Priorities: It’s not what you do, but what you don’t do. (Music and Thoughts)

I mentioned that one song was missing from my 30-Day Poem/Song Challenge. Well, here it is:

While you watch & listen, here are some of my thoughts from the past few days. I’ve had some interesting conversations and listened to more of Steve Pavlina’s podcasts (such as this one on achieving goals) and I’ve started thinking about my goals. I’m notorious for not setting any, so this list is not very long, but if you’ve been following my blog you’ll have seen that I have at least one:

I will develop awesome time-management skills and habits. -Me, several weeks ago.

Well, I started thinking about ways in which I could try to accomplish that goal. One of Steve’s strategies is to become the person who has already achieved it. As I thought more about what sort of person has amazing time-management skills, I realized that the person I was imagining was not very spontaneous or adventuresome, two traits I hold in high esteem. With that realization came questions: Then who do I want to be? What skills and habits do I want to have?

I began to redefine the problem, from “not managing my time well enough” to “not managing my activities well enough”. What I realized is that my main problem isn’t with missing deadlines but with wasting time. It’s not that I feel like I need to procrastinate less. On the contrary, Parkinson’s Law (Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.) makes a fairly strong argument for procrastination. If I do things earlier than they need to be done, I’ll likely spend more time doing them then they really need.

A New Approach

Today I decided I would try a different tactic: I made a list of all of the things that I wanted to potentially spend my time doing today, and tried to do only things on that list. I added some things as the day progressed, but the point of the exercise was to be doing only things that I consciously wanted to do. I have a strong tendency to get sidetracked by activities that in retrospect I judge to be wasteful. These include reading shallow blog articles, wandering around on Facebook, and having long circular arguments with my friends. These activities are entrancing but not engaging — tempting but not really worthwhile. Instead, I want to do more reading, writing, exercising, and having deep and meaningful conversations with people.

The today-plan worked out alright. I had two items on my list that I had marked as high priority (see below) and I got both of them done. The flexible schedule I gave myself worked particularly well today because the two high-priority tasks were ones I wanted to do anyway and knew I would enjoy (recording the video above was one). I’m not sure how well this would work in a circumstance where I have a large unpleasant task with a faraway deadline. We’ll see, though. I’ve managed to get those things done before though.

This is how I've been making my todo lists for several years. The bottom item type · is new, but necessary for my new paradigm as it allows for items I'm allowed to do that are infinite, eg. read.

In working through this new strategy, I’ve come to realize:

It’s not what you do, but what you don’t do.

That is, as long as I’m not doing anything wasteful, then I’m either doing something valuable or doing nothing. If I define the latter to be meditation, then it’s still worthwhile. Exactly what I do isn’t really that important – as deadlines approach, enough pressure will build that the things that need to get done will get done.

I’ve yet to determine exactly how this will affect my spontaneity, but for now my rules will be as follows:

Rules

  1. I will keep a daily list of activities I may engage in.
  2. I may modify the list at any time during the day.
  3. There is no limit to how long the list can be.
  4. I will not spend a significant amount of time engaging in other activities.

Rule 2 lets me be spontaneous, because if I discover an interesting activity I feel is worthwhile, I can take part in it… as soon as I add it to the list. This forces me to make a conscious decision “Yes, this activity/event will add value to my life” before I undertake it. Otherwise, it’s all to easy to just do it without truly considering if I really want to.

For rule 4, I haven’t decided exactly what the threshold for significance is, but I think probably about 10 minutes on any one activity per 3 hours, and 30 minutes total on any extra activities within the 3 hours. I should probably use some sort of timer that I set every time I start one of these activities, that will sound after 5-10 minutes to force me to either decide that what I’m doing is meaningful or stop. The former case would apply to finding a really captivating article or something on the internet.

I’ve created a new page titled “My Life“, that will keep a current record of exactly what rules I’m following as I live my life. The link ought to stay at the top, so if you find myself on my blog in the future you can see what challenges and so on I’m currently engaged in.

