How Much Time Did You Lose In The Pandemic?

(This column is posted at and Steve’s Tumblr.  Find out more at my newsletter.)

As my regular readers are aware, I’ve speculated on how the Pandemic has slowed down my projects and my life.  That got me asking something – is there a way to calculate how much time is lost due to the pandemic?  Of course I had to try.  

Let’s go through my thought processes – it might help you as well.

So first, I decided to calculate time lost in hours.  Because I’m that over-organized and like fine detail.

IMPORTANT NOTE: The calculations below already account for how different needs interfere with each other. In other words, this is real loss due to stress/time/etc. not just available time shifting around.

First, I went to my projects.  I track my projects pretty closely, and I found I’ve functioned at 80-90% efficiency for about a year.  A few quick calculations and I found that my overall projects – from writing to home improvement – got delayed or took extra time.  That was about 5 hours a week, to my surprise – disconnected from everything else.

Secondly, I went to regular chores such as shopping and so on.  No longer could I or my GF randomly run to the store.  We also had to preplan a lot of work, engage in other safety procedures, and so on.  This one was shocking as we found this added another two hours of time a week.

(Sometimes online shopping takes longer as you just can’t grab stuff you realize you need or do it on the way home from work).

Finally, seeing now and then I notice we’d just crash more than usual.  That was intermittent, but usually turned out to be about four hours a week.

Note this also didn’t worry about saving time due to not commuting.  That was not as big as I thought – only about three hours a week.  Car pooling saved me more time than realized because I could just sit and work on stuff.

So all together I realized I’m losing eight hours a week in the pandemic from stress, from things taking longer, from not being able to double-up on chores.  In one year I’ll have lost over 400 hours – this is due to things taking longer, extra unexpected tasks, stress, and schedule changes.

It really does feel like I  need a two month vacation.

So anyway there’s an invite to you – how much time have you lost?

Steven Savage

Review: Indistractable

(This column is posted at and Steve’s Tumblr.  Find out more at my newsletter.)

A friend advised me to get the book Indistractable by Nir Eyal, a guide to productivity and effectiveness. My take is you should buy it and read it.

There, done. Ok, not quite, but still – this is the rare “must buy” book on productivity that warrants a mention.

Eyal’s idea is that we have two things in our life – Traction (gets us where we want to go) and Distraction (yanks us away from where we want to go). By understanding what triggers our behavior, how to avoid distraction, and how to address specific life concerns, we can be more effective and happier. This summary doesn’t address just how far Eyal goes.

Eyal acknowledges that humans aren’t made to be happy all the time – discomfort and disatisfaction is part of evolution. With this semi-Buddhist acknowledgement of suffering, he’s able to zero in on why we’re distracted – discomfort. We get distracted as something feels bad.

Knowing this is powerful, because then we don’t have to chase the distraction. We can see it, acknowledge it, sit with it, understand it, and avoid feeling bad about it. We can give ourself some compassion and then figure how to adapt productively.

It may seem simple, but ask yourself how many distractions you have that are just trying to avoid something because you feel bad. Probably a lot.

With this thesis Eyal explores triggers that set us off, how we build Traction, and then specific triggers and parts of our lives to address. It’s hard to explain all his ideas or do him justice without recapping the entire book.

Fortunately he’s not just analysis and advice. He gives serious methods and techniques to use, often highly specific ones, to address Distractions. From keeping a distraction diary to see what’s happening to visual reminders, he’s got something for everything. Trust me they work.

I don’t just say they work because I’m using them (though I am), I’m saying that because some of them are things I’ve seen or used before. I was surprised to see some of his advice were things I’d used anyway, with success. That only further confirmed he knows what he’s talking about.

Finally, one of the best parts of the book is that unlike some books, I found you can get use out of either the text format (which I got) and the audio format (which I ended up listening to during workouts). Rare is the advice that works in both formats, but there you go.

So, simply, buy it, use it. You’ll find it gels with all the advice I’ve given very well.

Steven Savage

A Timeline Must Be Valuable

(This column is posted at and Steve’s Tumblr.  Find out more at my newsletter.)

As I work on the sequel to A Bridge to the Quiet Planet, keeping up my schedule is challenging. You’ve probably read enough of my blog analysis on this, and you’re probably gonna keep hearing about it. My latest insight is that we misuse timelines by having them for the wrong reasons.

What’s the value of a timeline?

This question can be shocking. We’re often taught to regard them as valuable, almost sacred. Timelines are important, right? We should all get as much done as possible, right?

Too often, sticking to a Timeline is regarded as a virtue. The Timeline we’ve set (doubtlessly under different circumstances) is regarded as sacrosanct. To challenge it is unacceptable in many people’s minds. In short, we make following the Timeline something we must do over anything else.

And that’s wrong because a Timeline is just a tool. A Timeline is something we should use because it brings value. A Timeline isn’t sacred, and more than the Ivy Lee method or flowcharts or whatever.

You use a Timeline and create one because there’s value in it. If there’s no value then don’t create one.

For instance, with myself I found my novel was best approached with a sort-of Timeline as it kept me focused. Other things like blogging work on tight Timelines. Some of my coding practice is better handled with vague goals. In some ways I juggle multiple kinds of Timelines, and allowing myself to do that is comforting.

But Timeline for Timeline’s sake? Why?

Timeline? Good, I’m all for them – when they’re useful.

Steven Savage