The Duplo Day

JANUARY 25TH, 2016 — POST 021

It’s a truth universally acknowledged that Lego is probably the best toy ever made. It’s not saying much to say my childhood was built around Lego. Most childhoods in the developed world are built from Lego. Yet Lego is not for all kids and you might recall another product the company make. Because of the small size of Lego pieces, and as such the choking hazard and demand of fine motor skills, the company make chunkier, more toddler-and-up-friendly bricks called Duplo. I remember Duplo as a kid. It was the stuff I never wanted to touch. I prided myself, even at 4 or 5, of being able to assemble Lego Systems with age ranges far above my own.

Even if I no longer play with Lego because of the time, money, and space it requires, I’ve realised that I much prefer playing with Duplo. Or at least a loose analogue of it.

Anyone who’s into learning about productivity styles, time management, or simply those “How the world’s most successful people organised their day” would have come across Benjamin Franklin’s breakdown of his day:

However, most reads on this draw attention either to the similarity this has with what most people naturally do, or to the questions on the left side of timeline about doing good in the world. Forgetting the latter for now, I’m not convinced the arrangement of Franklin’s day is consistent with what most people naturally do. I’ll grant that the times in which Franklin does certain activities basically aligns with the times I do those things. That’s why most writers pull up its similarity, like they looked at it and thought it was a “As you were, carry on”. So, because those times lock up, I could assume that my day is arranged like that. If I put it to paper, it might even look like it. But, and I’ll bet most people agree, it surely doesn’t feel like it.

Franklin was building his day out of Duplo before Duplo was even invented. What’s most striking to me about the arrangement of his day is that there are 6, chunky, blocks. This seems relatively few in comparison to my own day which sometimes feels like a stack of slivers. Even if there’s a loose semblance between the typical day and Franklin’s, the conception of it as built from Duplo establishes missions and deadlines, two things which cultists of productivity crave.

Before you even rifle through the Duplo box to find your favourite bricks, identify what the corrupting influence of a block might be. For me, and I’ll bet a lot of people, the most corrupting influence is carried in my pocket daily: my phone.

The phone is essentially small-scale, giving you a canvas of less than 6 inches (if you’re not a cargo-short maniac). So everytime I pick it up, I habitually want to use it to achieve tasks that themselves are small scale: shoot off a text, check Twitter, take a photo. The corruption of the day occurs when I allow these small scale moments to stack, to steal your time, to feed off the “Just one more” and suddenly the twenty second check-in to Reddit becomes half-an-hour on r/blackpeopletwitter. And it is this wastage that conceiving of my day as built out of Duplo bricks seeks to eliminate.

A chunk of time gives me a mision and a deadline. Let’s say that 6–8AM is Write And Get Ready. Writing, and getting ready, are the two missions of this block. As such, anything that’s not Mission Critical, such as flicking through Twitter after I turn my alarm off, can and should go. Knowing I’ve only two hours for this block gives me a focus to know that I will definitely have written, and be ready, by 8AM. With the day set up like this, it would seem like one would become a robot. Actually, the biggest benefit I’ve seen with this is how my time away from my work has been improved.

When I set aside an hour for leisure, I’m much more likely to use it intelligently. Firstly, I’m not going to feel guilty about slacking off because the presence of entertainment in my day is a cog in the machine that makes the whole day function. I won’t fall into the temptation of the “Just one more” entertainment of Facebook or Snapchat. Secondly, I’m going to spend it on something worthwhile, like a TV show I’m working through, or a game I’m playing, or a book I’m reading. I won’t simply stack a bunch of 3 minute YouTube videos together. Thirdly, I won’t corrupt my working blocks with a desire for entertainment as I’ve carved out its time and place.

Talking about time: it’s just gone 7:20.

LEGO DUPLO preschool building toys are specially designed for the small hands and big imaginations of children aged 18 months to 5 years.

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