Getting less done

I believe I’ve mentioned that my touch-stone motto for 2020 is, “Get less done.” I’ve been working on this. I’ve been setting smaller daily goals, and I’ve been keeping the “today I should…” list shorter.

Yesterday was a curveball. Didn’t feel well the night before… very little sleep, spent some time napping on the bathroom floor, etc. Nothing serious, nothing major, just… a curveball. So Saturday was a crazy-slow start. …later than normal start. …maybe I’ll just read a little before I even stretch. …maybe I’ll do my little exercise route later. …there are a couple things I need to prepare for a small car trip, but I’ll just do them quickly, rather than my usual thoroughly. …maybe I’ll skip this. …maybe I’ll do that later.

It’s not yet my usual bed time, and I’m stumble down tired. But I’ve gotten more done today than— well, it’s like one of the most productive days in ages. What’s up with that? Was it the slow-and-steady pace that led to all-day success? Was it the complete lack of any real goals for the day; and then, well I did that one thing, so I guess I can do this next thing…

“Curiouser and curiouser,” said Alice.

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Is it a process?

Not everything is a process, but much of what you do each day is a process. How much of what you do each day is a process, but you don’t realize it is? Because you’re wasting your life in that gap.

Two examples to illuminate my thinking, then you’re on your own:

Groceries. You know there’s a process for this. Get in car. Travel to store(s). Move through store in the usual pattern. Select things. Pay and leave. Travel home. Exit car. Move purchases into domicile and put them away.

Laundry. Move dirty clothing to the washing machine. Load machine with clothes and detergent. Start machine. Return later. Flip laundry to drier or to hang-dry. Return later. Fold or organize clean laundry. Return clothing to domicile storage.

Every detail of those processes will be different for each of us. You know your exact process very well, and you could tell me your process, just as I’ve done above. But these processes are actually closed loops which you are going to repeat a huge number of times. I could append, “Wear clothes. Repeat.” to the laundry process, and I could add, “Consume food. Repeat.” to the grocery process.

You know you can optimize things, but the entire process can be optimized—should be optimized. If it’s a process, you’re doing it by rote. (Yes, you can focus on what you’re doing and enjoy it. But you’re not doing anything creative.) So optimize the entire process. Is a car the optimal way to go get your groceries? Where do you keep the grocery list? How do things get put onto that list? Where do groceries etc. get stored in your domicile? How do you prepare and plan meals to use the groceries? Where do you store your dirty laundry? Where do you store “wear this again” clothing? How do you store and rotate seasonally changing clothes? How do you replace items that wear out? If it’s a process, you can optimize it and then you can spend less time on it.

Groceries and laundry are simply my examples. What other things do you do in your life that are processes which you haven’t considered at all? If you thought about them, and organized and optimized the process, how much time would it save you? Aren’t you always wishing you had more time? How much better would your mind work if it wasn’t trying to remember, and struggle through poorly-designed, (or worse, figured out on-the-fly each time,) processes?

What could you do with all that extra time?

Could you use that free time for things in your life that are not processes? Read a book… Spend a day relaxing on a beach… Have dinner with a friend…

To me, “life balance” is about how much time I spend on things which are processes versus things which are not processes.

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Check yourself

But in order to be to be self-aware, first one needs a self to be aware of.

~ Hugh MacLeod from, https://www.gapingvoid.com/blog/2017/12/05/check-yourself-before-you-wreck-yourself/

I see what you did there, Hugh. But aside from the clever word play, there’s an obvious level to “having a self.” Everyone certainly has a self, so this just seems banal.

But I see this as a reminder that self-awareness of a static self is not good enough. I need to be aware of my self, and constantly working to improve my self.

How do I do that?

Chop wood; carry water. Write. Read. Seek out challenges great and small.

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No smiles

We left feeling sorry for the whole thing. The people who worked at the theater weren’t trained to know how to deal with the problem. They probably weren’t empowered to do anything about it anyway. The technical staff apparently doesn’t work on the premises. The guy at the box office wanted to help, but wasn’t granted the power to do anything. And the manager, who was last in the line of misery, to have to manually, and slowly, process dozens of refunds on his own. No smiles entered the picture.

~ Jason Fried from, https://m.signalvnoise.com/i-went-to-see-a-movie-and-instead-i-saw-the-future/

This is a delightful anecdote which highlights a key element of what we are doing in the Movers Mindset project. We are trying to stay closely engaged with the people we are serving. In order to do that, we can’t use fractured communications mediums (like Instagram direct-messaging, Facebook messenger, and so on) — there’s simply no way I would be able to interact with a meaningful number of people if I had to check a dozen different communication mediums every day. Generally, this is referred to as the Network Effect; the value of the network increases dramatically (non-linearly that is) as the number of people in it increases. So my maintaining (I don’t do this, but if I did…) my participation in many different networks would be needed to reach people.

Instead, I have focused on creating a functioning space where people of like mind can gather and communicate. The challenge is not that the network needs to reach a certain size to be “useful.” No, already one person there can interact with another person and get the full value out of that interaction.

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The Movers Mindset Forum

What is the Forum?

The goal of the forum is to facilitate self-improvement. In the forum we focus on movement as a mastery practice and highlight the processes of discovery and reflection. The forum provides the opportunity to interact with and learn from podcast guests, athletes, experts, and like-minded others.

https://forum.moversmindset.com/

Why the change?

