Morning Time-Wasting

16:33 Sun 29 Apr 2007. Updated: 14:16 01 May 2007
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I’ve been doing well in eliminating “time-wasting” activities. The main one that remains is still web surfing. I’ve managed to get rid of a lot of that at work, which is good, but still do it at other times. Especially in the morning.

It’s not entirely clear to me why this is, or why I can sustain a good morning routine for months only to abandon it entirely. But of late I’ve been lucky to get just morning pages and DDR done in the mornings, and even just those tend to make me late for work far too often. A big part of the reason for this is, yes, because I start surfing when I get up.

I’m not a morning person. I tend to be sluggish, tired, and unenthusiastic for most of the morning. The bike ride into work helps this a great deal. DDR helps too. But I don’t seem to be able to convince myself to do DDR immediately upon waking. The prospect is somehow too appalling to my just-risen self. Instead, I clamber from the warm and soft comfort of the bedcovers to the information-rich distraction of the Internet. Distraction is the key: I want something that will occupy my mind and push back the awareness of wanting to go back to bed, but without requiring much from me. Reading online is just right for this, as it doesn’t take much concentration and is somewhat fragmented, not really requiring sustained attention as a book might. And there is something quite comforting about it, although it’s very hard for me to explain what this is or how it works. Part of it could simply be the long-term habit of reading news early, as I’ve done for years. But there’s something else, too, perhaps the illusion of engagement with the world? I suspect that’s a part of it, the illusion that by reading I am somehow involved in world affairs.

So I read news, and sports. It’s very routine, in that I always check Salon, I always check Gleen Greenwald on Salon, I always check Alternet, and I always check news.google.com. Then I check other sites also, but those are usually my first stops. (Cursor usually hasn’t been updated yet, so I don’t check that.)

This sucks up time. Significant amounts of time—but the key problem is really that I don’t consider the time significant right then. My sleepy mind thinks “I’ll just read this one article”, or “I’ll just spend ten or twenty minutes surfing”. Sounds okay… but that time seems a lot more important later. When I’m ten minutes late, those ten or twenty minutes are clearly what would have made the difference.

And this is the lesson that I seem to have to learn over and over, every day: time is valuable. It doesn’t seem so when I get up, but later in the day I find myself wondering what the hell I was doing, spending that time reading online when I should have been (for example) writing my morning pages. This is also true on weekends, when I generally have things I want to do, but don’t quite get into “doing” mode until I’ve spent far too long reading online, erasing hours of the day that I could have used to achieve something.

In an attempt to get out of this state of mind more quickly, I’m trying to form a new first-thing-in-the-morning habit, vaguely similar to the first-thing-at-work list I have (which has worked extremely well for me). The first step, as usual, is “take five deep breaths”. Bizarrely, it’s tough to get myself to do even that as soon as I get up, but hopefully that will become easier as it becomes habitual.

After that, I write down (in TiddlyWiki, naturally) five things I want to achieve that day. They don’t have to be big things, but just anything I want to get done. I’m hoping that this focuses my mind on the fact that I need to get things done that day, and that if I waste my time in the morning, it means that when I get back from work, I have to do the things that I didn’t do in the morning, and thus will have less time to do the five things I’ve listed.

So far, it’s been okay. It’s helped me focus a little earlier, but it hasn’t been a complete mental shift. I’m hoping that at least I’m going in the right direction, and eventually I’ll get back to the good morning routine I had going last year. (It would be nice to eat breakfast again, for example.)

The idea of larger import, however, is about the importance of time, even little bits of time. I haven’t absorbed that wisdom yet, because I believe that strongly every night, and yet forget it first thing in the morning.

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