So many paths

In early January, I started regular co-working sessions with a friend, Sumana Harihareswara. She read that post from 2013 about wanting to write more, and emailed me to see if I wanted to form an accountability team to work on our writing together. She’s making progress on her book, and I’m writing more here: we’ve been able to get a lot more done together than trying to work solo and power through.

~ Jacob Kaplan-Moss from, https://jacobian.org/2021/mar/9/coworking-to-write-more/

There are many paths to the top of Mt Getting Stuff Done. If you find yourself currently off the beaten path, this article is a nice trail map. It mentions cadence in the sense of “don’t break the chain” or “routine is your friend.” I want to talk about a recent epiphany I’ve had about a different way to look at cadence.

There are several things I’m currently doing which require ongoing, incremental effort. And for a long time, each of them to varying degrees, just wasn’t getting done to my satisfaction. I had repeatedly set goals, blocked out time, etc. Recently—unrelated to my points here about cadence—I’ve been making superlative progress on these things. (Because, reasons.) And I find that now I can see the cadence is much faster than it needs to be to reach my long-term goal. When these things weren’t getting done at all, I had an idea of the amount of work that was required to make meaningful progress. Now I can see that I can actually slow down. I’ve known, for these projects, just a teeny-tiny amount of work, would work. But I didn’t really believe it, until I had a cadence, and truly apprehended how teeny-tiny I could actually scale my efforts and still make meaningful progress.

ɕ

How to be productive

For me the pattern is now perfectly clear: the later I come at the task, the more time I’ll spend dancing around it before beginning in earnest. If I can make contact at an earlier hour, the urge to dance away from it is diminished, because I only have so many dance moves, and I’ll run out long before lunchtime.

~ David Cain from, https://www.raptitude.com/2021/12/9-things-i-learned-about-productivity-this-year/

About once per year I trot out a, HOLY CRAP!

This entire article is jammed full of insights, only one of which did I quote above. I’d say that I have learned those same things. But absolutely I have not learned them in a single year. Where’s my time machine? I need to get this to my 16-year-old self.

ɕ

slip:4a123.

Or soon every day will have gone by

… and soon the day has gone by and we wonder what we did with the day.

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

I marked this for “read later” back in December 2021, and am just getting around to reading it. I know that many—most? all?—of the amazing coincidences I find in my life arise from my innate, monkey-brain drive to see patterns and causation where none actually exists. I don’t care. It’s a nice coincidence that I’ve just gotten around to reading this, while in the past couple of weeks I’ve been simplifying and focusing on a small number of things that I want to be working on.

ɕ

Keeping you small

The trick is: You bite off more than you can chew… and then you still chew it. Your mind always believes it can do less than it actually can. It will tell you it’s too much, to stop, to take a berak, to cancel this or that. But your mind will lie to you to keep you small.

~ Will Smith

slip:4a901.

Small asks

The world expects that its requests will be accepted. That assignments, lunch dates, new projects, and even favors will get a yes. […] It’s just a small ask, the person thinks. Responding or reacting to incoming asks becomes the narration of your days, instead of the generous work of making your own contribution.

~ Seth Godin

slip:4a841.

Parkinson’s Law

Ferriss popularized the personal version of Parkinson’s Law, which correctly notes that our work expands to fill the time we give it. The original Economist essay on the topic also embeds an organizational version of the law, which I read to say that if you leave a group, or a team, or a company to operate without sufficient structure, they may converge toward unexpected and unproductive behaviors.

~ Cal Newport from, https://www.calnewport.com/blog/2021/09/01/revisiting-parkinsons-law/

Pithy sayings are punchy. (For example: Parkinson’s Law states that work expands to fill the allotted time.) But they’re also woefully inadequate; there’s no room for depth or surety. In this case though, it turns out that Parkinson’s Law is based on actual research… into the bureaucracy of the British Navy. Who knew that this pithy little phrase is actually a real model based on actual research. (…uhm, Parkinson, that’s who.)

There are plenty of ways to turn Parkinson’s law into actionable direction: Ship it. Iterate and course-correct. Show me your discard pile. (That is to say, do sub-par work until your work is up to par.) Minimum viable noun. (Which urges one to chop off everything not absolutely necessary in order to get that noun into the world sooner.) All of which, I’m semi-surprised to note, are about constraining the time allotted to do the work. It’s all about moving the goal posts closer.

ɕ

Consistent, Current and Context-driven

The podcast episode, Consistent, Current and Context-driven, is a scant 5 minutes and 43 seconds long. You’ll probably want to pause and take some notes. After it widens your eyes, go revisit your copy of Getting Things Done—or omgbecky buy a copy, …how do you not own a copy?

Everything I have ever accomplished is because I have systems within which I can think and operate; our brains are for having ideas, not for remembering things [such as: to-do lists, dates, reminders, etc.]

slip:4c2ge2a.

ɕ

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.

ɕ

If I had a clone

I only wish for more hours in the day and a clone to do adulting chores while I enjoy [insert speaker’s preferences here] without interruption.

Who hasn’t expressed such a sentiment at one time or another? I certainly have, and it’s a pleasant diversion to imagine being unloaded of all the small stuff that seems to weigh me down. There’s plenty that can be said—and which I and others have already said—about the importance of the smaller things and “adulting chores”. But today I’m going in a different direction.

When that sentiment comes to mind, I use it as a thought experiment: If I had a clone, that would then obviously be me. It would be literally this same me that I am today. This same me, who doesn’t want to do those small things and adulting-chores. How do I expect to be able to convince the clone to do all the stuff I don’t want to do? If I could convince the clone, I’d be able to convince myself. So I set about thinking about how to convince the clone.

Because then I’d be happy to get that stuff done, wouldn’t I?

ɕ