Alavi’s Sleepdrunk ASC Update #1: I’ve Been Bad at Keeping Up (and Worse As a Tomato Plant)

I started Sleepdrunk ASC on a good stride. We launched the project, I clocked out Freakonomics in just over a week (the review for that is on the way, i’ve been a bit lazy…), ordered some books, got started on Nudge, and then finals happened. And then move-out happened. And then me crossing the ocean happened. Needless to say my stride was heavily disrupted and my copy of nudge is either a) at my uncle’s place, b) in my car, or c) in a hotel, all of which are roughly one ocean and a bit of either Africa or Europe (depending on which route you take) away, so I’m not finishing that any time soon. But fear not, dear reader (and listene…oh? You don’t listen to the Sleepdrunk podcast? Well here you go! Thank me later) I came prepared. In my luggage were three books, select poems by Goethe, Kafka on The Shore by Haruki Murakami, and Bram Stoker’s Dracula, I threw one into my carry-on before I took off, and lo and behold I seemed to be back on track, right?

You know as well as I do that the rhetorical “right” means something went wrong, and oh boy did it, however, in the process of things going haywire I gleaned a very meaningful insight into productivity which I have been on the cusp of for a number of months now. One which I think is essential for anyone working on side projects or freelancing.

So what was this insight? Well I think it’s best demonstrated in the timeline of my big ASC disruption, the seeds of which were sown during the impetus of finals season. For the unaware, college finals usually take place over roughly two weeks, with reading (study) days at the start. During these weeks classes do not meet, and students are left to use the time as they see fit, to study, begin packing, or simply dick around (for me a mix of all three really). This was the first peg of my disruption, the dissolution of my schedule, and the formation of a new and more chaotic paradigm. Suddenly the structure of my days were gone, I lost the time constraints placed by classes, and just had to plan for four specific points in time. This left the rest of my time for those two weeks free. To top it off, it was the start of the holy month of Ramadan, so my sleep schedule and energy levels were heavily disrupted by fasting, and I no longer had daytime meals to plan around. In short I became much like a tomato plant. If you give a tomato vine supports, it will wrap around it and produce a lovely fruit, even if it is one I generally dislike. However, if you leave a vine to grow on is own, the weight of the various fruits will begin to pull the stalk down and eventually break it, leaving a nasty mess of tomatoes and a dead plant. As I no longer had supports in the form of scheduling, it became much harder to fit in ASC time (which I had scheduled right before going to bed). This was compounded by the fact that I was either staying up much later or waking up incredibly early to have my pre dawn meal, so I either ended up delaying ASC time to oblivion or skipped it entirely to catch a few extra minutes of sleep. I was, however, still in my room, still in the environment I had spent the majority of the last eight or nine months in, that, of course, changed with move-out.

Move-out comprised of two frantic days consisting of me cleaning, packing, and clearing out my half of my dorm room. I took down posters, threw clothes in bags, threw random stuff in the trash, fished one thing out of the trash, and finally got it all in my car (in two trips, of course). I spent the first three or so days after move-out at my uncle’s place, with 3 am wake ups for pre dawn meals and 8:15ish rushes to break the fast. I, of course, didn’t spend the interim time sitting around, I had affairs to get in order. I had to return to my school after my first night to collect the rest of my stuff and check out, the next day I had to drive to my best friend’s place to drop some of his stuff off, and proceeded to have a grand adventure which you can hear all about in episode 13 of the podcast. The day after that I actually got to relax a bit, and after that I moved into a hotel with my dad, where I spent the weekend taking care of various bits of business and preparing to leave. Throughout all of this I got minimal reading done, if any, and at some point misplaced my copy of Nudge. Finally during the first leg of my flight I decided to get into Kafka On the Shore (very interesting book by the way, definitely going to be a topic on a Discussion Avenue segment sometime soon).

At last I land in Delhi, all seems good right? Well I think here is a good time to discuss the phenomenon of association, particularly in relation to spaces. The gist of it is that one tends to associate activities with the spaces in which they occur. For example, you associate your desk with work, and your bed with sleep, so on and so forth. Well back in my old dorm room I had a certain setting in the room for reading: I set the lights warm and low, I sat in a specific position in bed, and got reading. I created an associated space for reading. In Delhi, I have no such thing. I had my old room, but most of its old associations had worn off from a year in college, and as such, little reading actually occurred.

I know all this talk of associations and scheduling seems like me making excuses for not reading, and in part, that is true, however I think it also provides a vital insight for productivity. I think it really helps demonstrate the importance of structure and repetition in productivity, during that first week where I read Freakonomics every night, I began to form a habit, and much like the tomato plant I mentioned earlier, it needs supports to grow and develop. Continuing the tomato metaphor, I feel like changing spaces and associations is a lot like taking a plant out of one garden and transplanting it into another, yes the plant will probably survive, but it needs time to adapt to the conditions of the new environment before it can really thrive and bear fruit.

I am now, with my new internship, starting to find structure in my life again, and I pretty much used to being back in my old room, so hopefully in the coming weeks I can really get back into reading and finishing off books. Last night I clocked out a good 70 pages or so of Kafka On the Shore, so I think I am finally getting back into the groove of things, at least for the month I will be here *ugh*. Needless to say, a scheduleless, association-lacking Alavi doesn’t make a healthy tomato plant.

About the author


I am a college student who wears far too many hats, namely saxophonist, occasional writer, podcaster, aspiring economist, dabbler of bass guitar, programmer by necessity, mtg player, gamer, weeb, technology enthusiast, and a handful more. I keep the haberdasher in business...

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