Somehow or other, my e-mail address was added to a newsletter on productivity. I am not sure how, as I certainly never signed up for it myself. Were I more efficient, I would have unsubscribed myself—an act that surely would have saved me quite a number of seconds in the long run. As it stands, however, I just deleted them, unread, when they popped up. That is, until they became more frequent. What began as a monthly affair had turned into a weekly one—sometimes semi-weekly. Intrigue getting the better of me, I decided to see what was worth such harassment. This particular newsletter contained a list of “Productivity Rules”. A mere perusal indicated that I had broken nearly every one. It seems, I discovered, that I am hardly a paragon of productivity; indeed, I found myself thinking I must be a remedial case. According to Dr. Gilbreth that day alone seemed to have gone up in flames. I had no hour-by-hour schedule of how my day was to go. I had not set a timer for each task to ensure that life stayed on track. And the good doctor would probably lose five seconds to shock if he knew that, not only had I failed to “challenge myself to take action” that morning, but that I sat for a full twenty minutes in a chair watching a particularly vengeful mockingbird take after a squirrel who had lost all nerve after scaling the tree in search of fresh eggs.
I read on and was forced into the rude awakening that not only am I inefficient, but I also suffer from a dreaded case of “blue sky paralysis”. (Any diagnosis with the word “paralysis” is enough to catch one’s attention.) Apparently, Blue-Sky Paralysis is the affliction of thinking too big and too broad. Focus! We must focus! Moving down the list, I found I had no real objectives for my day other than to get some writing done and find time for a walk—the latter of which came first. It was a wholly pleasant experience, during which I thought many things. Many things I do not remember because I did not write them down (another offense) but I do remember they occupied me completely at the time.
I became intrigued; wondering how, at this rate, I had accomplished anything at all in my life. It was not yet eleven and already I had broken six rules.
My offenses continued: I had not “pruned away superfluous meetings.” That very morning, I spent a good five minutes discussing the possibility of rain with Sam, who lives up the street. We are in desperate need of rain here and, despite the lakes being full, we are still on water restrictions. Had I known about Dr. Gilbreth’s rules sooner, I would have come to an understanding with Sam about how long we anticipated speaking and what the goals of the discussion would be. In this case: to ascertain when it would rain. As it stands, we parted no surer of the rain than before. All in all, my day was shaping up to be as worthless as they come. But then, the newsletter ended in the kind of wisdom one expects from a fortune cookie, not an efficiency expert: “Remember,” it read, “rules are meant to be broken.”
All in all, it took me approximately eight minutes to read the newsletter and another four or so to reflect on them—meaning I gave twelve working minutes (720 seconds!) to the aforementioned advice. Dr. Gilbreth, I’ll send my bill to your office.