Journaling and Time Management

Hello once again!

Okay, I admit it, time management is not my strong suit. However, thanks to a lot of hard work and solid mentorship, my time management skills have gone from “absolutely abysmal” to merely “horrible” in only 37 short years!

As I’m sure many of you do, I suffer from the predations of those two eternal foes of using time effectively; procrastination and distraction. Procrastination is something that I never really noticed I had a problem with until I was out of my parents’ house, and didn’t have my Mom to keep me in line anymore. At the Academy, and later on once I graduated and was living on my own, there were a lot of things that I would often let slide like writing papers, doing taxes, or for that matter, laundry. However, as I discovered over time there wasn’t nearly as much room for that sort of foolishness in the Fleet. So, professionally my procrastination was getting quite effectively hammered out of me. Despite that, or perhaps even because of that, I still have a tendency to procrastinate where my personal life is concerned (just ask Gwen!). I mean, ARS is a perfect example, as I’ve gone literally years without posting updates here.

Distraction is a related but, in my mind, different beast. By and large, the biggest venue for distraction for me has become the internet, especially since I’ve had ready access to it in my pocket since I got my first iPhone back in 2009. A well-documented phenomena is the act of “going down a rabit hole,” which is where I start looking at the Wikipedia page for Brent Spiner, then end up reading an off-color Penny Arcade strip about VR that features Star Trek TNG, which then led me to look up a review page for a Star Trek video game…and three hours later, I’m reading about size inconsistencies for Klingon Birds of Prey. Going down these rabit holes has become so much easier since I can just pull out my phone and do so at will. I noticed that it was starting to creep into every nook and cranny of my everyday life. Waiting for food at the drive thru? Time to pull out the phone! In the waiting room for a doctor’s appointment? Phone time. Waiting for a movie to start? Yep, here comes the phone again! I’ve made some strides in this area (I’d like to think), but no doubt about it, distraction is always just a swipe or click away.

Having had a lot of time to ponder my weakness when it comes to time management over my recent deployment, I’ve hit upon a couple of techniques to help curb my time-wasting tendencies. First of all, I’ve been keeping a journal, trying to hold to writing entries at least 3 times per week. I have long wanted to take up journaling, but I could never get myself into the routine due to my aforementioned distraction issues. However, I’ve met  some better success recently, and what I discovered after more than a year of solid journal writing is that taking a moment to note down major events as they happen has a way of helping me to realize where and how frequently I’m falling down on the job, as It were. I have to admit, its also fun to flip back months or even a year to see where I was back then, and reflect on what has happened since.  Journaling has helped me to be more mindful of where I am spending time, which in turn has helped me to better recognize and guard against my distractions.

The other big technique I’ve found to be useful is creating a daily plan. Not a detailed, down to the minute schedule, mind you, but rather a loose set of routine tasks that I want to get done on a given day of the week. Things like “Read a book,” or even “Write a Blog Post.” I actually use a page of my journal to lay out this weekly plan on the first day of each week, and then mark it up as a go. This has allowed me to take a lot of those things that I tell myself I’ll get to eventually, and making sure that eventually doesn’t turn into never. I find that flexibility is key, here; if I miss an event scheduled for one of the days of a the week, instead of obsessing over it I either get it done the next week, or just note that I didn’t complete it and move on. The key for me isn’t so much that I absolutely, positively get everything done. Rather, the key for me is having a more concrete idea of what I want to get done when, so that I don’t fall as easily into the procrastination and distraction trap.

Now that I’m back home, of course, there is going to be even more of a challenge to keep myself on the “straight and narrow!” I’m hopeful that I’ll be able to continue with my new-found good habits, though. Until next time!

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