finding time for everything

I haven’t gotten very much Cantonese or saxophone practice done in the last week.  That’s not to say I haven’t gotten anything done – I’ve kept up my Cantonese Anki reps, finished watching a TVB series (老婆大人II), carried on with some Greg Fishman jazz studies and started on a version of Gerry Rafferty’s Baker Street for some fun ear training.  In other words, I’ve mostly been consolidating older work rather than building on it.

The lack of work done is not for want of trying – it’s just that my projects they have to be fitted around university work, which unhelpfully builds up near the end of each term.  The main thing is not to let hiccups like this unsaddle progress.  It can be difficult to get back onto a horse after falling off, but once you are back on, you can be all like “Hi-Ho Silver, and away!”  Or something like that anyway.  Not sure what horse-riders tend to say nowadays 😉

Ungraceful Dismount

I’ve fallen off of my [entirely figurative] horse before, and not remounted it for long periods of time.  Many times in fact.  So why haven’t I been trampled into the dust this time?[1] I think there are several reasons.  One, of course, is that I’d look a bit of an idiot if I simply gave up to anyone who reads this blog.  Another is that I make sure I do Cantonese or saxophone when I get bored of degree work – they’re a fun way to relax, right?  (Clearly this varies depending on how much uni work there is!)  The biggest thing though is that I’m not spreading myself too far over too many projects.

I have, at various times in my life played six different instruments – and the times when I made least progress were the times when I was trying to juggle them all.  It killed my motivation completely; I used to feel really guilty if I didn’t get all the work I set out to do done in one day.  And then I’d procrastinate, playing computer games until Lord knows when, not actually doing what I really wanted and feeling horrible to boot.

This time, I’m only trying to slot in two projects around my day-to-day life.  I could very easily have taken the decision to try and learn two languages at once (keeping up my Japanese), or invest time in two instruments – but I chose not to, because there isn’t enough time to give to them.  “The hunter who chases two birds catches neither” as they say.

Finally, I no longer care if I don’t finish everything.  It’s fine.  It can wait until the next day.  There’s nothing worse than seeing a huge mountain of work and not doing any of it (a big reason to only undertake fewer projects) – if I manage to get some Cantonese and saxophone done in a day, that’s more than nothing, and I’ve gotten a little better at both. I think this attitude is useful for anything we try and do – rather than trying to cram in as much as possible, just trying to do something every day is much better.

On the days when there’s more time available, it can be hard to stop.

[1] Just how far can you push a metaphor?! Entries welcome! 😛


6 thoughts on “finding time for everything

  1. It’s okay if you don’t finish something before moving on to the next thing, because it’s more important that you get out of it what you want/need. The process is often more satisfying than the end product. That is the Way of the Scanner.

    For therapy, I highly recommend the book “Refuse to Choose” by Barbara Sher.

    • That’s exactly it! It’s not so much about doing a thing to its own completion (nice as that is), it’s about getting “value” out of it (can’t think of a better word).

      Hadn’t heard of the Way of the Scanner before, but I’ll look into it. Cheers!

  2. Hey Eldon,
    Yep, learning six instruments at once sounds pretty challenging.

    Although I have been told by several musicians that I should play more piano….. In that case it is pretty related.

    Doing a little bit at a time is important and being persistent since each bit will add up. Like the integral in calculus.

    The book ‘Mastery’ is also really good.

    • Hey Neal,
      It didn’t go too well, needless to say. I think the piano is a necessity for a full understanding of harmony and music theory, so I guess it’s justified to spend some time on it.

      I’ll take a look at Mastery too – just ordered it, it looks really interesting. Lots of improving stuff to read over the easter vacation now 😉

      By the way… I’ve been trying to avoid maths references to conceal my inner geek – but it seems like I’m not the only one 😛

  3. Eldon, thanks for commenting on my blog re LeechBlock. It certainly keeps me away from surfing mischief!

    I noticed a comment on this thread about the book ‘Mastery’. Is this the one by George Leonard?

    If so, I highly recommend it for anyone fascinated and frustrated by lifetime learning and mastery.

    Three words sum up what this book means to me:
    “Love the plateau” 🙂

    • Yup, it is the George Leonard one – that’s two recommendations now, must be great!

      It was a really interesting article… thanks for commenting over here too 🙂

      You’ve got a really interesting blog by the way – are you still in Japan at the moment? 日本語話せますか。

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