20 January 2007

Off-Topic, Yet Somehow Apropos

Maybe it's because I've gone 4 days without writing here on Philofaxy, but somehow I found myself reading a post on Wil Wheaton's blog about writer's block. Apparently, a professor named Piers Steel has come up with an Einstein-like formula for calculating procrastination. As Wil himself says, the advice and comments people added are the best part.

So, since we have some writers in our midst, and Filofaxes are our favorite anti-procrastination tool, I thought Wil's post might be of some interest. Besides, weren't we just talking about Star Trek the other day?

Besides, isn't it just SO obvious that I'm just casting about for Filofax-related topics to write about?


  1. To me writer's block and procrastination are two different things.

    I once heard writer's block described as a "failure of confidence". I think that's a pretty accurate description. I just wrestled with ideas for a week for a new book proposal--every idea seemed unworthy of a book. I have learned just to give myself time, get away from the desk now and then, go for walks, let mind shift into idle and stop worrying about it. The ideas do come, especially if you give them a silence to fill. (I got the idea for my next book and the proposal is well underway.)

    Procrastination is, to me, not often wanting to do tedious jobs or jobs where we have fears of failure. The Filofax helps me in this regard especially, since I use the ToDo sheets by context, a la GTD (although I keep the contexts to just a few). One glance at the sheets lets me see where I'm getting behind (on things at home) or where I've caught up (at my writing studio). Also, as I get close to completing an entire sheet, that often gives me a momentum to get the rest of the to-dos in that context completed, even the to-dos that I have the most resistance to doing. So I think my Filofax is helping to minimize my procrastination.

    Nan, I understand your grappling with Filo-related topics. This doesn't seem to be a problem in the Palm universe, where people can talk ad infinitum about the next latest and greatest--often, I suspect, without getting much done. (I don't have Palms but I used to spend my time in that alternate universe, and I didn't get as much done then as I do know.) I find that the Filofax works for me without me having to think much about it or spend any major time in tweaking the system. If it works, maybe that means we simply have less to say.

  2. Oops, meant to say above "I don't hate Palms. . ." Think Palms can be useful, but my work style meshes better with a Filofax.

  3. Hi Jeff --

    Congratulations on your proposal!!

    And thank you for the words of wisdom about giving ideas "a silence to fill." You're talking about true silence, not background noise and fretting.

    I find the same thing with my To Do sheets, which I also keep by context. Sometimes all the motivation I need is to finish off the sheet! Having undone things staring me in the face helps me see where I need to focus my attention -- or where I'm just creating needless to-dos.

    Thanks for your support on finding topics. While I haven't yet reached my ultimate goal for this blog, I think you've hit upon a kernel of truth about having "less to say." This year, I have found myself doing more things like bookkeeping, merchandise returns, and housework, simply because I have nothing left to write down. These activities don't make me "feel" productive in the way that tweaking my system or reprioritizing things on my Pam did, but they are true productivity.

  4. When it comes to procrastination, I sometimes view the Filofax as my enabler. I can spend a couple of hours developing a comprehensive, prioritized task list only to be so exhausted by the process that I give myself permission to ‘take a break’ and forget about it for a while. The immortal words of Scarlett O’Hara play over and over again in my mind – “I won’t think about that today, I’ll think about that tomorrow.”

    There is something about writing down a task or reminder that sort of gives me permission to put it aside (procrastinate) knowing that it is safely recorded for future reference. It’s on my list, so I can forget about it for now thinking that it will get done eventually. Several days down the road, the list I have worked so hard to compile is outdated and must be rewritten. I understand that this is not an issue with the tool; it’s an issue with my use of the tool. It is very easy to become overwhelmed. Rewriting the list may feel productive, but it is a mere smokescreen to a larger problem – things aren’t getting done. The lack of results makes me wonder if I wouldn’t be more productive if I had a different planning device. Before I know it, I have spent a week trying to decide on the best method of planning and the best device to use. Big surprise – nothing got done again.

    I eventually snap out of this rut when I realize how silly I’ve been, but it isn’t always easy. Then I’m reminded . . .

    “One cannot kill time, without injuring eternity.” Paul Williams, Das Energi

  5. H D Thoreau, but I like the book.

  6. Hi Nan,
    I sent you an email, but you might not have received it. Here's a Filofax topic: How do you use multiple sizes of Filofaxes? I noticed while browsing your flickr photos that you have both the personal size and the A5. In my quest for the perfect planner/ perfect system, I've changed sizes more times than I want to admit - but hmmm... could there be to use more than one size at once?

  7. Hi Dewanna -- Oh, I so can relate to the rewriting thing! In recent months, I realized I was just rewriting the same things over and over again, and put a moratorium on creating any new lists or tweaking my system any more. I had spent almost 2 years doing nothing but that, interspersed with bursts of actually geting things done.

    These days, I'm getting things done very slowly, because my days are filled with so many "have to dos" that my "want to dos" are like precious gems. I think maybe I was just underestimating how long my "have to dos" and already-committed "want to dos" take, and I really don't have time to add anything new.

    I think because the Filofax is simpler to use and less intricate than, say, a Franklin Covey planner or a Palm, these patterns of mine have become easier for me to see.

    I love the Paul Williams quote!

    By the way, it IS important to take breaks! Life can be overwhelming, and it's important to get some downtime! Making lists can be part of dealing with it.

  8. Hi Anonymous -- I answered your email!


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