One final remark: I’m observing with some interest that while I seemed to be taking a blacklist approach, what I’ll actually be creating daily is a whitelist. I suppose because otherwise, if I wanted to permit myself to have half an hour of Facebooking, I’d have to take it off a list, which seems strange. Would I then put it back on the list when I decided I’d had enough? I’m going to try it like this for now, and see how it goes!

Three Final Haikus & A New Challenge

I’m sure I will write more haikus at some point in my life, but it need not be any day soon. I found I started to grow fond of them though. They force a certain brevity – like Twitter! (except… not like Twitter). Anyway, here are the last three. The first one is saying that the challenge was indeed a challenge, btw, not the reverse.

July 31

Challenging myself
Was not quite as challenging
As I expected

July 30

It’s almost August…
What happened to the summer?
Time owns private jets

July 29

And for my next trick
I will cut

up this haiku
into two pieces

And that’s a wrap! Well, actually, there’s one other non-prosiac work that I haven’t shared with you: a song I wrote on July 13th. I’m planning to record it this week, and when I do I’ll make sure to post it here.

I decided yesterday that my challenge for August would be something that would start me on a path to lucid dreaming. Specifically:

I will keep a daily dream journal from August 1st to August 30th.

This morning, I spent nearly an hour rolling around in a Hypnopompic state, trying to remember my dreams from last night and dreaming multiple times that I had picked up my notebook and inscribed them, only to eventually realize that I had been dreaming. Eventually I woke up, and did write some things.

I don’t think most of my dreams will be particularly valuable to the world at large, so I don’t plan to blog about this challenge, unless something interesting or exciting does occur (such as a lucid dream). If anyone has any tips for lucid dreaming, don’t hesitate to let me know!

Song and Poems Galore!

July 28

If I were dreaming…
there would be nothing to fear.
Could I be dreaming?

July 27

So I missed the bus
Accompany me, podcast!
It’s a long walk home…

The haikus from today and yesterday are both related to Steve Pavlina’s podcast on Fear. It is one of the most inspiring pieces I’ve ever listened to. I strongly encourage you to check it out.

July 26

I just recorded this video today (the 28th) but the song was actually written on the 26th, so it goes here for the Challenge.

July 25

I have a sunburn.
Two hours shirtless conversing?
A fair price to pay.

A Little Music and Reflections on Achieving Goals

July 24th song

Well, I didn’t really write this song (in the sense that there was nothing to write down) but I did create it today, so I figure that counts.

If you’d been wondering about my silence for two weeks or so (which probably nobody has, since (to the best of my knowledge) my fledgling blog has only 2-3 followers at the moment) then you’d probably be thinking “Has Malcolm been writing amazing poems and songs every day and just not sharing them with the world?” as my 30 Day Poem/Song challenge is still running until the end of the month.

The answer to that question, sadly, is “No.”

What happened?

When I discovered the idea of the 30 Day Challenge, I decided immediately that I wanted to do something. I considered doing something super-easy like “Take a photo every day” (technically I already do this as I photograph all of my food before eating it as a mindfulness exercise). I figured, however, that I could go further, and set my first challenge to be something that has often been, well, a challenge for me: forced creativity.

I consider myself a fairly creative person, but the majority of my creations arise out of spontaneous notions rather than methodical processes or even daily habits. My hope with the 30 Day Poem/Song was to help change that, but apparently it’s a bit more difficult than I thought. I have essentially failed my first 30 Day Challenge.

Failure

I have a tendency to succeed at most endeavours I pursue, but I’ve noticed that I also have a tendency to put them off until the last minute. I’ve also noticed that I don’t get many things done unless I plan when I’m going to do them, and my schedule tends to be pretty erratic. I was listening to an interview of Tim Ferriss earlier today (by Leo Babauta — they are two of my favourite personal development leaders) and he brought up the idea of controlling your behaviour by controlling your environment. That is, becoming productive by making your world a place in which productivity is natural. I’ve been listening to a bunch of Steve Pavlina’s (he’s another huge inspiration to me in personal development)  podcasts lately, and one of them mentioned this idea as well.

So, in the pursuit of awesomeness, I’ve been trying to come up with ways to organize my life, both in terms of time and space, so that I’m a more productive person. I’ve decided to start simply by believing that I will achieve this. That’s another idea I got from Steve Pavlina (from this podcast on Beliefs). Hence here is my proclamation:

I will develop awesome time-management skills and habits.

