The sugar cube factor
The whole human race – if reduced to the nucleus and electrons that make all the atoms inside us – would be the size of a sugar cube.
This explains something.
We (or in any event, I) find ourselves cursed to a lessor or greater extent with a truly rubbish talent.
The talent is this: However long we have to do a task we will use up all that time.
Why is it so hard to stop behaving like this? I’ve been wondering about this because I have found myself hopelessly busy for a month which is why I haven’t got around to writing this blog which is something I really enjoy.
Clearly this mystery is deep in our DNA. Certainly in mine. But actually it’s rooted deeper than that. It’s in our sub-atomic makeup.
Now then, brace yourself, because to make sense of this will take 30 seconds of thinking about some dodgy science. Like this: The human body is made of molecules and molecules are made of atoms and atoms are made of electrons that orbit around a nucleus. But mostly there’s nothing there. The atom is 99.9999% space.
The playwright, Tom Stoppard visualised the nucleus of an atom as something the size of your fist in the middle of St- Paul’s Cathedral. The orbiting electrons are like moths fluttering around it visiting the dome, the altar and then the entrance.
If you squeezed out all the space inside an atom there wouldn’t be much there. And – and this is the ta-dah! moment – if you did that to all the atoms inside the entire human race, the matter you would be left with would be the size of a sugar cube.
Which means we are all, each of us, just a tiny amount of matter huffing and puffing to fill a void in a human shape.
And in just the same way our “tasks” are sometimes little more than ideas in our heads (or that of our boss/ partner/ colleague) that huff and puff and expand to fill the time we have available. Each task flutters around like a moth in St Pauls Cathedral and tends to occupy more valuable energy and time than it really warrants. Together all these tasks and to do lists seem endless and expand to fill exactly the amount of time we have available.
The trick is to reduce the tasks to the things that matter.
So for my benefit and possibly yours here are 5 tips to tackle the sugar cube factor :
Chunk it down
Don’t set yourself on playing Honeysuckle Rose like Fatswaller if you haven’t read the score. Make your first target to locate the sheet music. Or get a piano. I speak from experience.
Similarly you might find that sketching a site map is a more effective way to plan your time than vaguely pronouncing that you will build a website
Set out your day
If I define the objectives for my day before I charge into it I suddenly find myself a man of discipline and blistering productivity. And yet other days, far too many of them, I switch on my laptop/phone/iPad/ or other Distraction Device and get sucked in by emails that drag me and my plans around like a crazy person. My agenda is no longer my own and my energy is used up acting on the agenda of a at least a dozen other folk. There’s a lesson in there somewhere and one day I’ll learn it for good.
Do one thing at a time
Switching from task to task makes us feel busy but it doesn’t make us productive. Actually, it makes us busy fools. Applying yourself to a single task and ignoring the temptations of facebook, email and twitter for say a whole hour at a time will achieve far more than hurling your concentration from social nano-event to social nano-event.
I remember this one from studying for my School exams. It was good to have frequent breaks. Like everyone else my breaks which were so frequent they merged into one. Now that I have bills to pay life is different. But breaks – actually stopping what I’m doing to walk around, practice on Honeysuckle Rose (she doesn’t mind) and then returning to the grindstone does work. It’s better mentally and health-wise.
It also helps you get perspective on these tasks which threaten to suck you in like black holes. In fact there ‘s a well known experiment which demonstrates the benefits of physically taking a step back to get a better perspective on an issue. It works. And taking a break is similar.
Remember the sugar cube factor: We will extend our tasks and slow our productivity rate to spend as long as possible to do whatever it is that needs doing. So set deadlines for your tasks. Otherwise you’ll get nothing done. You may even need to set some artificial imperative as well: Like plan to start something else at a given time or maybe just tell someone that you respect that you will get a job done by a certain time. This helps makes the commitment real. I told a friend I would write my first blog post for five weeks before the weekend…
Now for Fatswaller.
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