Questlog

July 5, 2020

Days

4:12 AM

Taking a break from all the nihilism and “nothing matters” posts to write about productivity as usual. It’s been hard to get things done because I have enrolled myself in an accelerated summer course concerning numerical analysis and a bunch of advanced mathematics concepts that I cannot even begin to comprehend. I am beginning to see why it is so common for adults to say that they have no time to learn a skill or pick up a hobby.

Back when I was little (or maybe like two or three years ago) I thought I would have no problem continuing my day-to-day sphere of productivity and little fun projects even when I eventually began working 9-5. I thought, “What’s so hard about going to work and then coming home and doing stuff for another five or six hours?” But the sad truth of life is that it is much easier to plan out a day filled with work than it is to actually be present and alive in that very moment, when all you want to do is sit in front of the computer and mindlessly scroll through social media and Reddit because you simply don’t have the brain power to do anything else.

However, I am determined to crack the code! I’m going into week three of six of this class, and my goal is to develop a new thesis on productivity theory by the time it is over. Either I learn something groundbreaking about short-term activities and long-term progress, or I will agree with the rest of my parents’ generation and surrender to the horrid and bleak complacency that plagued the evenings of a full-time employee. Once again I am assigning myself an unfailable task, because sometimes you just gotta give yourself a pat on the back, you know? Even if you don’t deserve it.

Anyways, so where does that lead me? I’ve discovered that although progress can be made in a mere 15-20 minutes, it is often so daunting to even begin working on something that I am finding myself just wiling the hours away, waiting to start. And you may be thinking, “Well, that’s pretty dumb. If you knew you only had to dedicate less than half an hour and you’d see some tangible results, why bother wasting hours and hours on the pre-work anxiety?” To which I would respond, “I don’t know, and stop attacking me please. I am trying my best.” Does dialogue belong on a new line if I’m just rambling on? I think it does but frankly I don’t care. One thing I learned early on in my writing career is that you can take liberties with your grammar for the sake of style, or for the sake of ignorance and laziness, in my case. I also learned that you’re not supposed to go on tangents, as this might confuse the reader and they may just close the tab out of frustration and never read the ending of your post!

So here we are back at three sentences ago, discussing what exactly is so scary about trying to make progress. And the crux of it, I believe, is the fact that it is never a standalone activity. For example, my latest nightmare of a project involves this incredibly non-intuitive and convoluted programming library called TensorFlow, and it is probably one of the hardest times I’ve ever had with trying to learn something. Now, when I think about my plans for the project and what I have to do to accomplish it, I am almost never thinking, “Today we can spend half an hour or so trying to learn some more about it, and this will aid the project in the long run.” Instead my mind bounces around to the far future of the project, obsessing and freaking out over the countless hours and days I’ll have to pour into it, not even knowing if the end result will be viable or successful. To decide to try to make progress is not just using up a tiny portion of my day, it’s a commitment to a very long-term time investment that I am afraid will not pay off or will cause me more headaches than it is worth. It is almost impossible for me to wake up and treat today like it exists in its own plane of reality, as if nothing will affect tomorrow.

Which is technically true. I mean, time moves forward, and the days lead into the next. It is purely a logical thought that today’s actions should chain properly into tomorrow’s, and that the week should be planned out to supplement the rest of the month and the year. But as I’ve seemed to be discovering lately, thinking logically is actually more often than not the dumbest (and nerdiest) thing you can do. It makes things unbearably frustrating and reduces a lifestyle down to expectations and a never-ending cycle of planning ahead. Again, it’s counterintuitive, but I am an advocate of actually treating each day as a one-off, separate occasion, ripe for whatever you want to do.

The reasoning behind this is that when you begin to view each day as only one part of a whole, you begin to lose touch with the actual experience of living out that day. Doing things while thinking about how those actions will have consequences in the future is only a recipe for frustration and resentment towards yourself as you inevitably find ways to veer off course - whether it’s just life getting in the way or it’s a random surprise that takes up the time you had allotted for other things. Which is by no means a bad thing; it is the unexpected and volatile side of life that really makes it worth living out. Otherwise, wouldn’t it just be boring and one-dimensional if I spent the rest of my evenings and free time working on projects and participating in events that I meticulously planned out a long time ago? Having fun and being caught up in the moment is not something that we are capable of controlling, so why bother?

So yes, it is just all a big ruse. The “productivity theory” was never intended to make me more productive - it’d be cool if that happened as well, but ultimately I wish to develop a better perspective on life: one that doesn’t revolve around achievements and milestones as ways to measure success but rather is capable of weathering any sort of failure or obstacle. Only when I stop viewing my days as means to an end for various projects and skill improvements will I truly begin to not only enjoy my everyday lifestyle but actually take steps and risks that will lead to the progress that I spent so much time dwelling over.

Ugh, the end of this really reads like an essay I wrote for a GE class. Oh, well. See you all soon, hopefully with a more consolidated theme and focus.

- Sam