When a task/work that supposedly consumes a large amount of time appears, my mind enters the panic mode. I need to secure time! When and where? Can I move this and that to another time?
If that task takes approximately 12 hours to complete, I try to find a whole day without any distraction. If it takes 72 hours, a week. And so it goes. I have a very logical (=predictable) way of coping with an upcoming project.
Therefore, the result is also logical (predictable). I either stretch the original period to twice the estimated length and hate myself, or I finish the task in half the estimated time and think I must be a genius and reduce the time into half the next time and of course hate myself for not keeping the new deadline.
Do I make wrong assumptions about how long a project takes? No and Yes. No because I know pretty well how far I can make progress in, say, an hour. Therefore, all I have to do is to multiply that labor-per-hour for whatever required amount. Easy.
And Yes my assumption is wrong because the labor-per-hour performance is my Peak Performance. I am totally right about how much I can achieve in my best condition. Yet I am totally (and so obviously) wrong to think that I can keep it ongoing for however long I want to.
Five Peak Hours a day allows me to finish almost all tasks I carry and enjoy most of the day slacking off, in theory. In reality, I would need several bottles of Red Bull (or even a shot through my nostril…perhaps, perhaps) and I will be spending the rest of the day in a zombie mode, devoid of any energy.
My energy comes in waves. If peak condition is the top-of-the-wave surfing experience, I need to patiently dog-paddle for five times the amount of time. I totally forget the second (and more important), and either overestimate or underestimate my working hours.
Looking back, I might have known that hidden fact all along. Of course: It is presented right in front of me every time I fail to achieve something I planned (and the rate is higher than 50%. Show mercy and please do not ask How much higher.) I just choose to ignore it, all the time.
Why? Because I always treat a “task” to be completed by “someone else.” The harder, more boring, or more time consuming a task (house chores, assignments, business meeting (duh), whatever) becomes, I separate the “task” from my identity and try to process it through hypothesis and equations, as if doing so would keep my humanity intact.
Once I set up an almighty “someone” who finishes this task within certain hours, that persona takes up an artificial life on its own and turns itself into a robot. By definition, a robot churns out constant amount of output for as long as I want. And by definition, the human being inside that robot mask is made up of waves (or mood swings or distractions or boredom/passion duality). Mix the two worlds and I would never get my calculation right, unless the “task” is completed in an hour.
This symptom isn’t limited to my own tasks. I look back on the days as a manager, and I certainly applied this Peak-Performance-Multiplied-by-Hours pitfall onto my team members. Of course I did it without realizing what I was doing, because I was already doing it to myself (on a smaller scale…). And of course the team members would get appalled by the dehumanizing demands coming from a clueless guy. Is this the reason why everybody turns into an asshole/bitch once he or she gets promoted?
The path I need to take is obvious: get the “task” back to myself. Treat the task as any other “private” activities I enjoy, and find a way to make sure everything is nicely weaved into my life.
Therefore, I recently started to incorporate my “tasks” into my daily life without a clear separation from my other activities. I no longer create a task/life boundary. Everything rides along with me, and things get done when they get done, bit by bit, along with my daily flow.
I finish a certain amount of my task, then switch to my chores, then to my reading, then to my hanging out, back to my task, then to my socializing… My life is a gigantic patchwork with increasingly blurring stitch lines. I carry my laptop everywhere because being an unpredictable human, I have no idea when I am in the “mood” for work.
The result? I am taking up more tasks that I find surprisingly easy to fit into my schedule, and I am dropping tasks that I know could fit into my life only theoretically. I am not necessarily “doing much more” as those self-help books advocate, but I am certainly in a better mental state knowing I can handle stuff that fits into my life. I am on a rough path still, but things look promising.
There is no such thing as “tasks” that I can shove into some dark holes. Everything in my life is equal in its essence, therefore, should be treated equally, as long as I welcome it in my life. Work/life balance? Everything happens is life, I would say.