I will resume writing my work logs as I did when I first begun writing: a registration of daily experience related to work. The first task, I think, is to define what I mean by work, because I sense that my definition is a bit idiosyncratic and I do know that sometimes I overstretch the boundaries of meaning and I encompass things which are clearly not work, so this ends up being a personal journal of sorts.
There is no problem in delving into the personal because in the end everything is connected, but sometimes I think I cease writing work logs and write personal logs instead, with an optional sprinkling of work.
What is work?
Any effort expended in the betterment of one’s life situation. Work can be inward or outward. Outward work is what I will focus resuming these work logs, because I think I over-indulge in inward work, and my purpose in this period is to reconnect with outward work. I find that writing about work helps me become more engaged in it, and I become more adept at extracting wisdom from experience when I write.
My intention is not to write about the specific work I do, but about the conclusions I reach because of the work I do. In the process of explaining these conclusions, it is very likely that I will have to explain some of the work done.
I will cease speculating and delve into the process itself.
The first task in work seems to be to remove all extraneous distraction. Things that interrupt us and will not go away unless we address them. This might seem like procrastination, but if you have pressing issues, in my case a bug report from a Method Draw user, some pressing issues from René who is releasing a writing course today, and a former client who needs a quick update to his software.
Unfortunately, entire days can be consumed by these menial, yet unavoidable tasks. Why does it seem that every project is a child that gains a life of its own, and comes back for attention every now and then? By this logic, my career will never end, because I will have accumulated hundreds of children that will claim my attention perpetually, and the only way to gain rest will be at my deathbed.
Perhaps then, my approach to legacy work is wrong: should I simply say no to maintenance work? Every effort that I put into the past is an effort that I do not put into the present. Where does maintenance work end? Right now, a reasonable pile of unwashed dishes lie in the sink. This morning I prepared breakfast and wondered wether it was more important to address the dishes or work first, but I will eventually have to address the dishes.
Sometimes I sit down to work, and when I become tired of expending this kind of effort, I go and do house chores, so I chose to leave the dishes in the sink in order to wait for the moment in which I would need a break. One cannot (or should not) work in more than three hour stretches, though it is the mind and the body that set the pace.
If you are in a state of flow, do not interrupt it because you are at your three hour mark. Pomodoro is bullshit: lose yourself in work, let the clock fly by how many hours it requires, but if the flying of the clock is lost, do not force it, take a break and wash the dishes.
Is it possible to make maintenance work into the same category as chores? If I am working on a major project and I need a break, can I switch my context and address a menial task? It seems to be possible, yet not ideal, because the context switch is not different enough to count as a break. We are working with the mind, looking through a screen, using our hands to perform a task. A real context switch would involve using a different part of our body, and a different center of being to perform a task. Thus, walking the dog, washing the dishes, making the bed, or going to the gym are good candidates for breaks from work.
Thus, I answer myself: there is no way to address menial computer work as a break from the same kind of work. I guess, if I became a digital being, that is, that my emotional and mental life happened entirely in cyberspace, I could accomplish this. And yet, I waste so much time on Twitter and Hacker News that I must concede that—for many hours a day—I am a digital being.
This is a thread that I must continue exploring. For the time being, I will complete my menial tasks in order to make space for creative work.