I did a seminar at Canzine, a zine fair in Toronto. It focused on the paradoxical notion that if you want to live without bosses, you have to be self-disciplined. I attribute my productivity to being well organized and hopefully I passed on a few pointers to fellow anti-authoritarian types, complete with absurd graphs and diagrams.
I’m happy to do it again, so get in touch if you’re having an event that you think it might be useful for. I’ve put my notes and images online — feel free to add your own tips and problems in the comments.
-I know for lots of anti-authoritarian types like myself, being organized and productive is a big challenge — people with a rebellious streak tend to be more creative and less focused, and often have an inherent dislike of structured thinking.
– but most ornery people I know hate having bosses most of all. ‘Cause when you think of it, what a boss does is take a cut of your labour for managing the employees. If you have a job, you’re kind of paying a boss to discipline you.
-once I learned how to make my own structure, I was able to kick my expensive boss habit and work on my own.
Agenda Books are Weapons
-Make sure it’s small enough that it’s easy to carry: the Slingshot organizers are really good, as are the OM Festival ones.
-or DIY organizer: write in the dates yourself into a blank sturdy notebook
-as well as a calendar, you’ll want a place list of things to do that aren’t time specific that you can jot down when you think of them, and refer to them every so often.
-phone numbers? don’t necessarily have your whole phone book there, but write down numbers as you need them & build it up that way. You don’t want to put a huge amount of time building a perfect agenda book with every conceivable thing you need in it: because you will lose the agenda book at some point. It’s almost inevitable. More important than the book is building up habits of writing stuff down and refering to it, since with these you can start building it again without too much trouble.
Power to the Imagination
-when you develop a habit of writing down stuff, and refering to it often enough, you’ll find out an amazing thing: you can let it all go. You can forget about missing appointments, not getting stuff done, and have your brain back to think about creative, interesting stuff. If you’re worrying that you’ll forget to get copies done before some event, then you’re not able to think about what images you’d like to put on the flyer, what projects you want to work on next, whatever.
Smash the State by Breaking Down Tasks
-some of the things that will make it onto your to-do list need to be broken down to be approached both logistically and psychologically, because big tasks can really intimidate you. So you have to break ?em down. “Make a short movie” for instance. You might want to give it its own page in your agenda book, and think through what you would have to do for this. Write a script. Send it out to the people you want to be in it. Find locations. Schedule a day for shooting.
-once you have a huge task broken down, now you have to figure out when you’ll do them.
Deadlines Are Your Comrades
-Most people hate them, but I love deadlines. In my life, deadlines are immovable objects that are really useful since everything else is flexible. So say that movie you wanted to make, you decide that you want to submit it to the Splice This festival. Find out when their deadline is and work backwards. Figure out how long each task will take and stack them against the deadline and you’ll end up with the date you have to start writing the script if you want to have it ready for the festival.
Self-knowledge is Power
-Quantify your life. Sounds a little cold, but if you can figure out how long things take, you can do all sorts of fun stuff: leave stuff to the last minute, for instance. More on that later. For instance, it takes me about two and a half hours to write 1000 words. It almost always averages out to that. So because I know that, I can predict how long a writing project will take. A few years ago I took my bank statements and figured out how much I spent over six months — rent, food, entertainment, other expenses — and was able to figure how much I costed in a given month. Not how much I should cost, or would cost if I wasted money less, but an actual figure on what I costed to maintain in a way that seemed dignified and relaxed to me. With that figure, I’ve been able to decide pretty accurately what projects I’m able to take on and which ones I have to pass up. I don’t waste a lot of energy worrying about not being able to finish writing a novel because I run out of money — in fact, I worry about money less than a pal of mine who literally makes ten times what I make in a year.
-so, for instance, a lot of people have a dream of quitting their job and writing a book. If you want to move that from dream to reality, you have to look at the numbers. If you know it takes you a week to write 5000 words, and it costs $300 to support you during that week, you know you have to save $6000 to take the six months off you need to write a novel-length work.
-that’s pretty macro stuff, let’s go back to the fun stuff:
Leave it to the Last Minute
-I hate the bullshit moralism connected with being organized. All this stuff about get started early. If you know how long something takes you can indulge yourself and leave it to the last day.
-it’s harder to do something ahead of time because you know it’s ahead of time, so you’re likely to procrastinate
-if you don’t know how long an aspect of a project will take, do it first
-pay attention to how long it takes so you know the next time.
Take it Easy on Yourself
-Give yourself a really relaxed, really easy schedule, so much so that you can’t imagine not being able to finish each task in the allotted time. You can cram a project into a week and end up burning out and hating it and dreading the next time you do it, or you can do it over four weeks, intersperse it with other things and projects, and not even feel like you’re working. Variety is the spice of life, and being able to switch from one type of work to another is a break in itself
-don’t pack stuff in in an effort to maximize your efficiency, make sure you take your time with family and friends as seriously as you take your work.
“Lazy” is Bullshit
-I don’t really believe in lazy, I don’t really know any lazy people. I know people with low self confidence who find it really hard to believe in their own projects. I know people who have never learned the pleasure of stimulating and engaging work. I know people who are too worn down by eight hours of pointless, meaningless tasks to take on new projects.
No Gods! No Masters! No Martyrs!
-Even ornery people, who have been saying no to the system all their lives, find it hard to say no to their friends when their friends ask them for help.
-the main reason for this is because people don’t really know to assess if they can take on a new project
-if you know how long something will take, you can look at your current commitments and decide if you can add another, and then tell the person how long it will take — sometimes they won’t have any idea how long something takes, either.
-if you have no idea how long something will take, odds are you’ll make a decision soley based on emotional criteria and either the work for the other person will be rushed, or your own projects will fall by the wayside — no one wins.
I’d like to finish up by saying that the only thing you need to get started organizing yourself is this and this. A $15-20 investment in an agenda book you really like is great, but blowing $1000 on computer stuff so that you can get more organized is counterproductive. My take on it, biased as it is as an admitted gadget junkie who uses Outlook, has a Palm Pilot and all that bullshit, is that anyone who tells you you need to buy something to get organized is trying to rip you off.