We used to call it “the Movers Mindset community” site. There are some key reasons why we feel “forum” is a better word choice:

It removes confusion

While it’s not confusing to us on the team, there was a lot of confusion from everyone else who encountered Movers Mindset. I had to really pay attention before I realized this. People heard us say, “the movers mindset community,” and they were thinking, “the collection of people who are interested in Movers Mindset.” They were thinking community as in: The skate-boarding community. The parkour community.

When we said, “join the Movers Mindset community,” people’s first instinct was that we meant for them to become  interested in Movers Mindset, follow us on Instagram, or start listening to the podcast. None of that entices people to join a for-pay, members-only thing. Oops.

The word “forum” does not carry the same context as “community”; when people hear, “the Movers Mindset Forum,” or, “join the Movers Mindset Forum,” it stands out. Even if it stands out only because they don’t know what it is, that’s better than them thinking they know what it is, and having the wrong idea.

Forums are old-school

If by “old-school” you mean more considered, slower paced, and higher information density, then we’ll take that baggage because that’s exactly what the Movers Mindset Forum is meant to be. The work before us now is marketing the forum as interesting and useful, rather than a dusty old forum not worthy of attention. We think by stating a clear goal for the Forum and by stating what the Forum provides people, that it creates a meaningful opportunity that people will consider.

It’s simply shorter

I know this seems trivial, but it adds up over time. “Forum” is just that much shorter to have to include in URLs, and it’s two syllables shorter to say.

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Minutia

Sometimes it’s nice to come to a complete stop and notice the details. This photo was taken a bit off the more usual paths in Muir Woods in California.

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Bashing against the resistance

… Resistance is natural, just a sensation in the body that is a response to change, discomfort, uncertainty. Our minds have a hard time dealing with these things, because we like routine, comfort, certainty.

Here’s the thing: the resistance isn’t always at a constant, full-on intensity. Resistance ebbs and flows. 

~ Leo Babauta from, https://zenhabits.net/resistances/

Steven Pressfield also writes a lot about resistance. (For example, see his book, The War of Art.) The approach he advocates is one of showing up and doing the work. He has a lot of good advice around preparing for the inevitable arrival of resistance, and even goes so far as to consider it a necessary evil; it’s a thing within each of us that cannot be avoided and which must be faced in the process of heading the call of the work.

Maybe.

Me? I’m just exhausted from should’ing on myself.

These days, I’m definitely in a Leo-zen phase where I’d like the path of least resistance. My personal challenge is not that I’m going to get sucked into video games and sit around all day. My personal challenge is that I’m going to bash myself on the task-of-the-day one time too many… or a thousand times too many. For me, the path of least resistance is obviously still a path towards the goal; I still have goals and I cannot help but choose paths towards those goals. I’ve permanently ingrained the habit: Here’s an idea. Here’s the goal. Here’re the first 10 next-actions. I’ve got that. Can’t avoid it. I could never not do that.

But do I take those next-actions now… like, right now? Perhaps it would better to relax doing nothing for a bit, and take those next-actions tomorrow? …or maybe even next week?

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How to communicate

You can not not communicate. Not discussing the elephant in the room is communicating. Few things are as important to study, practice, and perfect as clear communication.

~ Jason Fried from, https://basecamp.com/guides/how-we-communicate

This article explains how Basecamp—the organization itself—communicates. If you are a human being, who ever encounters other human beings, the initial list is a great primer on how to communicate. The whole article makes me feel warm and fuzzy. As if, somehow, the world would take a big step in the right direction if more people would read this one thing.

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A bottom-up approach

When you’re feeling overwhelmed about how much you have to do (and who isn’t, really?), it’s difficult to focus on ensuring your life and work is moving in the direction you want to go. That’s why it’s important to get control of your daily tasks before working on your big-picture life planning.

GTD is a “bottom-up” approach to productivity. The goal is to establish a sense of comfort and control over the work that’s on your plate right now, so you can free up some mental energy and space to think about the big stuff.

~ Josh Kaufman from, https://gettingthingsdone.com/2010/07/10-big-ideas-from-gtd/

I have a few posts tagged Getting things done if you want to learn more. But this little article—it’s almost a listicle—has a nice list of 10 key points about the Getting Things Done system.

You know those questions, “If you could go back in time and give yourself advice, what would it be?” I used to say something trite like, “I wouldn’t because all my mistakes made me who I am.” I’m changing my tune: I wish someone had BEATEN me over the head with a copy of the GTD book the day it was published in 2001. I was long out of college, and well on the road to who I am now—granted I was still going downhill. But if I had found this stuff in 2001… There’s a reason this is one of the books I keep extra copies of on hand to give to people.

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Ernie Pyle

What I love about Ernie Pyle (and Bill Mauldin) is that they were indefatigable champions for the man on the ground. The WWII infantryman was part of a breed we don’t have any more—the citizen-soldier. Like the Greek farmer-hoplite who took down his spear and breastplate from above the fireplace and marched off to defend his city, the American citizen-soldier had no fondness for war, yearned only to get it over with and get home—but he answered the call and delivered, as Ernie Pyle did and as he describes so eloquently in the passage below.

~ Steven Pressfield from, https://stevenpressfield.com/2011/08/the-god-damned-infantry-by-ernie-pyle/

[presented without comment]

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