Wrangling life’s admin tasks

Just as with job-related admin, “life admin” represents some of our least favorite, and most procrastinated on, to-dos. And yet completing them is essential to keeping our lives organized, functioning, and moving ahead.

~ Brett McKay from https://www.artofmanliness.com/articles/how-to-better-manage-your-life-admin/

A couple years ago I simply threw my hands up in the air and picked one day of the week which I’ve literally labeled as my “admin” day. On that day each week, I tackle everything related to life admin. It’s awesome; Stuff gets done.

But even better than that: It frees me on the other six days of the week. During the other six days each week, whole swaths of things are trivially lobbed onto the pile for the next admin day.

Try this: Pick a day of the week to be admin day, and start lobbing stuff to that day. Laundry, housecleaning… hell, I don’t even open postal mail until admin day. Pay bills, schedule things, shopping, errands…

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Ready. Aim. Aim.

If you’re holding back and looking for a reason why, and that reason is replaced by another reason, then… you might be stalling.

~ Seth Godin from, https://seths.blog/2020/11/are-you-stalling/

I’m sure I must have been stalling at some point in my life, but ain’t nobody got time for that now. Sometimes my stalling manifested as frenetic deck-chair arranging when I was actually stalling on the rudder improvement project. Sometimes it manifested as deep, pensive stretches of prodigious cogitation. Now I’m all like: Manifest destiny!

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Horizons of focus

Your priorities are determined from the top down—i.e. your purpose and values will drive your vision of the purpose being fulfilled, which will create goals and objectives, which will frame areas of focus and accountability. All of those will generate projects which will require actions to get them done.

~ David Allen, from https://gettingthingsdone.com/2018/12/the-gtd-horizons-of-focus-for-determining-your-priorities/

Thinking about one’s purpose is…

Okay, I generally try to dial down my vocabulary in blog posts. Not because I think you, Dear Reader, are dumb; I dial it down because I tend toward prolixity, pontification, posturing, and preaching. Things I’d be better a person if I did less of. But today, I feel irresistibly compelled to trot out vertiginous

Thinking about one’s purpose is vertiginous. When I sit still—physically and mentally still—as I do quite often, and climb the stairs to the highest view of the farthest horizon, the vertigo is physical. Who am I? Why am I here? What is the purpose of life? …or the hopefully smaller and more tractable: What is my purpose? I have no clear answer to any of those. But I have 100% absolutely for-sure take-it-to-the-bank found something that enables me to continue looking for answers…

Simply sit with the feeling and gaze at that horizon.

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What can be accomplished in a day

As usual, I’m forced to face the reality that what I want to get done, will never fit into my today. On one hand, it would be serene to have nothing that I wanted to do; it would be serene to simply “be” through the course of one day. On the other hand, there are things I would deeply enjoy doing which also generate benefit for myself, those around me, and the world at large. This creates tension.

The point of life isn’t to resolve that tension, but rather to live within the tension.

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One you can finish

The worker must be stronger than his project; loads larger than the bearer must necessarily crush him. Certain careers, moreover, are not so demanding in themselves as they are prolific in begetting a mass of other activities. Enterprises which give rise to new and multifarious activities should be avoided; you must not commit yourself to a task from which there is no free egress. Put your hand to one you can finish or at least hope to finish; leave alone those that expand as you work at them and do not stop where you intended they should.

~ Seneca, On Tranquility

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Festina lente

From the Roman historian Suetonius, we learn that festina lente became Octavian’s motto. Octavian, making Athenodorus’ influence clear, “thought nothing less becoming in a well-trained leader than haste and rashness.” His favorite sayings were: “More haste, less speed”; “Better a safe commander than a bold”; and “That is done quickly enough which is done well enough.” The first one is rendered simply enough in Latin that it’s worth saying again: Festina lente. Make haste, slowly.

~ From https://dailystoic.com/athenodorus/

I’m taking up the phrase Festina Lente, (make haste, slowly,) in place of “unrestrained moderation.”

There are countless examples of this idea throughout history. The archetype is, I think, “Slow is smooth. Smooth is fast.” Perhaps, “festina lente,” though, is the archetype? …or maybe the original Greek? Anyway.

I’m trying to keep it in mind as a touch phrase for those moments—say, when I’m literally knee deep in tree trimmings stumbling around my yard, exhausted and I should quit soon before I get hurt… “festina lente.”

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The Disciplined Pursuit of Less

If success is a catalyst for failure because it leads to the “undisciplined pursuit of more,” then one simple antidote is the disciplined pursuit of less. Not just haphazardly saying no, but purposefully, deliberately, and strategically eliminating the nonessentials. Not just once a year as part of a planning meeting, but constantly reducing, focusing and simplifying. Not just getting rid of the obvious time wasters, but being willing to cut out really terrific opportunities as well. Few appear to have the courage to live this principle, which may be why it differentiates successful people and organizations from the very successful ones.

