Thursday, 10 January 2008

100,000 hours...the psychology of time management

The last thing I expected to be blogging about was time management. But I think one of the logical extensions of positive psychology is effective time management. This is a new, but not original idea. Illona Bonniwell at UEL for one, writes and researches in this area.

I'll start this series of blogs with some statistics - about me!

I imagine, if I am really lucky I'll live for another 40 years or so. I might be lucky and it might be 50, but I might be unlucky and it's 20, so let's say 40.

That's 340,000 hours.

Of these, I'll be trying to sleep 8 hours a day. 278,000.

I'll also spend 10 years in retirement. And I'll be taking my weekends, thanks. That takes me down to 186,000 hours.

But I want to know about the hours I have autonomy over. Let's say I'll probably always have daily chores to do - 1 hour a day sounds fair - and I'll probably always have travel to do. Let's say 2 45 minute journeys per work day, on average.

I am now down to....guess what?

100,000 hours.

That's it. Then my life will be done. Oh, and during this time, I have to squeeze things in like 1) earning money, 2) having a family, 3) socialising and 4) hobbies.

Suddenly I don't seem to have very much time left at all.

So the logical question is, how should I be spending it?

Sunday, 6 January 2008


I went for a run today and it was deeply painful. it was how running used to be when I was 2 stones heavier. It took effort to get out of the door, I ached on the way round and I resented nearly every minute.

This was not because I haven't run for a while, but because I have put on weight (about half a stone) over Christmas.

It reminded me that Bloom's exercise programmes must deal with diet as a mediator of persistence, as much as what is happening in your mind. In other words, if you are eating better and are lighter, you are more likely to exercise. Mind you, once you exercise it is easier to eat better.

The only thing that works in my experience are diets that replace carbs with protein (think Atkins) and the GI diet. Of these, the GI diet is by far the best, in my opinion.

The run round the block has many things standing in its way; but diet is the biggest. The challenge is to start replacing high GI food with low GI food in your weekly shop. 5 items at a time, replace them all.

The art of list making

I don't like to get too zealous about anything, but I really think lists are the best way to get anything done, to bring happiness to your life, to ensure balance and achievement in one's life. For what goes down on your list represents how you will live your life*. But the art is all in the execution.

There are different types of list. A daily list is your basic unit of achievement. It is the worker bee, the engine of happiness, containing rough timings of when things get done and in what order. It allows your mind to relax a little. "Subconscious, you can relax for I have proof of my competence here! And no, I have not forgotten milk". In practice, my staple task-level list is at a thrice weekly level but a daily list is essential for busy periods.

A monthly list provides context and meaning to the annual list - so often mocked as new year resolutions. Annual lists contain your social, financial, developmental and aspirational plans for the year. They can seem intangible when not shackled to the discipline of the monthly list. When it has been disciplined, you must cling to it, for it will take you wherever you want to go, and this creates self-reinforcing feelings of self efficacy.

The monthly list is often the hardest to write, for it must knit the aspirational to the achievable. But it is also the most important, because it demonstrates that you are in charge of your life. Happiness is a choice.

Sitting joyously at the top of the pyramid can be your life list. I think these are fun, but optional. This is because life is partly about responding to opportunities. So by all means dream, but remain open to suggestion. Life lists are covered very well at sites like these - and I have one, but it is the annual list which drives action.

Tuesday, 1 January 2008

Some resolutions for Bloom....

The end of the year feels like such a good time to take stock of things. Caitlin Moran is predictably funny about how this can get out of hand:

if the custom of new year’s resolutions is to continue, we must address a few of their inbuilt and thunderous impracticalities. Many, of course, we already know: their timing, for instance, is inapt. Who can, in all seriousness, attempt to lose weight in January, when there is still more than a kilo of delicious M&S milk chocolate truffles sitting in the kitchen, next to the fruit bowl, looking like a major and respectable food group of their own? What are you supposed to do – throw them away? Ha-ha-ha. Yeah, right. What a surreal notion. One might as well paint a big melting clock.

Then there’s the fact that you’re supposed to start all these resolutions simultaneously, and run them concurrently – as if you’re having some manner of gigantic, effortful Life Transplant. Only it’s a Life Transplant without round-the-clock medical support, an insurance payout or morphine. Just willpower, and the endlessness of January, and the rain. Yeah, right.
Well this is all true, but it is the execution of new year's resolution that is wrong here. They should firstly be achievable and fit with your overall plans. They should also be SMART. And you should want to do them either because they will improve your life, or you really believe in them. In other words, they should be meaningful.

So my Bloom blog-relevant resolutions are:

1. Write 250 posts in the year and have 25 different commenters during this time.

2. Start offering new Bloom services for free (maybe to some readers?)

3. Finish the Bloom website

4. Use positive psychology theory to spend my time (I'll be blogging about this concept)

And my personal list for 2008 follows....