The BBC’s blinding ‘Sherlock’ features a modern-day Sherlock Holmes who describes himself as the world’s first consulting detective. Super-clever, super-confident, Sherlock makes what he does seem child’s play:
1. I observe everything.
2. From what I observe, I deduce everything.
3. When I’ve eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how mad it might seem, must be the truth.
Simple, huh? Well no, not really, unless of course you possess unhuman levels of observation and deduction. I certainly don’t.
Fortunately it didn’t exactly take Holmesian powers when I wanted to work out what was behind one of the big differences between my better and worse days. I tell you not to claim I’m anything out of the ordinary but because I wonder whether you’ve gone through a similar kind of experience?
For me, a good day is generally marked by feeling I’ve been productive, and I tend to achieve this by being very driven by a timed To-Do list. As I write this, for instance, I’m feeling better than I have in a long while, and also know I have precisely 35 minutes to put this post to bed. I’ll then have lunch for exactly one hour, followed by more writing until 3pm. The entire day has been – and will be – just as structured as this probably sounds.
On a bad day, though, oh dear. Once I’ve got up, I’ll mooch aimlessly until it’s time for bed again, when I’ll be utterly dissatisfied with what’s been achieved.
OK, I’m fully aware that my situation allows me to set my own schedule to a large extent, a luxury not available to everyone. But just like you, I’m sure, I do have responsibilities and expectations of me which are beyond my control: it’s just that on my better days I plan and prioritise to a pretty fine level of detail, whilst at shabbier times there’s generally not even a whisper of a To-Do list on my desk (nor of me at it).
Which comes first, though? The better day or the tightly structured schedule? Well, in one of those handy quirks of human psychology, cause and effect can be usefully ‘flipped’.
You can make a good day even better by managing your time well, but you can turn a grey day into a brighter one by (you guessed it) managing your time well.
Feeling good today? Get on with that To-Do list. Feeling rough? Get on with that To-Do list (admittedly setting far lower expectations of yourself and being kinder to you).
Elementary, my dear Watson.