King Lear Can Wait

The guilt-trip phase of this lockdown is mercifully over. Remember about six weeks ago when people seized on the idea that this is actually an opportunity for creative types? That we all could — should — be super-productive with the oceans of time that have opened up?

The backlash was swift.

“It’s tough enough to be productive in the best of times let alone when we’re in a global crisis,” a “productivity consultant” told the New York Times. Canadian poet Bill Richardson said he was making an app that will hunt and kill “any reference made for any reason to how William Shakespeare, locked down owing to Bubonic Plague in 1606 made good use of his time and wrote King Lear.”

Hear Hear! Said the entire Internet.

Under these circumstances – fear, uncertainty, kids underfoot, the loud gurgling of your retirement fund circling the drain — just making it till dinner upright is a win.

So Big Days of meaningful work are a non-starter. At least for awhile.

But neither do you want to completely raise the white flag.

People have been experimenting with focussed short bursts of effort to get some nagging thing completed. It feels good to get a monkey off your back. Even a little one.

But what’s a reasonable ask of ourselves, timewise? Twenty-five minutes? An hour?

Kara Cutruzulla may have hit the sweet spot.

With her brother, the American writer and blogger launched the 10.11 to 12 project.

“I’m starting my workday at 10:11am — coffee in hand — and working on something constructive until, say, noon,” she posted recently. “That’s it. Can be one project, can be six, can be writing pages or pitching ideas or doing my taxes. Whatever! Just sustained work that will feel good when it’s done. Then if I nap or eat sour straws the rest of the day I won’t feel like the day is just ticking by. I want to give myself some kind of regular routine again.”

A week in, it seems to be working. Frogs are getting eaten, because so often just sitting at the desk is enough to overcome stalled momentum. “It turns out that spending a little bit of time on these things in the morning — writing a few pages, researching a new idea — suddenly gave them importance again,” she says. “The coolest unexpected development was that now 10:11 feels like pure activation. From 10:00 to 10:11 it’s like I know I’m about to be launched out of a cannon and then I no longer overthink or even procrastinate — I just go!”

Plus there’s a solidarity dimension. Everyone is invited to try this at the same time — 10:11 am EDT. Knowing her friends are moving forward on one task at the same time keeps her in the saddle.

“The feeling isn’t: ‘I should be doing something else right now.’ Its: ‘Right now I’m choosing this.’”

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