITING, 2) eating and drinking sensibly, and 3) exercising. Pretty basic stuff, right?

Since the spreadsheet for a novel doesn’t actually appeal to me, I made a Word document with some tables in it — because I want some sort of spreadsheet, even if not one specifically for my book. I put the quote from Gretchen at the top and made a table with numbered entries for 1, 2, and 3 with Yes or No check boxes for each. Each day, I have to honestly assess whether I did all three of these things. If the answer is NO, then I don’t get to watch any TV the next day, not even if it’s a Veronica Mars day or an Office day or whatever. (Two days a week, I am allowed to take off from any one of these things without sanction but must still do two of them.)
(More after the cut.)

I also decided that in order to make sure I’m getting some writing time every day, I’d start bringing my MacBook to work. During lunch, I pull my little red chair for visitors over behind the bookshelf, so people walking by won’t see and come in to talk to me, take out my laptop, put on headphones and write. It’s kind of flabbergastingly amazing how much I can get done in an hour with no wireless connection and, also, I must admit there’s an added bonus of the spy quality of being hidden. The first day I did this, a fellow staffer wandered in to grab a Smarty from my candy dish and saw me. "What are you doing? Some sort of 007 thing?" she asked. "Um, working on schoolwork* during lunch hour?" She rolled her eyes, and I went back to typing.

Yesterday, well, yesterday was the first day I missed two things (that only took a week) — and, miraculously, writing was not one of them. It turns out I’ve picked up the office cold that’s going around, but hopefully it will pass quickly. At any rate, it led to a need for cheeseburgers, wine and Trivial Pursuit questions last night, followed by a quick shop at Barnes and Noble. Today, I just have a headache. And, wah, no Heroes from last night or VM tonight for me. Hardly seems fair. But them’s the rules. I’d feel like this was a very grown-up way to conduct myself, this whole "encouraging responsiblity by chart" thing, and that would be depressing as hell, BUT when I was a kid the worst punishment I ever got was to miss my favorite TV shows (Buck Rogers, represent!), so I still feel remarkably immature.

The B&N trip did yield an essay topic for my next packet. (Now I just need one more.) I bought Cathy’s Book and am going to doing something with John Green’s Realishness concept from last year, and how and when that works in books. Choose Your Own Adventure books will be discussed, as will Lewis Hyde’s The Gift: Imagination and the Erotic Life of Property (on recommendation from Terri, and more on it soon).

And, cold or no, I will pull my little chair over behind the bookshelf and try to do some small measure of Work today. And, yes, I’m also writing at other times now, though my biggest chunks of time are still reserved for the weekend. Funny how it gets easier to find writing time when you make writing time.

* Admitting that you’re working on your novel during lunch, while true, just adds to what Maud has smartly identified as your unavoidable eccentric office personality. And, you know, the Master’s program makes it TRUE.

4 thoughts on “Oh Woe: Time & Sanctions”

  1. An excellent idea – one that I would do well to implement in my own life. The only catch — I have no television…so what might the punishments be…..???

  2. Several times I’ve tried to implement such programs–alas the will power to pull through them just ain’t there! The chart’s a good idea, tho’; nothing like seeing your progress in black and white to spur you on! Good luck!

  3. I just ran across the happiness blog too, Gwenda, and had JUST your same 3 three things in mind. I like your checklist idea!! May steal…

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