the more that’s on your plate, the more brittle your time is

one of my favorite adages is “less is more.” i’ve learned over time, mostly by exercising my “no” muscle i’ve learned that the less i have going on, the better i tend to do at all of it. of course, there are exceptions to this, but i’ll get to that later. but first, the basic explanation of how this works:

if you have 10 projects going, when you’re working on one, you’re probably not working on the others. and no matter how efficient you are, every project will take some amount of time. so the more projects, the more time you’re using. but that’s not where the real insight is.

the real insight is that the more projects and processes you have running simultaneously, the more “brittle” your time is for several reasons.

  1. in order to make time to do everything, you’re going to have to be rigorous with your scheduling. and this, of course, works only when you schedule the exact amount of time to work on each thing at the you have the energy to do that type of work. if you underestimate anything, you’re thrown off.
  2. the more things you’re doing, likely the more meetings you need to attend. even freelancers or self-employed folks have meetings with clients, delivery meetings, etc. so more projects means less time you get to structure yourself which is less flexibility.
  3. an unfortunate side effect of 1 & 2 is that your open blocks of time ideate disappear. hopping from project to project is counter to creativity [old post link]

having a schedule that isn’t totally flexible isn’t a bad thing at all. diminishing flexibility is necessary to do work in today’s work (for the most part), but i believe everyone needs to have a balance of self-controlled time and time you can’t structure yourself. once you pass that point, you become increasingly unproductive and your workload blocks the work itself from getting done.

analogy: good soup needs to simmer in order for the flavors to meld (input info and reorganize it in your brain in meaningful ways to spit out later), the more soups you try to make on a single stovetop, the worse each one gets.

yikes. outta time. will elaborate later.