Inflexible afternoons

Trailhead: Seth Godin. "The most important meal of the day". Seth's Blog (2021-03-04).

Sort of like yesterday, Seth wrote something I was also thinking about today. In short: it's better to think about how a work day works—how your work day works—in order to have a better work day. Otherwise it's just a casual hell of unplanned reactions performed at inopportune times.

I've been trying to figure out ways to plan my day for years, with marginal results. I'm not surprised by it. Planning is often too brittle—do this during this half hour, do that during that hour—and reality shatters the plan into pieces. So planning has to be flexible to work. But I think flexibility is typically only concerned about the shape and size and number of tasks. That's only an aspect of work.

I like mornings. Early mornings are nice because they're clean and free. I can choose the number and intensity of external interruptions, for the most part. (Don't open email. Keep IM off. Et cetera.) And I am fairly well tuned to work then.

The other extreme: afternoons are trash. Wickedly hard to concentrate. Energy low.


"Datura flakes off from your lips
You've lost the swagger in your hips
Your eyes are turning blue to gray
Your skin feels soft and sagging down
Your arms drag across the ground
With each step you take"

—Murder By Death. "Killbot 2000". Who Will Survive and What Will Be Left of Them? (2003)

Coffee can slow the descent somewhat. What really seems to work best is going out for a run. It doesn't seem to give more energy as much as it... drains away the low energy. Then it fills back up again, and the time afterward is more full.

Some projects, during this eternal work-from-home, can be aligned to accommodate that. Others are fixed. To some extent, I can plan my day at work. In a typical week, the time breaks down into categories like meetings, work, figuring out what the work is, reactive communication, and thoughtful communication. Most meetings are fixed, and reactive communications—responding to some thing now—are fixed (but to variable times). Work—the actual doing of things—isn't fixed, but it does have to end by some time to get submitted. Figuring out what the work is and communicating are nice places to visit when I can.

The result is often a grind through the afternoon, then a run later. So I'm pumped and ready to go to make dinner.

(Dinner is the most important meal of the day.)

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