how to progress without planning | virtual book

how to progress without planning

#essays #time-management #decision-making #work Mentioned in how to choose your next book, what I'm doing now

The other day I picked a bunch of books from my library and tried to start each of them. I had

energy and free time

how to work #2

(Originally posted on

#essays #psychology #time-management #energy #physiology Mentioned in writing how to work #2, how to progress without planning, how to chart moods, how to coordinate metaphors #2

Right now, it’s 5:28pm. I just finished my work day. I turn my attention inwards — I’m not very hungry yet, and I still have energy to do something productive. I have to make dinner eventually, but otherwise my evening is open. This is where I make my mistake. I choose an easy activity like cooking, getting groceries, going thrift shopping, watching TV, or scrolling through my phone. The mistake isn’t doing these activities, but doing them when I have both the time and energy to do something special.

These moments are precious, and they pass by unnoticed unless you watch out for them. They offer you the chance to take on work that is challenging and time-consuming. They are an open road and a tank full of gas, space to gather speed and cover ground. Choosing to spend that time on something easy is like burning gas in first gear. Don’t waste your energy on tasks that can run on fumes. Leave the laundry and the dishes for later, when your brain needs to rest. This is your chance to practice a craft or work on a project, anything that requires brainpower and is meaningful to you.

When the opportunity comes, pounce on it. The sooner you start, the sooner you’re in the zone and the longer you’ll stay there. For creative work, it’s not just energy you need but also time. Resist the temptation to do chores just to feel productive. Letting small tasks occupy space in a big gap of time is like parking in the middle of two spaces. Better to dedicate long stretches of time to activities that need it, like making art or building something. Let chores and other small tasks squeeze into the spare minutes in your day.

According to Dr. Dement’s book The Promise of Sleep, energy tends to peak in the morning, dip in the early afternoon, and peak again in the early evening. If you listen to your body, you can figure out when your energy rises and when it falls. Once you know your pattern, you can dedicate the highs to meaningful-yet-demanding work and leave the lows for easy stuff.

Adapting to the ebb and flow of your capacity makes you not only more efficient, but happier. Your efforts bear more fruit because you know when the moment is ripe, and you learn to savor small victories when nothing bigger is within reach. Gone is the guilt of “being lazy” when your energy dips because you know it’s just a phase in a cycle, a valley in a range of peaks. You can have faith in yourself, and let rest nagging questions of willpower and attitude.

It’s 6:27pm as I finish the first draft of this piece. Aware that I had energy to think, and about an hour before I got too hungry to focus, I set myself down to write. Now I have to stop, but a good foundation has been laid, one that I’ll build upon next time I have the time and energy to do so.

. None stuck. Until one did. That’s the one I read.

Instead of forcing order, I let impulse lead. I have dozens and dozens of unread books sitting on my shelves, but for my next book I often buy a new one. If I’m currently interested in a particular topic or author, I follow that. Curiosity and appetite, though they may take you in new directions, make for great fuel. Working by willpower, on the other hand, drains you.

Unsupervised impulses can lead us down paths not worth pursuing. I try to guide myself gently onto one of various directions I’ve consciously chosen. I move in unpredictable bursts but I move freely. I make progress in uneven quantities but I make progress.