Saturday, 6 January 2018

New Year, New Beginnings

Hello everyone, yes, I'm back, again! Not for the first time, this blog has risen from the ashes, like a phoenix. They've always my favourite mythological creature, since their powers of resurrection make them resilient, like me. A setback doesn't need to mean defeat, after all. You may be wondering where I've been these last few months, why my reasonably regular posting came to a shuddering halt, but I'll get to that in what is a bit of a stream-of-consciousness style post akin to my occasional "Life Update" posts last year.

There's a few quotes that have been running through my mind, lately; one in particular: "There is surely nothing quite so useless as doing with great efficiency what should not be done at all"

That quote, from management consultant Peter Drucker, has been printed out and pasted beside the desk of one of my managers at work for years. I love it, and I see it constantly, since our desks are close together. So it's about time I started putting it into practice.

I've said in this blog before that I need to start managing my time more efficiently; it has always been a personal weakness. Part of the reason is that I can be quite an impulsive person, which ultimately comes down to short-term versus long-term gain and an unfortunate tendency I have to just give in to my impulses, good or bad, without taking a step back and thinking. It appears to be a fundamental issue within my nature, and hasn't proven easy to change.

So I can't necessarily force myself to be productive, but I can choose what "productive" actually means in practice. And the blog, as it was for most of last year...really wasn't. I styled my Weekly Roundups on the brilliant blog over at Life After Mastermind, specifically the University Challenge recap posts. Since I started doing them, I've been writing them that way. Which begs the question...why?

I enjoy that blog and its writing style, and I found that the sports-style reviews of the shows are more fun to read than a banal recitation of the facts would be. But it's also time-consuming to write like that. Long-winded though I am, I'm also a surgically precise writer, in terms of both what and how I say. Long story short, my weekly roundups were taking up to 6 hours to write, each. That is neither productive nor sustainable, long-term.

The thing is, this blog is a genuinely useful use of my time. The roundups are helpful because they provide a backup to the statistics I keep and they showcase me and the quizzes I do to the world. I love quizzing, I want to promote quizzing, and that's part of what this blog is about.

It's also partially about self-promotion, and this is where I'm starting to give myself the side-eye. I've got a personal brand in mind, this idea that I'm "The Quizzing Ronin", a mercenary quizzer who travels around the country, experiencing and winning quizzes. It's a nice and an interesting idea, but ultimately one that would work far better if backed up by actual quizzing competence.

I am a decent quizzer (depending on the standard you mean, anyway) but there's a lot of work for me to do though in terms of building my skills, and ultimately my time and effort need to be directed towards that.

That's the basic reason why the blog posts dried up last year. I was relentless about getting a full roundup done every week for a good chunk of the year, but then I started to struggle, and a backlog built up. I could have gotten through it, but I came to realise that there was no good reason to do so.

So if the idea remains a good one, then I simply need to change how I go about it. I want to weaponise this blog, truly make it an integral part of my quizzing, and have it truly serve a useful purpose. If my posts are always going to take hours and hours to write, that won't happen, as I'll be taking up all the time that I could be spending on things like actual studying.

The other big risk I face with trying to do ridiculously huge blog posts on top of everything else, is burnout, and that is definitely something I've been grappling with the last few months. A lot of my time is spent on quizzing. Between pub quizzes, the blog, podcasts, statistical stuff. watching quiz shows, etc, I spend 30-40 hours on my hobby. It's become a lifestyle, a non-paying career.

At times, I need to step back. In the week that I host a quiz (I do it one week in 5 at the moment), my performances suffer. That's not a coincidence, it's the impact of the research I do while writing my questions. This week, I've done nothing related to quizzing except for the 2 quizzes I did on Wednesday and Thursday. I've ignored all the rest, since last Friday night. It's been strange, and at times I've really wanted to just dive into it again. But I've needed the break, and having had one, I can jump back into the pool feeling ready again.

Hopefully, anyway, given that I'm prone to bad habits and negative routines! Those don't automatically go away just because you change your environment. Yes, this is a big part of why a backlog built up in the blog, a house move that I talked about a lot last year. It took a while, but was well worth it. I'm absolutely in love with this house, and I'm writing this from a proper home office that I've established for myself here. I'm writing this on a desktop PC, with two monitors, while sitting in the most comfortable chair I've ever known. Behind me is a shelving unit that has all my encyclopedias, non-fiction books and lists of facts. This in itself isn't going to do my job for me, but it's a far better place in which to do it than sat at a laptop on my living room couch, my TV in front of me.

So this is new for this year! It's looking like being an exciting year. A busy year, hopefully a productive one, and I'm sure there will be plenty of surprises in store for everyone involved with my life. I don't do things conventionally or simply. But I do do things intriguingly, and I can both grab your attention and earn my keeping it.

Managing my time efficiently includes productive downtime. So not just passively "not bothering to study" one evening, but actively choosing to have nothing to do with quiz for a night so that my brain can rest and recharge. I've got other hobbies, and I'll enjoy them all, including quiz, if I'm putting a managed, appropriate level of effort into them and not feeling guilty when doing other things.

There's no guarantee that I can do that, and I'm definitely prone to overextending myself quite badly, but I can and will try, and hopefully I'll succeed. If not, then I'll try again. It's what I do.

On that note, I'll sign this post off, and get to writing my first weekly roundup, in a new style. Not much has happened this week, as I've said, but I do have a couple of quizzes to go over so I can do that at least, for now.

If you'd like to get in touch, you can find me on twitter, @quizzingronin, or reply to any of my blog posts! If you'd like to speak to me on Facebook or by email I'll provide those details on request, but I'd prefer not to post such information publicly.

(I was going to end with some final words, but everything I might have written came across as cringey, trite or banal, so I'll let this be the final sentence instead)

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