Kal ZoneBlog

I work better in a structured environment

July 5, 2010

This Mr. Boffo cartoon was pinned to my cubicle wall at UC Berkeley as an expression of my attitude toward work. It's been two years now since I left there, and I'm still struggling to figure out how to structure my time. The "day job", grind though it sometimes was, still had the advantage of keeping me on a regular schedule and providing daily, face-to-face contact with interesting and creative coworkers.

These days I'm setting my own goals and schedules. There have been home-improvement projects — patching and painting, remodeling a bathroom, digging postholes and mixing concrete in a wheelbarrow, building a fence — and a more-or-less daily exercise routine. I try to devote one to two hours every day to practicing trumpet. I have been going through old music notebooks and trying to develop sketchy ideas into finished compositions. I have been improving my skills with music software — Digital Performer, Propellerhead Reason and Record, and Sibelius — so that I can actually take a compositional project from start to finish without getting stuck and setting it aside for "later". And, alas, I have been catching up on my sleep.

So why do I feel under more time pressure now than when I was at UC? After "retirement", what's the next big milestone? There's only that big deadline in the sky. I'm very aware that I have reached the age my father was when he died. He, and many other friends and acquaintances, never made it to retirement. So I feel a need to use the 24 hours, not be used by them — to paraphrase the Zen master Joshu.

This website is actually very motivational for me. It forces me to finish projects — get them in shape for public release — then let go and move on to something else.

I still feel a need to establish more of a structured schedule. In a Zen retreat, or sesshin, everyone follows a 5 am to 9 pm schedule that maps out times for meditation, service, meals, naps, work, afternoon tea, more meditation, etc. The beauty of this kind of schedule is that you never have to waste energy figuring out what to do next. It's all just doing, not dithering.

Nope. I'm not there yet.

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