Thursday, November 5, 2009

The Time-slice Paradox

One thing that I do not excel at is so-called Time Management.  The bare truth of the matter is that I simply don't "get it".  Perhaps it is a function of my preternatural obsession with the literal defintion of the namesake I carry (Shirk), or merely a learned behaviour unwittingly harvested from a bout of debilitating depression as a teenager.

Often lauded as key in Time Managment is Multitasking.  This is a term often thrown at me in the context of what I do poorly, as if an evolved human adult should inherently be able to do it well.  The term itself comes into the popular lexicon through computing and the famously multitasking processors in our home computers.  It is implied through it's popular use, and idiomatic use in self-management circles, to mean the ability to and act of performing more than one task at a time.  This is utter nonsense. 

In computing, with the exception of multi-core processors, multitasking never entails two processes having control of the main processor core at one moment, but rather it is the ability and act of priority switching between them.  Even in multi-core processors the trick is that there is more than one processor core available!  If you equate a cpu core to the human brain - which I might point out we have only one of - it is clear Multitasking really means, the ability to juggle multiple tasks based on priority, focusing on only one at a time.

Given this better definition of Multitasking I contend I am actually pretty decent at it.  Where I fail is in judgements involving relative priority and efficient use of focus length.  In the first case, priority is highly relative and subjective.  Nine out of ten times my problem is in not using another persons relative priority matrix but instead using my own.  Since I am a selfish, egoistic being, this is fraught with hazards.  So fair enough, I'm basically a newb at applying an understanding of what other people find important.  Luckily I am lately able to get pretty close as I build a secondary internal matrix of 'common priorites' such as timeliness of arrival (people hate it when you are late or make them so), fullfillment of promises (if you say it, do it, and not late, see #1), observance of details (do everything you said you would neglecting nary a detail), and added value (only if you've done the other three).

My main challenge is in efficiently determining how long to focus on any one task.  My nature is one of the artisan, focusing intently on one work of art until it is completed then moving to the next.  I am not a slave to this nature and do juggle mutiple tasks at once but I'm all to often stuck focus-firing one item down until I've long past the time where my priority matrix should dictate I switch targets.  This is where I encounter the Time-slice Paradox.

In my personal life I have many, many pulls on my time, such as, cleaning, laundry, organizing, planning, preparing, gaming (oh so many games), reading, writing, exercising, cat time, sleep time, friends time, travel time, etc.  Any number of these things feeds into two factors in regards to my feelings towards a given day, 1) my sense of personal effectiveness and 2) my sense of accomplishment.  The Time-slice Paradox is essentially the Heisenburg Uncertainty Principle of life management.  The more clear I am about 1) the less sure I am about 2) and the reverse.

On a day where I return from work and perform 1 hour of each cleaning, reading, writing, eating, XBOX and PC I will feel a very high sense of personal effectiveness but will feel like I accomplished very little in any of them.  On a day where I come home and spend no more than an hour on cleaning/eating and spend 5 hours playing a game on XBOX, I will feel I have accomplished a great deal on that game, but been fairly ineffective overall, wasting most of my time on one thing.

Perhaps this is only something that effects me, a result maybe of my own skewed sense of accomplishment, but it no doubt plays into all my Time Management woes, confusing my ability to rationalize the proper size of time-slices to use in my multitasking.  Considering I am lagging on writing assignments, slacking on blog posts, slumming in a chaotic apartment, starting to watch 2 new TV series, and sitting on 4 or 5 new games... this is going to be one heck of a paradoxical month.


  1. Invoking my writing classes, it was brought up that writing is a form of Catharsis. In rereading this I see many insights into myself. For example I clearly need to examine that I appear to have no discernable priority matrix between cleaning, eating, reading, writing, gaming, etc. Another is that I need a system of Interrupts to hard-code triggers for task changes.

    Also I am a giant geek.

  2. I taught you "Hard core triggers" such as...
    "What's that smell? Oh! Maybe I should take a bath."
    or when you notice Smokey wrapped around your leg while your standing might want to feed him.
    and...when you finish eating you can do laundry to get all that food off your clothes!

    That kinda thing. lol