The world could use more blockheads
February 11, 2019 9:12 AM   Subscribe

An average day has ~1,000 minutes. That works out to 100 blocks of 10-minutes. Here are some thoughts about how you want to use those blocks vs how you actually use them. And here's a website where you can track your daily blocks.
posted by dancing leaves (30 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
 


I usually like these habit-tracker / visual representation of your day type things, but this just feels exhausting. Maybe it's the 10-min increment, maybe it's the "billable hours" mindset. But I would feel more anxious about trying to determine whether cooking dinner is really "worth three blocks" instead of just cooking the damn dinner anyway.
posted by basalganglia at 9:24 AM on February 11 [17 favorites]


I use a similar idea for work with "pomodoro" time chunks and I track how long tasks take on a KanbanFlow board.

I find tracking my time so fascinating and even after doing it for several years, I am surprised by how far off my estimates of how long something should take me to do.
posted by source.decay at 9:25 AM on February 11 [2 favorites]


This makes me anxious about how we all die soon and I'm wasting my days on this gosh darn website.
posted by Grandysaur at 9:26 AM on February 11 [7 favorites]


My goal with this system is to fill all my blocks with panic attacks about how my blocks are filling with panic attacks.
posted by Philipschall at 9:28 AM on February 11 [29 favorites]


I do appreciate the visual of the 10x10 grid of blocks as a way of understanding how limited, and valuable, our time is--the grid looks so small, given that each block is only worth 10 minutes. But as for using it to actually organize one's day, I agree with basalganglia that it's unpleasantly similar to the experience of recording billable hours working at a law firm.
posted by Pfardentrott at 9:28 AM on February 11 [2 favorites]


Seems like a nice training tool to make good, efficient workers.
posted by Thorzdad at 9:34 AM on February 11 [7 favorites]


Throw out any blocks that don't give you joy. Don't bother thanking them first - they should have tried harder to give you joy. Now, fold all of the blocks that are left into 1 minute cubes. Now pack the cubes into your closet. Your life is now complete. Exit stage left, even.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 9:38 AM on February 11 [18 favorites]


Yeah. I have to record 5 days a week in six minute units. It's utterly miserable and has never ceased to be a huge mental effort for me. I recognise the writer isn't proposing this as a way of life, but it is an anxiety inducing idea...

That said, this seems like it might be a worthwhile practice if approached the right way. While I don't see any particular reason why this would actually help people make their lives better*, I think it's quite interesting to think about how one's time is used, and what the forces (primarily the forces of capital) are that dictate that. I don't reckon there's much that most of us can do to change those forces, but if I can keep struggling to do so anyway, I'm going to forgive myself for not tracking how much Hearthstone I play.

* To be honest, something about it, at least as presented, feels like a sort of self-help "7-day diet" to me.
posted by howfar at 9:43 AM on February 11


"I used 2 to 5 minutes of this block to figure out how to describe what I did in the last block. I used 30 seconds to type into this block the message about figuring out what I did in the last block." Just gonna go ahead and paste that in to each block. Then that 30 seconds is down to a few seconds copy-pasting. Progress! Efficiency!
posted by snwod at 9:45 AM on February 11 [3 favorites]


Ten minutes is 6.94 Swatch beats, so I guess that rounds to seven. Call it 100 blocks of seven beats.
posted by fedward at 9:46 AM on February 11 [3 favorites]


y'all have fun with that. (I'm looking at this trying to understand how people find this kind of thing interesting and y'all that do find this interesting, I don't get you but you're valid as heck)
posted by nikaspark at 9:50 AM on February 11 [2 favorites]


If I were to do this, I'd start by recording my actions but not making any effort to adjust them, and then review the data after a few weeks to see if anything jumped out at me. But I wouldn't be doing it to Maximize my Productivity! It would be more like "oh, doing the dishes takes less time than I think it does, why do I always put it off so much" or "man, look at the amount of time I spend fucking around online, I could totally be doing something more fun with that time."
posted by showbiz_liz at 9:54 AM on February 11 [7 favorites]


