Saturday, May 27, 2006

We Return to Previously Scheduled Programming In Progress

The musing, analyzing and reappraisal of priorities has been ongoing form the moment I began writing the previous post nearly two weeks ago. But I’ve done more than think and stew. I have targeted several issues as high priority and devised possible solutions and implemented them. They are still in the experimental stage but have generated good results already. The highest priority was sleep as only chaos and confusion is generated by a sleep-deprived mind. Giving in to the greed for sleep the latter part of last week meant the loss of most of my late-night work sessions. But the payoff came when I arrived at Grandma’s last Saturday afternoon feeling rested after sleeping for most of eight hours. Something clicked as I compared the way I was feeling that afternoon to the previous weekends. I realized that attempting to flip my hours back and forth was not working and no amount of will power or self-chiding was going to make it work. I needed to choose one schedule that would work for both the weekend and the rest of the week. I grabbed a piece of scratch paper and, using my coffee mug, drew two fat circles on it. I turned these into AM and PM clocks. I started by shading off the non-negotiable hours--the 6PM to 7PM dinner and dishes hour. Then over the next several hours I experimented with various mutations of 24/7 day schedules and 24/7 night schedules. I eventually settled on the graveyard shift as fulfilling more of the non-negotiable criteria while continuing to give me the largest blocks of time for uninterrupted thinking and writing, the most access to the internet and the best fit for my natural night-owl bent.

This meant that I had to stay on the graveyard shift Saturday night while staying with Grandma. Having the laptop meant that I had access to all that I needed to have a productive work session. All I lacked was access to the internet but that could actually be a blessing as I don’t get much actual writing done while online. I am too busy chasing down web pages. There were several additional adjustments to make but they were easy to figure out once I had settled on a foundation. In order to work the graveyard shift Saturday night, all I was giving up was a few hours of crappy, anxiety ridden sleep anyway. But in order to make it work I had to come prepared by a solid seven hour sleep that ended no earlier than noon. This meant that I had to give up Saturday morning as laundry day. It also meant that I had to lay down no later than six. No more retreating to the bedroom when my mother-in-law got up at five to bide my time with reading or writing until she left at six and then zipping back out to the living room to get back online--sometimes to stay there until just before her expected return at noon.

Continuing to work backward thru the days to find the sticking points, I realized that the same held true for Friday mornings in which I had long had the habit of going without sleep in order to get a couple more hours of time online and then begin the involved process of preparing myself and the books for the weekly trek to the library--this was described in excruciating detail in the previous post. This had usually meant that I lost much if not all of Friday night’s work session and those rare times I had a full session work was compromised by sleep deprivation. So I spent a great deal of time contemplating the elements of library day, looking for ways to carve up the time that gave priority to the sleep that was necessary as a foundation for quality work. I knew that I needed to have the same standard for Friday morning that I had just set for Saturday morning or it would be difficult to maintain it for Saturday morning. It was like a falling dominos game. The practice of going sleepless on Friday morning had been workable before racing season’s Saturday’s with Grandma had been added to the picture because I had the freedom to make up that sleep Saturday afternoon. Then it seemed to be OK because it helped me flip my hours from graveyard to days for the weekend. And this gave me Saturday mornings for laundry, hanging with my husband and packing for the overnight stay. Giving that time back to sleep meant shifting or losing those tasks or benefits.

The same went for Friday mornings. Staying awake had seemed the best option because I do not return to the waking world easily and I needed to be alert for the walk. That was a matter of life and death for me. I must keep my mind on every step I take while walking among moving vehicles and other pedestrians. Most of the tasks associated with library day required an alert and focused mind. Just about the only one that didn’t was the shower and shampoo. And even that took much less time if I wasn’t groggy.

So, I began to look for tasks from Friday and Saturday mornings that could be shifted elsewhere. It occurred to me that I could shift showers to the previous evenings in order to free up a good chunk of time--nearly an hour. Establishing an evening shower made sense in other ways. It could be a symbolic gesture of respect toward my graveyard work session--getting ready for work like someone with a traditional ‘job’ could set a tone of respect for it. I shaded off the 7PM to 8PM hour for this. That was a little more time than I actually needed so it occurred to me that I could combine laundry into that hour and possibly into the post dinner hour--start a load before I start the dishes after dinner. I couldn’t do a weeks worth of laundry in a single day with this time slot but I could spread out the loads among two or three or more days. It was at this point that the chaos began to shape itself into an order that I began to feel good about. The concept of shifting the tasks backward applied elsewhere. Like preparing the returning books. Most of them could be prepared on Thursday evening while I waited for access to the living room. Those books that I knew had used up their two renewals and those I knew had a queue of requests behind me could be stripped of their bookmarks and packed. The movies and books that I or my husband finished with during the week could be packed instead of stacked.

One of the major priorities I had set out to work into this new schedule was the reinstitution of a fifteen to fifty minute free-write time immediately upon waking each day. This habit, recommended by a number of writers, had paid handsome premiums in the past and I wanted to bring it back. It was the habit of returning to the internet after six each morning that made waking up in time for this problematic. This exercise serves to prime the pump so that words and ideas and original thought flow freely throughout the day. But it only works if it is the very first thing you do upon waking--before engagement with words from any other source I.e. TV, conversation, reading, even the analytical thought involved in planning your day or accomplishing involved tasks like preparing a meal getting dressed. I hope to go into more detail about this another time. For now, suffice it to say that of all the elements of the new schedule I developed last Saturday, this is the one I have remained most faithful to.

Other aspects have been harder to adjust to or needed refinements. And in the case of the library trek, yesterday was the first of three Friday’s the Phoenix branch is on hiatus and by having the returning items packed before I lay down Friday morning, my husband was able to return them on the way to work so I didn’t have to make the trek at all. That allowed me to get a solid sleep Friday which in turn allowed me to have a full Friday night work session. Which has set me up to carry the same schedule thru the weekend. If I don’t blow it now. I am breaking one of the cardinal rules of the new schedule to get this posted--returning to the internet after six. But I have a bit of leeway this weekend as the races were canceled due to weather. I am still going to be spending the night with Grandma tonight so my father-in-law can have a break, but I won’t be leaving as early.

Last Saturday night after Grandma went to bed and I was holed up in the other bedroom, I watched two DVDs: Under the Tuscan Sun and Being There. They took priority over reading or writing as they had been due on Friday and had to be in the drop box by Monday morning and Sunday afternoon was already assigned to watching Dreamkeeper, a three hour movie also due Friday, with my husband. And Sunday night was the season finale of Desperate Housewives. I am in the same boat this weekend with two movies due Friday and held over the weekend. This time it is Blackboard Jungle and A Lesson Before Dying. Speaking of season finales--Lost was the last of my prime-time stories to have its season finale this past week. This is going to free up a lot of time and make transitioning into my work session much easier. Sometimes I really miss having a working VCR to record shows that infringe on the sacred hours after 9PM when the living room and thus the internet become available. Before the VCR in our room decided to stop spitting out the tapes, I never let a TV show commandeer one hour of that precious night-shift.

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