I try to forget my ideas

Keeping track of project ideas, in my experience, is usually a waste of time. I used to fear that if I didn’t capture and review my sparks of brilliance I’d forget them and an opportunity for impact would be lost.

The reality, however, is that most people (myself included) have waymore ideas for things to work on than they have time to work. Forgetting ideas is not your problem. Having too many ideas competing for your attention to execute any one well is a more pressing concern.

~ Cal Newport from, https://www.calnewport.com/blog/2014/11/07/deep-habits-forget-your-project-ideas-until-you-cant-forget-them/

In the beginning I didn’t try to do anything with my ideas. Even though—my mom may disagree—I had mastered bathing and dressing, I was still under the false-impression that my mind was for holding ideas. It’s not good at that. Actually it’s terrible at that.

It took me a few decades to figure out— …honestly, I never did figure it out. Rather, I started reading a bunch of stuff about how to get my arse organized, and started to write things down. College helped. 43 Folders helped, a lot. Reading Getting Things Done made the final pieces click into place.

Whereupon I entered the Second Epoch of Craig. At this time I dutifully studied, and earned my title, Wizard of Process and Organization, with a specialization in Internet Dark Arts. Do not meddle in the ways of Process and Organization Wizards; we are quick to anger and you are tasty with ketchup. As you can tell, I completely lost my marbles in the process. Near the end of this Second Epoch I reach the epitome of my list-building, (and project management setups, and universe-domination plans.) I was completely drowning in over-planned, over-committed, over-stressed, over-organization.

Cue, Thus Spoke Zarathustra, and the dawning of the Third Epoch of Craig. Wherein I straight-up deleted most of my lists of ideas and plans. The really important stuff continues to live in my level-37 wizard process-management systems. I know they’re working when I forget they’re working and yet things magically appear when I need them to.

Ideas are worthless. It’s execution, (plus luck, and timing,) that makes them valuable. I’ve a few ideas that I cannot get out of my head. Those are the ones I’m working on in an attempt to make them go away. But it’s a good day any time I can manage to just forget about some idea having blissfully done nothing with it.

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Quitting at quitting time

The best thing you and I can do at the end of the writing day is to stash our work gloves in our locker, hang our leather apron on a hook, and head for the workshop door. If we’ve truly put in our hours today, we know it. We have done enough. It won’t help to keep at it like a dog worrying a bone.

~ Steven Pressfield from, https://stevenpressfield.com/2014/08/the-office-is-closed/

…and similarly: https://www.calnewport.com/blog/2012/07/24/perfectionism-is-a-losers-strategy/

I’ve recently learned that “inertia” as a word, was first applied to the cosmos during a fairly recent philosophical shift in thinking. People like Copernicus were looking at the cosmos and used “inertia” to point out the universe’s inherent, not-alive property; as in, the cosmos possesses inertia, the property of being inert. Newton’s idea of inertia, in the sense that slow moving dump trucks have a lot of inertia, aligns with the idea that the inert cosmos resists. It resists starting and it resists stopping. Newton’s equation, “F=ma” is a result of inertia; If (F)orce is zero on the left, then (a)cceleration is zero on the right. If acceleration is zero, then velocity remains constant.

Aside: “velocity” is speed, “how fast?” and direction, together as one property. Turning a corner in a car, at the same speed, is a change in velocity. To do so requires force from the steering tires of the car. The steering wheel is simply a well designed control for applying lateral force to the front of your car to control your velocity without changing your speed.

Where was I? …oh, right! Inertia. The cosmos. Back to it…

The inert cosmos resists starting and stopping. But I am not inert! I long ago recognized that when I was not moving—figuratively speaking, moving by being engaged making progress toward some goal… When I was not moving, then I needed to do something to get moving. I needed to start, and realizing that I was bad at starting, I needed to practice starting. Okay, did that.

Unfortunately, I have created a new problem: I don’t know how to stop. It turns out one really needs to also be able to start and to stop. Now that I’ve mastered starting, I can finally begin to learn to stop.

<sarcasm>And surprise!</sarcasm> F=ma. Starting and stopping are equally difficult.

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Start before you are ready

It’s Einstein’s principle of relativity: all points in the universe are created equal. “There’s no need,” Patricia teaches, “to find the right starting place.”

~ Steven Pressfield from, https://stevenpressfield.com/2014/06/principles-of-improv/

After considerable consideration, I remain unsure what to think of, “start before you are ready.” I agree with it, in the sense of one’s needing to avoid the opposite behavior: Never actually starting because one is busy preparing procrastinating. If Pressfield’s admonishment to, “start before you are ready,” gets you around procrastination, terrific!

However, I have a different problem: Taking on too much. At this point in my insanity, I’m desperately trying to insert an emphatic “wait, no, don’t!” in front of any urge to start any project. But my thinking becomes circular. What if all the things I’m doing—which I’m trying to avoid starting… What if all the things I’m doing are actually just me procrastinating. What if there’s some other thing that I do need to “start before I am ready,” but I just don’t see what that is yet?

Are you starting? Are you procrastinating? …how do you tell the difference?

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Focus

I’ve touched on the importance of focus frequently. Today I just wanted to remind myself of two ways that I often lose focus.

First, shiny-distraction syndrome gives me the urge to try all the things, do all the things, build all the things, fix all the things, improve all the things… This does not end well for me. I’ve been getting much better at sitting with, (as Leo Babauta would say,) the urge to chase the shiny thing. Like a dog being trained to resist an urge; OH A SQUIRREL! …no, sit! …wait …wait (the squirrel moves out of sight) …good boy!

Unfortunately the second way I lose focus is pernicious; I’ll call it shifting-sands syndrome. This happens when I decide to take something on—maybe it’s something small, maybe it’s big, whatever, it’s something I feel moves me towards some goal. “Ok, yes, this is a good thing to work on. This is definitely not shiny-distraction syndrome. I’m in. Let’s do it.”

And then someone else moves the goal posts.

I fall for this all the time. It’s like the sunk-cost fallacy. “I was going to do 42 units of life-energy-work, what’s 2 more?” Hey Craig! I’ll tell you what 2 more is: 2 more is 44 units. Stop and think! Don’t make the decision based on, “it’s only 2 more.” Rather, I need to start over: What’s the task/thing/etc., how much work is it (now 44 units, not just 42), do I want to do it, is it worth it, and so on.

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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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