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Time Management For Anarchists

Time Management For Anarchists

    A while back, Jim Munroe started giving a talk called ‘Time Management for Anarchists.’ The talk evolved into a Flash adaptation, complete with historic anarchists Emma Goldman and Mikhail Bakunin. From there, Jim teamed up with Marc Ngui and turned the whole concept into a comic book, now available as a PDF.

    The comic, the talk and the Flash presentation all focus on a surprisingly simple dilemma focusing anarchists: how do you get things done when the Man is no longer setting your schedule?

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    Agenda Books Are Weapons

    Jim puts it simply:

    The job and school both provide deadlines, purpose, peers — it’s like the fit you in an exoskeleton at the age of five. You grow up within these structures and while you gain a lot of experience doing projects, you never really develop your own muscles.

    Whether you’re an anarchist, or simply someone with no desire to listen to upper management, it takes a surprising amount of self-discipline — and time management — to make sure that you keep producing. Without some sort of discipline, it’s hard to even start all those things that we clear out time for. Sure, you can go back to that exoskeleton — that external structure provided by work or school — but who wants to do that?

    For Jim’s titular anarchists, then, there has to be a way of internalizing that structure. While ‘Time Management for Anarchists’ seems incongruent, it may be the only way an anarchist — or someone else outside of the normal employment system — can succeed. The logical conclusion is that the greatest tool for bringing about the end of oppressive employers is the agenda book or calendar.

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    While the concept took me a bit by surprise, it does make sense: being able to prioritize and plan is the skill necessary to run your own business, remodel your house and generally do well at anything. It’s only when you’re working on someone else’s projects that an inability to manage your time won’t cripple you. After all, who needs to manage time in college, when we can simply pull all nighters? Depending on what kind of excuses we dream up, we may even be able to get extensions — why bother starting a project until after the due date?

    The same holds true, to an extent, for employees. It’s generally the responsibility of someone higher up the food chain to make sure that you’re on track and that a project will be done on time. These days, it seems like it takes a concerted effort to do otherwise. Many freelancers and small business owners soon go back to the 9-to-5 grind because it’s easier — they don’t need self-discipline to follow a supervisor’s directions.

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    Jim’s work is based on experience. He was a novelist with HarperCollins before leaving to create and promote independent presses. Writing for a big publisher HarperCollins fits the idea of working for an employer: deadlines are set externally, and it’s more a matter of keeping with a schedule someone else sets than striking out on your own projects. But publishing a book through an independent press, on your own, is entirely an act of self-discipline. If you don’t meet your deadline, no one will come around waving a contract. Your project will just fail.

    Deadlines Are Your Comrades

    The comic gets into a truly novel concept. One of the characters proposes that responsibility to yourself is a social act: when you work for yourself and you actually accomplish things, you’re benefiting everyone. While I don’t really identify with the left, I personally like the idea that spending time on my own projects (and actually getting them done) does some good beyond making me happy. The example that really works for me is the production of an album. Sure, the reasons a musician puts out an album aren’t precisely altruistic, but other people certainly benefit — if only by having some new tunes. More often, the benefits are of a higher level, though: once a musician has made his own album, he can show others how to do it, give other the inspiration to make their own music and more.

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    But before a musician or anyone else can be responsible to himself, he has to have the self-discipline to meet deadlines and finish projects. Altruism isn’t going to be the driving force to create an album or finish another project. Instead, it’s the ability to make a decision to follow through on something and the skill to manage the time necessary to do it. Jim manages to show a few other benefits to time management, as well, although the comic’s discussion of the concept is fairly shallow because of its format. His Flash presentation has a fairly in-depth consideration of the topic, however.

    All in all, I think that ‘Time Management for Anarchists’ is well worth a read for anyone in need of a reminder of just why self-discipline is a useful skill. The Flash presentation is also quite useful, and does clear up some of the questions I had after reading the comic — a few concepts were dropped in order to adapt the overall idea to comic form. Furthermore, the Flash adaptation has a great run down of just what you should look for in an agenda book or calendar. And who doesn’t love the idea of Emma Goldman explaining time management?

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    Last Updated on October 15, 2019

    Is Procrastination Bad? The Truth About Procrastination Revealed

    Is Procrastination Bad? The Truth About Procrastination Revealed

    Procrastination is very literally the opposite of productivity. To produce something is to pull it forward, while to procrastinate is to push it forward — to tomorrow, to next week, or ultimately to never.

    Procrastination fills us with shame — we curse ourselves for our laziness, our inability to focus on the task at hand, our tendency to be easily led into easier and more immediate gratifications. And with good reason: for the most part, time spent procrastinating is time spent not doing things that are, in some way or other, important to us.

