0443 – GTD, prioritization, dealing with interruptions and distractions

Work [1], daily reviews, exercise. These are the things that I really want to adopt as part of my daily routine, beyond my daily habit of writing word vomits. Beyond that, I’m thinking I need to make sure that I meditate, sleep well, and have more efficient routines and processes… but those things are a bit more nebulous. I should start with nailing down the basics. It’s taken me really long to nail down basics. Embarrassingly long, really, but that’s actually not relevant. Every day is a new day, every moment is a new moment, and I should optimize for what is currently on my plate rather that sit around feeling bad or guilty or ashamed of my lack of progress so far. (0327)

So. My current priority right now is to finish this word vomit, and then to move on to my highest priority work task. Once I’m done with THAT, I can move on to evaluating the rest of my tasks, and do a review about how things are going. And then I’ll go for a run in the evening. These few things together, alone, would have made today a good day despite some shuffling and weaseling around in the morning. And to extrapolate unnecessarily, if I can do this regularly, I can then make “a good day” my new normal, and start adding more things to it, more priorities, more things of significance. And that is how I will grow in responsibility and power without screwing things up. With the power of habits and routines that I internalize, the same way I’ve internalized that writing word vomits every day will make me happy, even if I’m sleepy and tired and don’t feel like doing it. [2]

What else? I also think I really need to solve the problem of interruptions and distractions. And of just generally poorly regulated behavior. This is the main thing that’s been on my mind the past few days while my wife’s been away. I’m alone at home, and I’m just really bad at regulating myself when I’m at home. By that I mean I just sort of vegetate and lounge around. A part of this might be a sort of subconscious craving for downtime, which I think is a valid excuse for a couple of days or so, but I also know that I’ve very often fallen into this trap when I was young.

How do I solve the problem of self-regulation? I feel like I’ve talked about this a lot of times in a lot of ways, but yet never really made very much progress. Which is a bit of a misnomer– I’ve definitely made a bunch of progress, with my work vomits and with my work. It’s just that this progress doesn’t seem very deliberate or systematic, and I’m constantly aware of all the progress that I have failed to make. (This is not quite the same as “progress left to make”, which is infinite. I’m talking about failed attempts.)

Can I figure out the missing piece in the next 250 words? Probably not but that’s what I’ll spend them trying to do. I think the solution to the problem of self-regulation will begin with really little things. If you suck at self-regulation, you can’t suddenly change everything, turn everything around all at once overnight. You have to start with small things. So doing these word vomits is a step in the right direction, even if it doesn’t feel like it. Doing my daily/weekly work updates is a step, even if it doesn’t feel like it. I just need to take more such steps, and then the feels will follow in response to the change in volume of output, in volume of shit done.

But what about the interruptions? Well… the thing is to work in tiny chunks that can’t be interrupted. I can do 25 minutes without interruption. My problem is that I keep trying to do many many chunks and then I take the failure of the later parts as a symptom of failure of the whole. Rather, I should commit to say just 1 pomodoro of non-distracted activity. And do that every day for a week. Then maybe commit to 2. That sounds ridiculously simple but the alternative has simply not worked, not stuck. I need to fiure out my bare minimums and keep those rock-solid.

I feel like I don’t quite believe myself while I’m saying these things, but that’s probably because it’s late and I’m tired and sleepy. But hey, at least I’m doing a vomit. Done.


[1] I know, Work is a really large bucket with all sorts of sub-buckets. Quickly: by work, I mean to make progress everyday on at least 1 chunk of whatever I’ve labeled as my highest priority work-task. I was going to write “at least 3”, but I realize that doesn’t solve for adoption. Gall’s law. I have to start with something simple and make it a daily thing, and then I can expand on that once that’s something I’ve thoroughly internalized. If I haven’t made progress on my highest priority task, everything else I do is still sort of hollow and unsatisfying. I have to eat the frog.

[2] I find myself thinking now about what Elon Musk said when asked about how he maintains hope, optimism, etc when things aren’t going well– and he answered with a delightful non-answer– that those things are irrelevant to him, and that he just gives it his all no matter what. When I first saw that, I thought it was a little weird and alien– was he hiding something? But I’m starting to realize now that he’s just operating in a different mode altogether from people who depend on feelings and optimism and motivation in order to function. He’s committed himself to a course (and of course, there are feelings involved in making that decision), but having made that decision he has chosen not to waver from it. He’s become truly outcome-agnostic. Which is quite a marvellous thing to witness, to realize that such a state is possible.

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