This was my first week back to work after a month off sick with a throat and vocal chord infection that had me unable to utter much more than a mouse-like squeak.
During that period without the routine of work I had a lot of time to think and re-evaluate what I do and how I do it.
This has been an ongoing process ever since the decision to return to the blog as my home on the web - and more recently in the decision to stop posting on Twitter and back Micro.blog.
Still, it goes deeper than that.
The change of routine has lead to a change in behaviour and subsequent introspection around this change.
My commute is roughly two hours each way, door to door, during which time I have traditionally watched episodes of various TV shows on my phone.
Not being in that environment for four weeks has meant not watching the usual complement of episodes, probably around 30 across all the different shows. In the past this may have lead to a definite case of FOMO but not now.
Curiously, I haven't missed it and suspect it was largely done more through habit than any actual desire.
This has made me consider what I am actually doing with my time, the balance between consumption and creation, and to consider the "garbage in, garbage out" cycle.
Consumption versus creation
Everything we do is in a battle for our time and attention; time spent doing one thing is time not available to everything else.
We need to work out our priorities, find compromise and balance.
There are certain fixed demands, time spent at work for example, so we look to manage the remainder as best we can. This isn't an easy task and we often go for the lazy option, the path of least resistance, especially when we are tired.
I was reading a self-paced study module about time management and one passage struck me in particular:
for everything we do we should be asking "what do I want to get from this?"
Why are we doing it and what do we hope it will achieve or provide us?
There are some activities we have no option but to do and the why becomes moot yet, we can still ask what we personally what to gain from doing them.
We consume for entertainment, learning, or to just pass the time - a distraction.
We can get in to a trap of thinking that time spent on consumption is wasted if we are aiming to create. Consumption is a required part of the process but we need to apply the "what do I want to get from this" test to it.
And this is core to the introspection I find myself engaged in. Do I want to waste that all too precious time with garbage or do I seek out quality input.
Distraction gets bad press, we focus on its negative aspects but there is an inherent duality to it. On the one hand we hate it for interfering with what we should be doing but, on the other, we need it to de-stress and recharge the mind.
How many times are we advised, when stuck on a problem or at a blank page, to actively seek distraction? Wash the dishes, walk the dog, do something with your hands that occupies the conscious mind, allowing it to relax and reset while the subconscious works in the background.
Our minds operate at different levels but we usually need to quieten only some of them.
When trying to concentrate we are advised to play the same piece of music on repeat in the background - a focused distraction to block all others that just becomes part of the ambience allowing us, in turn, to block it out whilst silencing those levels of consciousness that react to such distractions.
Every night I used to tweet out what #sleepmusic I was using to help me drift off. Taking the time and effort to ensure the selection was varied enough became a pointless distraction so now I always use the same piece.
The familiarity and regularity is far more effective.
We can't be "on" all the time; there will always be periods when we need to get away from it all, when we need mindlessness to escape and completely de-clutter.
Beyond this, however, we need to question the best use of our time and ask what do I want to get from this?