When I was in grad school long ago, I had a Casio calculator watch that let me set up a little beep chime to go off every ten minutes. When it chimed, I would simply ask myself, did I do anything in that last interval? No logs or analysis, just a binary yes or no. It did help me be more productive, and am considering trying that again. Although maybe at my more advanced age I have earned 30 minute blocks.
posted by StickyCarpet at 9:58 AM on February 11 [5 favorites]


Sometimes I worry that I've not lived my life to its fullest...but then I read things like this and give thanks that I've never wanted or even felt the need to reduce it to ten-minute increments in the interest of late-capitalist "efficiency."
posted by The Card Cheat at 10:27 AM on February 11 [4 favorites]


I refuse to be block-shamed.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 10:27 AM on February 11 [2 favorites]


Block chain my heart
Baby let me be
This life don't count
Encrypt me, set me free
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 10:35 AM on February 11


Oh fuck this, my life does not need an optimization strategy so that I'm a better drone.
posted by Automocar at 10:51 AM on February 11 [4 favorites]


This brings to mind one of my favorite sites in college, 43 Folders. 43 Folders was a site about productivity, based very heavily in the Getting Things Done method of organization, with some fun stuff like pen reviews and the Hipster PDA thrown in. It actually helped me get my shit together in college.

I remember the day that Merlin Mann (previously), the site's founder, stepped away from the site, or at least updating it so frequently. He came to a realization that people wanted tips for getting organized, please give us tips, what is today's tip, we need more tips. And part of that realization was that people weren't really getting organized, just submerging themselves in tips for getting organized, and maybe using it as an excuse to go to Staples and pick up some office supplies. What these people had failed to take away from the site is that organization and productivity relied on actually doing the steps outlined in any number of methods, not just collecting tips. At a certain point, you actually have to go do something.

The idea behind this grid is fine, actually: You have a limited amount of time during the day to do what you wanted to get done. The breaking things up into 10 minute chunks thing feels like someone really wants to do some optimization exercises, which is also fine. But honestly, I think it starts to push into the "bits to fiddle with" territory, like washi tape in bullet journals. The underlying method here feels useful: What did you want to do yesterday? What did you actually do yesterday? Why did it happen that way? Those are useful things to think about. Make a list, even! Lists are useful. But there's no need to try to slot everything into ten minute chunks. That feels like a huge distraction.
posted by gc at 10:59 AM on February 11 [12 favorites]


We are never off the clock
posted by Morpeth at 11:15 AM on February 11 [1 favorite]


Now imagine you're a mayfly and 144 blocks represents your entire lifespan
posted by oulipian at 11:20 AM on February 11 [6 favorites]


this is neat but it'd take me like at least a dozen blocks to fill out all the blocks
posted by numaner at 11:22 AM on February 11 [1 favorite]


Now imagine you're a mayfly and 144 blocks represents your entire lifespan
posted by oulipian at 11:20 AM on February 11 [1 favorite +] [!]


Now imagine you were educated evil and don't recognize that every day is divided into four corner days, and the 4-equidistant Time points can be considered as Time Square imprinted upon the circle of Earth. In a single rotation of the Earth sphere, each Time corner point rotates through the other 3-corner Time points, thus creating 16 corners, 96 hours and 4-simultaneous 24-hour Days within a single rotation of Earth – equated to a Higher Order of Life Time Cube.

I'm just saying there's a lot of 10 minute squares there.

(edited for minor formatting)
posted by gc at 11:49 AM on February 11 [6 favorites]


This may be my ADHD brain perception, but I didn’t see this as a reminder of our limited lifespan, I felt the limits lift when thinking of getting 100 opportunities, every day, to do or at least get started on something I want to do but somehow don’t get around to doing. 100 chances, a day!
posted by meijusa at 12:03 PM on February 11 [5 favorites]


I have been using a home made, much looser version of this from the beginning of this year. My day isn't incremented, and I only track things that I am interested in tracking. Primarily how much time I spend on personal projects, and some other things I am too embarrassed to post. My thing was kinda inspired by these journaling systems (which are incredibly opaque in some cases).

