Done O'Clock

Factory whistle

I've been thinking recently about how to avoid getting burned out with the things I'm doing. I think there is something about the combination of a daily habit of writing and of prototyping that interacts badly, specifically that because both habits are (by design) inflexible, they draw from the same resources and fail in the same ways. But more generally, I think there is a problem with obligations tending to stack up and leave you with no unobligated time.

It's a very dangerous situation to be constantly behind, which is something I came to realise recently. Beyond just its implications for spoiling the value of failure as a signal and its tendency to lead to "what the hell"-style giving up, you also build the wrong kind of habits. You need a different kind of engine to keep going vs getting off the ground in the first place, and being behind tends to stress that short-term system.

But maybe the biggest danger is that I think you need time and space to come up with ideas, to feel spontaneous and creative. It's important to cultivate that sense of freedom and instability to allow you to remain creative, and that can't happen if you're always under the gun. And yet stability and structure are important too, and with those inevitably comes pressure. How do you strike the balance?

I don't know yet, but I can tell when I'm getting it wrong, so I guess the best thing to do is just try things and see how they work. So I'm starting with an idea I call Done O'Clock. Done O'Clock is when all your obligations are fulfilled for the day. It's when, if you feel like it, you can just go to sleep or watch TV or stare at the sky for as long as you want without affecting your plans in any way. Done O'Clock is when you make the transition from high to low pressure, from work to play, and from creation to creativity.

Historically, I don't think I've believed in Done O'Clock that much. I would tend to leave things like writing or prototyping until late in the evning, something I actually flagged earlier but never really dealt with. I would schedule stuff right up to bedtime, on the assumption that one time was as good as another. But the problem with not having a Done O'Clock is that you can never really relax because you know there's still something else to do. Your leisure time is an illusion because you've still got an eye on the clock.

So I'm endeavouring to treat each day as a race to Done O'Clock. It might be early in the day if I don't have a lot on, it might be late, but there will always be a point where I'm finished. That's not to say I won't have fun before Done O'Clock, or won't work afterwards, but when Done O'Clock passes I'll know I've completed what I set out to do.