    There is a positive side to procrastination, but it’s important not to confuse procrastination at its best with everyday garden-variety procrastination.

    Sometimes — sometimes! — procrastination gives us the time we need to sort through a thorny issue or to generate ideas. In those rare instances, we should embrace procrastination — even as we push it away the rest of the time.

    Why we procrastinate after all

    We procrastinate for a number of reasons, some better than others. One reason we procrastinate is that, while we know what we want to do, we need time to let the ideas “ferment” before we are ready to sit down and put them into action.

    Some might call this “creative faffing”; I call it, following copywriter Ray Del Savio’s lead, “concepting”.[1]

    Whatever you choose to call it, it’s the time spent dreaming up what you want to say or do, weighing ideas in your mind, following false leads and tearing off on mental wild goose chases, and generally thinking things through.

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    To the outside observer, concepting looks like… well, like nothing much at all. Maybe you’re leaning back in your chair, feet up, staring at the wall or ceiling, or laying in bed apparently dozing, or looking out over the skyline or feeding pigeons in the park or fiddling with the Japanese vinyl toys that stand watch over your desk.

    If ideas are the lifeblood of your work, you have to make time for concepting, and you have to overcome the sensation— often overpowering in our work-obsessed culture — that faffing, however creative, is not work.

    So, is procrastination bad?

    Yes it is.

    Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you’re “concepting” when in fact you’re just not sure what you’re supposed to be doing.

    Spending an hour staring at the wall while thinking up the perfect tagline for a marketing campaign is creative faffing; staring at the wall for an hour because you don’t know how to come up with a tagline, or don’t know the product you’re marketing well enough to come up with one, is just wasting time.

    Lack of definition is perhaps the biggest friend of your procrastination demons. When we’re not sure what to do — whether because we haven’t planned thoroughly enough, we haven’t specified the scope of what we hope to accomplish in the immediate present, or we lack important information, skills, or resources to get the job done.

    It’s easy to get distracted or to trick ourselves into spinning our wheels doing nothing. It takes our mind off the uncomfortable sensation of failing to make progress on something important.

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    The answer to this is in planning and scheduling. Rather than giving yourself an unspecified length of time to perform an unspecified task (“Let’s see, I guess I’ll work on that spreadsheet for a while”) give yourself a limited amount of time to work on a clearly defined task (“Now I’ll enter the figures from last months sales report into the spreadsheet for an hour”).

    Giving yourself a deadline, even an artificial one, helps build a sense of urgency and also offers the promise of time to “screw around” later, once more important things are done.

    For larger projects, planning plays a huge role in whether or not you’ll spend too much time procrastinating to reach the end reasonably quickly.

    A good plan not only lists the steps you have to take to reach the end, but takes into account the resources, knowledge and inputs from other people you’re going to need to perform those steps.

    Instead of futzing around doing nothing because you don’t have last month’s sales report, getting the report should be a step in the project.

    Otherwise, you’ll spend time cooling your heels, justifying your lack of action as necessary: you aren’t wasting time because you want to, but because you have to.

    How bad procrastination can be

    Our mind can often trick us into procrastinating, often to the point that we don’t realize we’re procrastinating at all.

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    After all, we have lots and lots of things to do; if we’re working on something, aren’t we being productive – even if the one big thing we need to work on doesn’t get done?

    One way this plays out is that we scan our to-do list, skipping over the big challenging projects in favor of the short, easy projects. At the end of the day, we feel very productive: we’ve crossed twelve things off our list!

    That big project we didn’t work on gets put onto the next day’s list, and when the same thing happens, it gets moved forward again. And again.

    Big tasks often present us with the problem above – we aren’t sure what to do exactly, so we look for other ways to occupy ourselves.

    In many cases too, big tasks aren’t really tasks at all; they’re aggregates of many smaller tasks. If something’s sitting on your list for a long time, each day getting skipped over in favor of more immediately doable tasks, it’s probably not very well thought out.

    You’re actively resisting it because you don’t really know what it is. Try to break it down into a set of small tasks, something more like the tasks you are doing in place of the one big task you aren’t doing.

    More consequences of procrastination can be found in this article:

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    8 Dreadful Effects of Procrastination That Can Destroy Your Life

    Procrastination, a technical failure

    Procrastination is, more often than not, a sign of a technical failure, not a moral failure.

    It’s not because we’re bad people that we procrastinate. Most times, procrastination serves as a symptom of something more fundamentally wrong with the tasks we’ve set ourselves.

    It’s important to keep an eye on our procrastinating tendencies, to ask ourselves whenever we notice ourselves pushing things forward what it is about the task we’ve set ourselves that simply isn’t working for us.

    Featured photo credit: chuttersnap via unsplash.com

    Reference

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