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'Binge' working

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  • 'Binge' working

    One of those a-ha thoughts, phrased in my own mind's language and imagery, that no doubt echoes things others have said before...

    My wife and I, after watching our eating carefully for a couple of months, decided to celebrate her good grades and my first paycheck at this job with a blowout meal, no boundaries. It was great. And then after, we paid the price with tight bellies, general logy feeling, moaning and groaning-- a food hangover, in other words.

    It hit me at some point that I've been doing that with my current freelance gig. That is, instead of pacing myself, and setting aside time in the day to take breaks, exercise, spend time with my wife--achieving a sense of balance, in other words--i was working myself up to a session of 'binge working,' where i would start at 2 or 3 pm and go go go until 11pm or midnight. And since i need time to unwind after that, I'm not going to bed till 1 am or 2am, and then the cycle starts again when I wake up late in the morning, groggy, hungover from plastering my brain with this senselessly pressurized work pattern. And it's 2 or 3 pm when I feel ready to tackle it again. (Yes, the work comes out OK, but I'm a wreck when it's done.)

    I know things could be said about getting in the zone, about occasionally having to pull an "all-nighter", about circadian rhythms (I am more the night owl than the early bird), but still -- I can see that this, for me at this time, is an unhealthy pattern of working.

    So, this week, I'm back to negotiating a schedule that has me working a good 8-9 hour day to meet my deadline, and then a break for exercise, dinner, reading, and generally easing off the pressure so I can be more relaxed and fresh the next day. (And, back to the old eating plan!)

    This post is absolutely apropros of nothing else going on on the board, but I thought you guys would understand if no one else would

    all best -- mike

  • #2
    Many years ago I read “The Unbearable Lightness of Being” by Milan Kundera. It was a good read, and was made into an excellent film. The title has stayed with me much longer than the content though, because it helps explain a similar tendency I had to binge work.

    A day spent getting through tasks at an easy pace sometimes feels like a meaningless day. So, why not let stuff accumulate into a pile which you can just about get done in a single ass-kickin’ session, culminating in the heroic final charge to pull it all together and race up the final slope to the summit and get the damn thing out the door.

    Now that’s what I call living!!

    But of course, that’s the wrong way to work, isn’t it? DA makes a great point on Getting Things Done Fast – work is a game, or an Art, like a back-spin or a bounce pass: we are not our work. I should be turning it all in widget punching routines, and just enjoying the calm, and the freedom.

    Dave

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    • #3
      Originally posted by Busydave
      So, why not let stuff accumulate into a pile which you can just about get done in a single ass-kickin’ session, culminating in the heroic final charge to pull it all together and race up the final slope to the summit and get the damn thing out the door.
      Ah yes--the "Riding into Cochise on a White Horse" syndrome. (Culture alert for non-US readers--this alludes to a sheriff arriving to clean up a Wild West town.--Similar to the Knight on a White Horse.)

      I'm a sufferer. That's another faulty pattern that needs correcting.

      Comment


      • #4
        Non-US cultural alert

        Or like James Hird getting 20 kicks in the last quarter and finally sneaking that last goal with a banana kick in the dying minutes to drag Essendon over the line.

        For those of a more southern Australian bent.

        PH

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        • #5
          Yeah, binge-working is a great name for what you describe (and I've been there too). But I actually don't consider binge-working analogous to mere binge-eating, although that is a great analogy. I think for many, a frenetic work pace is more like a narcotic than food -- perhaps literally because of the adrenaline and other hormones released by the stress that frantic work creates.

          I think some of us have an addiction to those hormones (adrenaline and stress hormones) and therefore create that unnatural rush by forcing our lives into situations where we have no choice but to tackle an onslaught of work in a last-minute frenzy -- and thereby get our high of adrenaline and stress hormones, so to speak. I bring it to this level of analysis only because I think procrastination, leading to binge-working, can only be cured when it is understood as a harmful, disruptive addiction.

          I also think this board, and David Allen's system -- in fact the entire time-management system -- is what those of us addicted to work seek out in hopes for a calmer, more productive life. We know we are in trouble. We know the binge-working isn't working, isn't right. We know we need to be calmer in order to understand our true purpose in life. And so we buy these books, and hale the approach that lasts the longest (i.e., that seems to cure our need for adrenaline the longest).

          But I just don't think adopting even more effective time management systems is what really works, ultimately. They just enable us -- they allow us to pile on even more committments and responsibilities to our already busy lives -- and that isn't true progress because progress demands a sense of purpose and clarity, free from addiction.

          And so I just think that to get what we are searching for on this board, we have to do conquer our addiction to the adrenaline and stress hormones that ultimately motivate our binge-working, and the creation of stress in our lives. We have to face our demons (the cause of that addiction), just as surely as we know alcoholics have to face theirs. Only then can we gain a clear sense (unaffected by our addictions) of our purpose. Then, and only then, we can seek efficiency as the best method to effectuate that purpose, rather than a temporary anecdote to the stress our addictions create.

          Unless the gravity of our addiction to adrenaline and stress is recognized, and tackled on the deepest level, time management gurus (DA included) are peddling us band-aids rather than cures -- helpful, but not as meaningful as we might think. Anyway, those are my thoughts -- thanks for the post.

