0110 – life should be interesting + boring task mgmt stuff

I logged into Facebook on a whim- I try to keep off it these days. I saw that Nassim Taleb was in Singapore. What are the odds of that? He elbowed me in the stomach accidentally when we were taking a group photo. I’ve met Lee Hsien Loong. Been tweeted by Margaret Atwood, Jimmy Wales. I’ve met and taken pictures witb Stu Hamm and Billy Sheehan. I make it a point to always try to ask a good question.

Yesterday I revisited the idea that life shoupd be interesting. I spent that night playing guitar. I’d like to be able to play with sounds better. Above all I think I’d like to play with words. This is why I’m doing the 1000×1000 words project. Completing it will be interesting. I had a nice burst in the 60s or 70s but I’ve slowed down since. I’m not really happy about that. Life is excruciatingly short. I shouldn’t be missing my daily grind towards my goal. The grind IS the goal. The whole point is that a regular commitment to reading and/or writing will alter your mind, probably permanently. That’s the person I want to become. I want to be better than I’ve ever been.

I look back at my writing from earlier this year and I see a noticable difference. I’ve changed already. Is volume the differentiator, or is it something else? Probably both volume and experience.

But this doesn’t feel like a very interesting question to explore. You do the work, you reap the dividends, you refine your process along the way.

What is interesting? I’ll have to split this into work and pleasure. Well- do I? There are some things I can’t shake. Problems of procrastination, discourse… These are things I’d like to help work on. I’m not bring very clear. There’s a very noisy lady on the train (on the phone) and I’m struggling to tune her out.

I’ve come to feel more strongly about phrasing. I feel a need to hack away at bad phrasing.

Consider that last sentence. “I feel a need to heck away at bad phrasing.” The sentence that came out of me was actually “I feel a need to hack away at what I believe to be bad phrasing.” That’s a sentence that’s easily understood when spoken, because a speaker can use gestures and emphasis to guide his audience. “I feel a need to hack away at what I believe is bad phrasing.” (“is” is better usage then “to be”. It’s simpler and effectively means the same thing. There’s less chance of confusing your audience.)

[I meant to say “confusing or losing your audience”. It’s a minor but valid distinction. You can confuse an audience without losing them. I feel a need to cover all the bases. But this additional clarity comes at the expense of overall readability. I systematically sacrifice the general for the particular. Sometimes this is exactly what you want to achieve: sometimes precision is the most necessary thing in communicating something. But this isn’t the case with my writing. My overelaboration is a habitual tic, not a stylistic choice. I don’t recite poetry to swordsmen because I have some elaborate objective- I do it because I lack swordsmanship.

So this is what’s on my mind that I’d like to make deliberate. I’d like to write with fewer weasel words. In the long term, I hope I think with fewer weasel words too.

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Life is short. At 23 I already have regrets. Not practicing harder. Not working harder. Wasting too much time on selfish things like winning arguments. I’ve developed some useful skills from arguing, but not so much from general idleness. I don’t think so. I wish I had been in more relationships. I wish I had invested more permanent skills.

I hopefully have at least another 10 years to live. That’s how I’d like to look at it. Longer pictures and I start romanticizing at the expense of actions.

Okay so I have ten years to live. I have to go to New York. (I should explore this train of thought, which had ended abruptly here, alas.)

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This is going to be a task management type vomit so it might be pretty boring.

Why did I just think that? It’s a premptive apology. To who? The reader? Nobody’s meant to read this, this is for me. Am I apologizing to myself? I’m trying to reduce my own expectations? No, I’m definitely writing for others- but this is a self-selected audience of less than a hundred people, so why am I apologizing? If you don’t like it here, stranger, you’re welcome to leave. In fact I encourage it. If you’re here, you’re already wasting your time on something incomplete, unvarnished… potentially just noise.

It’s the equivalent of a standup comedian or a band in a nearly empty club apologizing for his unprofessional performance. Why apologize? Why not give it your best shot?

Maybe the apology isn’t for the lack of quality. The lack of quality is apparent to everyone. The apology is for the lack of effort. And that’s apparent only to the performer. (It might be inferred by the audience, but only the performer can be certain.)

So I’m not sorry that this is a pain in the ass to read. It is what it is. Take ir or leave it.

Okay, about task management, which I suck at. I’m writing about it because writing is a thinking tool for me.

One of the cool things about the work I do is that I don’t have an overly rigid set of tasks. You could say that one of my most pressing tasks is to think of better tasks to do. That said, it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking instead of doing. Thinking as an excuse to avoid doing the dirty schlep work than inevitably needs to be done.

So I think it makes sense to schedule certain amounts of schlep work at regular intervals- things like responding to emails, for instance. It doesn’t make sense to think about whether or not I should be replying to emails right now. I should have a fixed period of time during which I answer emails and then leave it at that. Not having such structure is tiresome. It wastes precious cognitive resources day in and day out. I’ve noticed that having a fitness routine has made me fitter, happier and more productive, and I have since accepted that my life is better with fitness routines. Now I want to expand and extend that into other routines.

This is already working out for me. I have developed a routine of doing word vomits during my morning and evening commutes. The result is that I end up writing about 2000 words a day without having to dedicate cognitive resources to figuring out whether I should or not. My beeminder is noe a prompter that tells me I should practice guitar, read books, meditate. Maybe I should schedule all of those things, too. The point is that removing the “should I or should I not” and replacing it with a “yes, unless…” or “no, unless…” is a much superior way of doing things.

Why didn’t I learn this when I was a kid? It seemed silly and trivial, and also it was stuff that I wasn’t actually very interested in. But I was throwing the baby out with the bathwater- by refusing to learn how to serve the agendas of others, I failed to learn to serve my own.

I didn’t respect anybody, and I refused to follow orders from anybody I didn’t respect. Well turns out I don’t really respect my conscious decision-making self either- so I don’t follow my own orders. I think the hack lies in questioning the obedience given to the subconscious- why is HE deserving of such unquestioning obedience? If you’re going to disobey undeserved authority, nobody should be immune.

So anyway… I need to chunk tasks together. It’s a little depressing that the most productive parts of my day seem to be my daily word vomits. I need to do something vomit-esque with my work. But what? I need to contain things into explosive bursts. Maybe I should start a pomodoro the moment I get into the office.

I tried eating some sushi after work before coming home. I feel a little clearer and less wasted.

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