October 14th, 2007

Eat Dessert First

When I was in high school, I always did my math homework first. Math was straightforward (until trigonometry, which is really more like squeezing bits of your brain in a vise, without removing them from your head first, than it is like math), and therefore pretty quick, and I could get it done and out of the way. Plus I hated it. So then I had the relief of being free of math for the rest of the day, plus the comfort of knowing I could linger over the essays I had to do. (Mmm… essays….)


I use the same approach with work now. If I need to edit something (particularly something someone else wrote), I attack that first: it’s pretty quick, pretty straightforward. If I have a feature to write, I attack that next: I’ve got all the notes, so writing the piece is a virtual cakewalk. And when all that picky stuff is behind me, I can settle to my real work, my real focus, my finalfinalREALLYfinal draft of my middle grade fantasy.


Problem is, sometimes that picky stuff doesn’t really get behind me until the day has waned and my eyes feel hot and grainy and my back aches and I’m hungry and if I don’t wash my hair it’ll never dry before I go to bed. So I don’t get to my real work at all.


Thus I have decided to adopt an “Eat dessert first” philosophy regarding work. (Not regarding actual food, though. That path could only lead me to excessive numbers of cavities.)


I pledge to focus on my real work first, as best I can, and then to get the other stuff done afterwards.


Logically I know this is the perfect plan for me. I always get done what I have to get done—it’s what I want to get done that sometimes gets lost in the shuffle. So if I do what I want to first, then I’ll still complete everything I have to. Also, the stuff I have to get done tends to be shorter-term than the stuff I want to get done—so that even makes scheduling sense: do the time-consuming stuff first, and then dust up afterwards with the not-so-time-consuming stuff.


Problem: now I have discussions with myself about whether a particular task is something I have to do, or something I want to do. (In other circles, this might be known as “novel-writing procrastination.”) Which is probably why I work up before 6 AM today, and now it’s nearly 1 PM, and I have not yet cracked open the notebook in which I had intended to do character studies.


Which means it is time for this post to end. I’m off to enjoy some ink-and-paper dessert—and then finish off with a feature- revising entrée.

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