~ From The Disciplined Pursuit of Less
https://hbr.org/2012/08/the-disciplined-pursuit-of-less

This is insightful, useful, wise and directly actionable.

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Getting Less Done

My touch-phrase for 2019 was, “no.” In terms of self-imposed stress and crippling depression, 2019 was the worst year ever; I’ve more than 10 years of journals and I’ve checked. 2018 was bad, but 2019—the year I set out specifically to reduce the problems—was definitely and significantly worse than 2018.

I remain convinced that it is not possible to optimize one’s way out of burn-out. If I have 500 things I want to get done and I’m burnt-out, the solution is to reduce the number of things, not get better at getting things done. I’m speaking from personal experience, not from theory.

2020 has to be the year of getting less done.

In 2019, the “no” touch-phrase was meant to guide me to developing the habit of saying no to things coming towards me. A huge amount of ideas and opportunities come at me, and I’ve gotten much better at saying, “no.” (I’m not quite ready to say I’ve gotten “good” at it; but I’ve definitely gotten better.) I’ve gotten better at evaluating Big Asks from the world, and saying, “no.” A textbook example of that is people/groups which reach out to me, asking for my input or participation.

“No, I do not have the time to do that well.”

“No, I cannot to do that the way it deserves to be done.”

…and so on. Note particularly the absence of the societal lubrication, (a.k.a., the usual lie,) “I’m sorry, but…” Because, I’m not sorry. I’m defending myself, and I’ve reached the point where if my candid, timely, and honest response feels like a wack on the head… Bummer. Life’s hard; get a helmet.

2020 has to be the year of getting less done.

In a previous post (on my personal blog) I mentioned the idea of leverage; positing that I should focus on asking myself, “how much leverage does this opportunity afford me?” This still doesn’t feel quite the right fit for 2020 because leverage per se isn’t a value I’m interested in maximizing.

So that leaves me where?

2020 has to be the year of getting less done.

GLD — Get less done.

Maybe that’s the touch-phrase for 2020?

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Meta: I had posted this in the Movers Mindset Forum early in 2020. But, for some reason I cannot fathom—perhaps it was simply an oversight—I didn’t post this here on the ‘ol blog in very-early 2020 when it was written. ;)

Bad planning

It’s a long to-do list that doesn’t translate into action. A spreadsheet where you gather information in order to forget about it. A long chain of thought culminating in an epiphany that goes nowhere. An argument about an issue that you never work on directly.

Bad planning like a belief in telepathy. It makes you feel like your private thoughts can change the world. The quintessential example? A college humanities essay that gets read by the student, the professor, and nobody else, but which the student remains proud of for the rest of their life.

~ “AllAmericanBreakfast” from, https://www.lesswrong.com/posts/pt7XYxnhTQdHGf7MN/change-the-world-a-little-bit

Planning, todo list management, goal setting… for me it all comes down to beginning with the end. What does “done” look like? What would a solution to this problem look like if I had a magic wand? When this is done what effect will it have [on me or the world]? Far too many people struggle with lists, and with getting things done—also with Getting Things Done. The real challenge is to figure out if the idea you just had pop into your head… is that a how to do something, or a what [as in, a goal] to do? If you have a how you really need to figure out that what. Because otherwise…

How are you going to figure out why you are doing anything that you are doing?

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Wherever I go

Your freedom will not come from trying to ignore all the “stuff” or by trying to complete everything—it requires truly detaching from it.

~ David Allen from, https://gettingthingsdone.com/2018/05/gtd-and-stress/

Detaching from all the stuff is a linchpin behavior for me. Wherever I go, there I find myself; if I want to not be swept away by all the stuff on my mind I have found exactly four things which work:

  1. Sleeping — This however is cheating. This is being unconscious and is simply a form of escape. Depending on what’s on my mind, and how poorly I’ve physically set myself up, (alcohol, caffeine, food, etc.,) sleep may even not be an option.
  2. Distraction — Visual entertainment switches off my brain. Movies, streaming TV, etc.. 100% waste of my life… but it’s an escape which does work.
  3. Focus — I can sweep away the crush of things on my mind if I’m sufficiently focused. Rock climbing, (not just the time literally climbing, but the entire day and experience of it,) is great for this. Lots of other activities indoor, (reading in various mediums and writing,) and outdoor, (walking and biking for example.) This is in fact, still a form of escape from the things on my mind.
  4. Capture and process — This is the only thing I’ve found which works for me. To be clear, a single idea had in a flash might require two full waking-hours days of capture and processing for me to fully flesh out the idea. If there’s even the slightest nook or cranny left unexplored, my broken mind will snag on that like a nick in a fingernail. Harmless, but very very repetitive redundant and repetitive.

I really hope you have no idea what I’m talking about here. If you do, I offer my sincere condolences.

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