          Comment


          • #6
            binge working

            Pros: can be more efficient because you avoid extra transitions into and out of the work (great for once and a while projects that rarely repeat), good for people who have trouble stopping and starting and otherwise might not get anything done at all, good for when you need to get to a flowing mental state and it is hard for you to get there, may be necessary to take advantages of certain stretches of time in your world that you cannot always get--such as right weather, loan of a certain set of tools, okay perhaps if you can schedule these long work events and prepare for them, and ou may get a better overview.

            Cons: You might end up exhausted rather than invigorated and then avoid the unpleasantness of the work in the future--just not get started until a gun is to your head, you may make more mistakes and not even realize it, you may rely on the intensity to get creative, as one gets older it is harder to count on yourself to work so intensively for long periods, it goes against data on learning ("massed practice", meaning practicing or learning something all at once does not yield the learning results that smaller, more frequent practice sessions do), people may view you as erratic, you are more likely to forget how you do things because you don't do them often enough. I also once did a literature review on writer's block and found a study that found that academics who wrote about the same amount everyday (2 to 4 pages) were more productive and created better careers than those who wrote on a binge basis. I cannot locate the study.

            Comment


            • #7
              I think that procrastination is overrated - yet another exaggeration hyped as a problem by people who have a cure ready for you (yet another book?). I think procrastination is only a problem if it causes you to destroy relationships and make yourself sick.

              There's an old thing about "sleeping on it" - your mind operates in the background and when you wake up a lot of the confusion has been sorted out. (I'm told that I talk in my sleep.) I think a lot of people use procrastination during the day in the same positive way - to allow the mental process to continue in the background. How often do you break for a cup of coffee and while you are watching for the kettle to boil, a flood of new ideas or logical connections is released? The important thing for me is when the mind says that the work is ready to be done it gets done. I don't much care when that happens as long as I do good work. Of course, an impending deadline has a magical way of focussing the mind.

              I guess that being productive on someone else's schedule has never worked for me. I always figured that if the report was due at 8:00 a.m., I had until 8:00 a.m. to write it. (I'm a night owl and a perfectionist.)

              Andrew

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by andmor
                There's an old thing about "sleeping on it" - your mind operates in the background and when you wake up a lot of the confusion has been sorted out.
                I call it "composting ideas" and I'm trying to do it more consciously. I do have to work on the problem for a while, to understand its parameters, but then I need time away from it to think about my patterns, my goal, etc. and whether this is the best way to proceed. That means I may think about my work all day, as it occupies some bandwidth while I'm cooking or reading. But I don't consider that billable time, alas.

                Agreed, deadlines focus the will wonderfully, but that's when I beat myself with the procrastination stick. Accomplishing a little something every day keeps the demons at bay.

                Also agreed--when you're ready to do the work, it's like ripe fruit falling from the tree on its own. Hardly any effort is needed.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Optimal Timing

                  Busydave wrote:

                  A day spent getting through tasks at an easy pace sometimes feels like a meaningless day. So, why not let stuff accumulate into a pile which you can just about get done in a single ass-kickin’ session, culminating in the heroic final charge to pull it all together and race up the final slope to the summit and get the damn thing out the door.
                  The heroic final assault can grind to a screeching halt if you need the input of a colleague who is on vacation until next Thursday. This can be especially problematic if the project is due next Wednesday.

                  I think that most of the comments on this thread are pointing to the idea that there is an optimal pacing to accomplishing most projects. It is indeed possible to move too slowly on a project. Momentum gets lost, learnings fade, etc. Similarly, it is possible to try to move too quickly. Then you can get jammed trying to get onto people's calendars, locate available resources, or (horrors!) trying to do insightful or creative thinking while you are under the gun.

                  Jamie Elis' statement about academics who pace their output being more productive overall than binge workers points this out. By maintaining an optimal pace, they regularly press projects forward, maintaining momentum and keeping learnings fresh. At the same time, they allow slack for getting onto the calendars of busy colleagues, obtaining information and resources, and most importantly allowing time for ideas and insights to incubate.

                  The problem for a lot of people is pressing forward without some form of gun to their heads. Apologies to me_brown1110, but waiting until the fruit drops from the tree may not be feasible. Oftentimes, we need to get started and allow inspiration to arrive some time after we've fully engaged. Following GTD practices helps with that because it enables you to get and maintain clarity about your outcomes and the steps to accomplishing them. It also helps by presenting you with reminders to act in the places where they are most useful.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Re: Optimal Timing

                    Originally posted by Scott_L_Lewis
                    Busydave wrote:
                    The problem for a lot of people is pressing forward without some form of gun to their heads. Apologies to me_brown1110, but waiting until the fruit drops from the tree may not be feasible. Oftentimes, we need to get started and allow inspiration to arrive some time after we've fully engaged. Following GTD practices helps with that because it enables you to get and maintain clarity about your outcomes and the steps to accomplishing them. It also helps by presenting you with reminders to act in the places where they are most useful.
                    Oh, I quite agree. For my creative tasks (like writing fiction or, for this job, solving online help navigation issues), the muse definitely prefers that I keep to a regular schedule. The book others have touted on this board, The War of Art, has been very helpful to me on this subject.

                    Since starting this thread, I have kept a steady pace on the job and not killed myself. The clients seem happy with what I've done. The deadlines are tight but they hired me at the last minute, so... GTD is definitely part of the package for keeping all my projects going at a sensible clip.[/i]

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