Keep Two Thoughts

Personal essays

Lunch - Essay from Newsletter 179

Making time for your self

Buying time

I’ve been thinking of writing a To-do app for eleventy-billion years.

Well, certainly for more than a decade.

It’s kind of like my music app or my dough temperature calculator - it’s something that will only appeal to me and a handful of people, but I think I might write it anyway.

The idea is -

“Wait Daniel,” you say, “are you sure you want to give the idea away? What if someone else steals the idea and makes the app.”

Then I’ll buy their app and save myself a considerable amount of time. In fact, I’ll enter my app into their app and cross it off immediately and feel so satisfied.

Anyway, the idea is to view our personal time the same way sales people view the ads they sell.

To begin with, since my background is in radio, there are only so many ad slots in a day - these are called avails. You can’t sell more time than you have.

And yet we do it every day. We commit to too many things and then act surprised when we don’t finish them all.


I shared an apartment with two guys who sold ads. One worked in television and the other in radio.

One of the selling points for on-air ads was separation.

“Look at the newspaper,” they’d say. The tire ads are all on the same page.

At that time the paper would group ads of similar types in specific sections of the paper because the readers wanted to know where to look and wanted to compare offerings.

Radio, on the other hand, would guarantee that if a car dealer bought a commercial, that no other car commercials would run in the same ad break.

Television made this a little fuzzier by saying that that car ad isn’t really a car ad, it’s a van ad or an ad for a pickup truck - completely different.


Well, what about in our own lives?

I remember my dad going through all of the ads for the discount stores near us and organizing a trip that would take him to all of the places he “needed” to go.

I want a system that allows me to define context. While I’m on my laptop to check my email, remind me to log into my banking app and pay a bill, and cancel my vegetable delivery during an upcoming trip.

Group some things together - but separate others.

Writing takes a fair amount of concentration. If I have to write a newsletter and a section of a book I want to do something fun in between.

As you look at what you have to do today, consider which items should be grouped and which should be separated.

Not now

There are some times of the day that are more valuable to you than other times.

Build your schedule around that.

In radio we call that day-parts. Morning drive and afternoon drive might have one sort of rhythm while middays and evening might have another.

I know the best times for me to write, record audio, produce video, or write code. Often I sit at a laptop when it isn’t these times because I have a deadline to meet - I’m not nearly as productive.

You have to know your own habits and work around your best times to do different sorts of things.

And also you need to learn to say “no”.

Actually, it’s more of a “here’s what I can do.”

There’s something about December where we in the northern hemisphere complain about how short the days are. What if we instead said that the cool thing about that time of year is how long the nights are.

I just heard an interview with Riki Lindhome in which she said that one of her secrets to productivity is she never meets anyone for lunch.

She said she noticed she would have to leave late morning to get there in time, pay to park her car, have a nice lunch meeting, and then get home in the middle of her afternoon.

Much of her day was gone.

Instead when someone suggests they get together, she tells them she’s busy until , why don't we meet for coffee. She says they never mind and probably never notice.

She’s busy.

There’s time during the day we need to protect. Sometimes we’re not able to. Sometimes someone more powerful than us demands our time and that’s just the way it is. But mostly we can and should protect our time better.

It’s worth remembering those safety instructions in an airplane where they tell parents to first put on their own oxygen masks and then their children’s. It’s not natural for us to note our own needs, but if we don’t we won’t be there to help others.

That said, I’ll likely spend the rest of the day ignoring the good practices and thoughtful advice I’ve just offered.

Essay from Dim Sum Thinking Newsletter 179. Read the rest of the Newsletter or subscribe

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