“Self-Referentially” – A Double-Dactyl Poem

New poem style. This one is crazy. It has so many rules. More about Double-Dactyls on Wikipedia. In brief, though, it has to have 8 lines, of which 1-3 & 5-7 are two dactyls (stressed-unstressed-unstressed) and 4 & 8 are a dactyl followed by a monosyllable. Line two must contain a name. The second stanza must have a six-syllable word as one of its lines. The last lines of the stanzas must rhyme with each other. Without further ado, “Self-Referentially”:

Hurgundy Burgundy
Malcolm in Mocean, he
wanted to write a quick
dub-dactyl bit

Some minutes later he
did so and lo! the word
“extemporarily”
can describe it

(June 11)

Haiku on Lucid Dreaming

I was thinking last night about how awesome lucid dreaming would be. Boom — Haiku.

July 10

I want lucid dreams
So that those 8 hours each night
Don’t seem such a waste

If It Didn’t Rhyme (A Poem in Couplets)

July 9

I find myself wondering, from time to time:
How has history changed, because of a rhyme?
If words had been different, some of our favourite songs
would find some of their lyrics just do not belong
And since popular music shapes culture and society,
We must concede power to a song’s notoriety.

Consider how The Who’s My Generation would sound,
if “get us down” didn’t rhyme with “get around”?
Could MacCartney have kept all his troubles at bay,
if “stay” and “far away” didn’t rhyme with “Yesterday”?
Or would James Brown really have felt quite so good,
if he couldn’t rhyme that he knew that he would?

Or anthems – if not with years “victorious” or “glorious”,
how would one bid “God save the Monarch” reigning “over us”
Or how would Canadians “on guard for thee” stand,
if “thee” rhymed not with “free”, nor “land” with “command”?
Would the myriad of rhymes in The Star-Spangled Banner,
make America different phrased in some other manner?

And what about Christmas carols, sung every year?
If not jolly, would holly bring so much cheer?
Or fond memories of White Christmases we “used to know” –
How would they sound with no rhyme on the word “snow”?
or back even further, to William Shakespeare –
Sonnets unwritten since the rhyme wasn’t there

Countless other examples, but this poem’s quite long
(Though its rhymes have been eased by plagiarism from songs)
…It’s crazy to think, no? How life would be changed,
if popular lyrics had to be rearranged…
Their meanings, of course, would change slightly as well,
although as to how, one really can’t tell.
Yet consider the massive effect of each word
on the vast populations by which it is heard,
and it’s clear that such a small thing as a rhyme
can have a lasting effect for all human time.

How To Write A Sonnet

July 8

If someone in your life you’d like to woo
And you suppose you’d like to try with verse
Yet poesy is all but new to you
Relax, for sonnet know-how I disperse:

The first step is to choose your rhyming scheme
Shakespearean is how this one is known
Italian’s another often seen
For more you can do research on your own.

Pentameter-iamb’s the other key:
Unstressed and stressed repeated five times o’er
Eventually it will come naturally,
Though first it may feel like a brutal chore.

Good luck! You’re more poetic than your peers.
Be proud to join the ranks of sonneteers.

Self-referential Haikus

Two haikus:

July 7

Use only one word
On the last line, if it is
Pentasyllabic

July 6

Typing a haiku
On my computer feels so
Anachronistic

Poems from Previous Days

When I try to force myself to write poetry, it often ends up being either self-referential or about whatever is on my mind at the time.

July 5

Absentmindedness
Is when you forget what you…
What was I saying?

July 4

I once felt inspired to say
I’d write some poem/song every day
This one’s even betta
because it’s so meta
(though for limericks that’s kind of cliché)

July 3

1, 1, 2, 3, Fibonacci
5, 8, 13, started sequencin’
21, 34, numbers found in nature
55, 89, with a ratio so fine
144, that on adding even more
233, will approach Phi
A portrait of Malcolm Ocean

I'm Malcolm Ocean.

I'm trying to figure out how humans work so I can help make humanity work. More about me.

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