I am slowly adding features as I think of them and want other ways to parse the data. What I am thinking is that using journaling is a super personal thing, and this kind of restrictive format might work for some people and for some goals. But it isn't for everyone! make your own dang time tracker, ya know?
posted by jonbro at 1:56 PM on February 11


Feh. My time-tracking system is Hofstadter's Law.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 2:47 PM on February 11 [1 favorite]


Mine's more like Sturgeon's Law.
posted by Spathe Cadet at 3:33 PM on February 11 [3 favorites]


I remember the day that Merlin Mann, the site's founder, stepped away from the site, or at least updating it so frequently. He came to a realization that people wanted tips for getting organized, please give us tips, what is today's tip, we need more tips. And part of that realization was that people weren't really getting organized, just submerging themselves in tips for getting organized, and maybe using it as an excuse to go to Staples and pick up some office supplies. What these people had failed to take away from the site is that organization and productivity relied on actually doing the steps outlined in any number of methods, not just collecting tips. At a certain point, you actually have to go do something.

The seed of doubt was planted when I listened to the episode where Merlin announced he'd given up on writing his book, and it blossomed when I realised that Merlin's output, as a productivity "guru", was identical to the output of someone whose sole skill was talking. I don't actually think Merlin Mann is all that different from the people he's built a career on hectoring for buying notebooks instead of doing the thing, which is probably why that insight resonates so strongly. But he still hasn't done the thing himself.

For me, breaking down my time into these tiny little blocks isn't that useful, because when I'm doing something I'm proud of, I could be spending eight, four, seventeen, blocks at once. I don't want or need awareness of my time when I'm in a flow state, I need it when I'm bumming around on the internet, which means I don't actually need time awareness, but awareness of what I value. And I've realised recently that I value the internet mostly for the constant dopamine hits of tiny insight or awareness or amusement that substitute for actual accomplishment. I've got a real broad base of understanding and awareness, but that's come at a cost - I can't actually do anything with too infrequent a dopamine hit of accomplishment. I can't grind away on something and keep at it for long enough to actually finish it.

When Merlin Mann was in this situation, he gave up and made that surrender into part of his personal brand. So I guess I'm KonMari-ing him away - thank you for Inbox Zero, thank you for making me think twice about buying fresh notebooks when I haven't filled up the last ones, but I've moved past the point where you're relevant to me.
posted by Merus at 5:11 PM on February 11 [5 favorites]


Merus: Fortunately, aside from Back to Work, which lurches on like a Zombie, Merlin's moved into a career as just a general podcaster, and if you like him as a person (which I do), you'll probably like the other, fun, goofy podcasts he does with folks like John Roderick, or Max Temkin and Alex Cox, or John Siracusa, where there's next to no productivity talk, and a lot of goofing around and stuff. (And when there is productivity talk, it's usually about how awful productivity talk is.)
posted by SansPoint at 7:43 AM on February 12 [1 favorite]


This reminds me of something I read years ago, that still circles around my mind, from time to time:
Don't tell me what you care about. Show me your bank statement, and I'll tell you what you care about.
This sort of exercise can be useful occasionally, to take stock of how our actual behaviour compares to our stated values. For example, I might say that Charitable Cause X is extremely important to me, but realise that I'm spending twice as much at Starbucks each month as I donate. Or I might say that I'm a Maker, or a Reader, or so on, but realise that I spend twice as much time juggling as I do tinkering with electronics.

This doesn't have to come with value judgements attached, and can't sensibly be generalised between people, who all experience different obligations/demands on our resources. But a comparison of how you think you spend your time against how you actually spend it can be an interesting exercise, and be a good jumping-off point for reflections about self-image and priorities.

I wouldn't want to do this long term, but as an occasional stock-take I think it sounds useful.

(As I've argued before, I've found that increasing my "personal productivity" up to a point has been great, after I realised that "play" and "relaxation" are important products that need to be optimised for alongside everything else. I don't "produce" much that'd look good on Instagram, but when looking at outcomes like "went for a walk in the park" and "organised meeting some friends" my productivity has gone up a good deal, and my life improved commensurately.)
posted by metaBugs at 10:27 AM on February 12


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