Maria Popova on the always excellent Brain Pickings re: John Quincy Adams and his thoughts on getting things done, learning, and wasting time:
Years earlier, in observing his own habits of mind in the course of his voracious self-education, Adams had become aware of the meager correlation between effort exerted and results obtained when a clarity of purpose is lacking — even the mightiest discipline, after all, is wasted without a clear direction.
The entire post is worth a read.
This quoted bit stuck out at me because of a personal hack that I do to ensure I get things done and don't just spin my wheels. I give myself insanely tight windows to get things accomplished. While writing my first iOS app, a project that is extracurricular for me, I give myself only an hour or two at most each morning to work on it. I sometimes wake at 5:30a and have to finish what I'm doing by 7:30a so I can make it to work on time. This constraint means I need to be wholly focused on the tasks I need to get done.
Quincy Adams also talks about the nature of time being spent on learning because it is in those times that you learn what do didn't even know you were ignorant about. I find these moments spring up all the time. I might be intentionally researching something only to stumble on a completely different field of research that I need to do. I love those times and apparently Quincy Adams finally embraced those times later on in life and used them to help others.
I can't believe he didn't know Orion until he was almost 50. I wonder what I will stumble across at 50 that I wish I hadn't missed?