Being Productive

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So I think I mentioned before how my desktop’s motherboard died a few weeks ago. The ASUS P5N-D I had was seven years old, and I enjoyed it through some great times in gaming and writing. It comes as a shock when I realize that this board is older than several of my relationships with friends. The part just endured time that well.

Part of the reason for this was the console wars. The PlayStation3 and XBox 360 reigned for an extended era, so games released for both consoles and PCs retained those lower performance expectations. It used to be that every three or four years, a fresh product-race would spike performance demands across the board.

But the recent cycle was almost twice that, which in turn kept the ever-rising requirements in check to the consumer’s benefit. And while games were peaking just over what the P5N-D could perform, I still had several independently released titles and older releases that didn’t need as much power.

Still, a broken motherboard isn’t something you can duct tape. As I laid the P5N-D to rest with honors, I installed a fresh ASUS M5A97 with an AMD FX-8350 8-Core processor, but planned to update my aging nVidia GeForce GT 8800 (512 MB) graphic card later. I chose these parts on the recommendation of a friend combined with thousands of very strong reviews. It isn’t the most cutting edge gear, but the hidden joy of something being out for a while is the market-tested reliability, hordes of troubleshooting FAQs and recorded incidents to help guide me through any problems.

And problems there were. I kept getting the BSoD (blue screen of death) randomly after installation. It turned out the latest chipset drivers (the software that helps the hardware communicate with other parts) was poorly written, so I followed a guide to remove the original drivers and install an older but more stable version. I left it running overnight so Windows could run its updates and I intended to test the performance of the machine tonight with 30 to 60 minutes of Gauntlet.

I haven’t finished the assembly either. During installation, I ran into a hardware issue. My older hard drive had an IDE port only. The motherboard supported SATA only. I ordered an adapter to fix that, but in the mean time I reinstalled Windows on my newer hard drive (which never had much to begin with) to handle the changes.

I’m fairly confident that my saved games of Skyrim and Fallout: New Vegas are on the older hard drive. In fact, I know one of them is. But if I’m wrong it will be a painful lesson about backing up one’s data…

Besides testing the new PC, I loaded up my night with a long to-do list of chores and tasks to be finished. And guess what? Writing isn’t really on there. This might alarm other writers who absolutely cling to a “X,XXX number of words each day” approach, which I admit is a solid discipline.

But the problem is that it doesn’t always allow one to easily balance other things in their lives. On a regular weekday, 8 hours a day are sunk into the day job, 2 hours on travel, 1 hour on food prep and consuming with an additional hour on clean up. 1 hour on personal preparation (you know, showers…) with another 7 on sleep. The occasional out-of-the-house chores like the groceries or CVS take 1 to 2 hours.

That leaves anywhere from 2 to 4 hours of time for the hordes of miscellaneous issues like keeping in touch with mom and friends, handling emails from business partners, researching marketing/business opportunities and the occasional gaming, reading or television to unwind or another hour for the gym (when I go.)

If you ask me, it makes more sense to just spend those spare hours taking care of the chores that would interrupt an otherwise great chunk of writing time. I suspect that it’s more efficient too. The constant stop-and-go approach feels like it promotes more errors and loss of focus. And when proofing, it could be the difference between simply noticing a missing word or improper punctuation, and rewriting entire paragraphs because of poor phrasing. I should probably do a test: 3,000 words in one session, and three sessions of 1,000 words, and gauge how much easier the editing goes.

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