get everything done and still have time to play (Mark Forster)

This week … this week is a busy week. It’s a first week back at my University – I’m doing a part time Master’s, and also I’m involved with several student societies, so have been doing lots of organising and emailing and agonising and planning and thinking and generally having 17 different things going on at once. Although I’m feeling relatively relaxed and okay about this because hey, last year I was doing all this and studying FULL-TIME which was much more stressful.

Thinking about all of this has pushed me towards a book … ‘get everything done and still have time to play’, by Mark Forster. It isn’t mine; my husband bought it and then (I believe) never got round to reading it. Which seems slightly ironic. But I read it, and found it useful, and would generally recommend it – it’s very useful and very generally applicable, mostly because it gives a real focus to how you manage your attention and concentration. And managing your attention and concentration is relevant whatever you are doing in life (as opposed to some time-management books which only apply to certain specific subgroups of society).

The thought I want to pick out of it to share with you is this:

“Sufficient regular focused attention is the key to success”

“Attention needs to be focused … leaping back and forth … continually being distracted or withdrawn … is not sufficient. Attention must be focused to be effective.”

“It needs to be regular. Anything that does not get regular attention will start to change for the worse … If attention is only spasmodic then the results will be only spasmodic at best”

“It needs to be sufficient … If a project is given insufficient attention then we lose out on two counts – first, we will not achieve our aims for that project and, second, we will have wasted attention that we could have used to forward some other project.”

(This is discussed on pages 69-70, if you’ve got hold of a copy of the book).

This stuff is so, so true.

This, I think, is what I really need to keep in mind this year – and in particular in the next month or so as I start off trying to work out how to juggle all these balls. There are so many things that I am doing that are important to me – being married, my work, my studies, my church involvement, my societal involvement x3, writing blogs, and all the boring but necessary things like housework and travelling and so on … and it’s pretty imperative that I don’t bite off more than I can chew and take on anything more!

Sufficient regular focused attention. If you can give everything that you are doing sufficient regular focused attention, you are doing well. And whatever it is you are doing, you will be doing it well.

And when you can get everything to work like that, it feels kind of awesome.

How many different balls are you juggling at the moment? What do you find helps you to deal with it all? Any comments or stories would be great 🙂 leave me a comment!

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7 Responses to get everything done and still have time to play (Mark Forster)

  1. Railton says:

    This really rings true with me. I think I need inforced internet-free time otherwise my attention span is c. seconds long, i.e. I *must* go to a library to work. Pleased to hear you’re back in Cambridge – I wondered what you were up to now! 🙂

  2. I’m back part time 🙂 so I’m there about 2.5-3 days a week (2 nights), and then home (which is a couple of hours’ train journey away) the rest of the time. Still getting used to it, but it’s pretty cool. I get to do paid work (2 days a week) and study in Cambridge, but still mostly live at home, which means actually living with my husband which is rather nice!

    I take it you’re doing Part III (and a lot of rowing!) this year?

  3. Railton says:

    Ye, part III Astro though. (But all of my lectures are in the CMS and from the Maths syllabus, so I’m still a mathmo really :->) Not rowing any more than usual (though a lot by normal people’s standards), but writing about it makes it feel like that’s all I do!

    Part time MPhil/MA sounds good, for both earning money and company living at home. I can imagine that not living with your husband for 3 years must have sucked a bit… What’s it in?

  4. It’s an MEd in Maths Education (it’s an MPhil if you do it in one year and an MEd if you do it in 2, but the same stuff – same lectures and assignments etc). Looking forward to it starting properly – so far I’ve only had an induction day (lectures are once a week, on Wednesday afternoons). I think we start off with ‘Algebra’ and a couple of ‘student led seminars’ which means someone mentions something they want to talk about, talks about it for 10-15 mins, then we discuss it for 10-15 mins.

    It should be really interesting – the group of people doing it is quite varied, which should make for good discussion. There are 12 of us (some MPhil some MEd), and it’s quite a spectrum in terms of countries represented and in terms of teaching experience, too. I thought I would be the youngest one by miles (because it looks like it’s intended for people who’ve been teaching a while), but that’s not the case, so that’s nice 🙂

  5. Railton says:

    Sorry, I’m not emailed when people reply to comments for some reason….

    Sounds interesting! Teaching maths does strike me as being quite involved (esp. if you understand it and don’t get why others can’t.) Are you planning on doing a PGCE afterwards?

  6. No problem! (I’m emailed when comments arrive but that’s something about a setting of it being my blog … not sure how to set it if you’re a commenter).

    I’m not planning on going into teaching although I suppose it’s always an option for the future … if I did teach I’d want it to be A level. I’d like to go further into maths education and maybe end up informing teachers / working with teachers rather than being one of them – but really no idea how one gets into that or how things might pan out! (Well, I suspect how one gets into that starts off with doing a PhD). Any idea on what you’ll be doing after Part III Astro?

  7. Railton says:

    WELL. The plan is a PhD somewhere in somewhere stellar evolution-y/MHD-y/Sun-y. I was going to see how the research project we do this year pans out (I might suck…). If not that, then a job somewhere in Cambridge I suppose…

    Why not do something on Nrich?

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