Like many people I know, I spent part of my holidays reading The Undoing Project, Michael Lewis’ wonderful new book about the relationship between Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman as they laid the foundations for behavioral economics.
The book is way more interesting than I just made it sound.
Anyway, at one point (page 230, to be precise), a former colleague recollects several of Amos Tvserky’s sayings. This one struck me:
“The secret to doing good research is always to be a little underemployed. You waste years by not being able to waste hours.”
Hmm. Good science leaves room for idle curiosity. So, I suspect, does writing.
What Does Your Schedule Look Like?
I am trying to figure out how best to achieve my goals in 2017.
My instinct is to set aggressive deadlines for the various projects I plan to do, and then work heads-down on each until it is done. This is how I approached writing books in the past, and it worked.
But loading up the writing schedule imposes a kind of tax, by reducing time for exploration and discovery.
When writing with the blinders on, I put aside good ideas for an undetermined future. (See last week’s post on what happens to unwritten ideas.) I set aside my natural curiosity and the desire to explore new topics to meet those tough deadlines.
Tversky’s quote makes me realize the potential cost of this approach. “You waste years by not being able to waste hours.”
Right now I’m juggling a few projects, and want to make progress without shutting the door on other writing. I’m attempting to balance the work ethic of my inner Scribe with the curiosity of the Muse, as follows:
- Setting “minimum daily/weekly progress” goals for a couple projects
- Giving one project the lion’s share of attention on a weekly basis, but continuing to read about unrelated topics.
- Leaving space in the schedule to work on other tasks like blog posts, personal essays, and learning.
It’s too soon to tell how it will work. Clearly at certain points, I may have to drop everything else and power through – for example, when revising a draft for publication.
How will it work? We’ll see. Check back at the end of 2017!
How do you plan to leave time and space for curiosity in your life?