I want to become a better person. I feel like I am ready and qualified to do this. I think it’s one of those things that everybody will agree that they want, because it’s a virtuous thing to say. It’s a nice thing to signal. Everyone should communicate to everyone else that they want to be better people. I am okay with this. I think virtue-signalling is just a part of life that we have to learn to parlay with.
But I also actually want to become a better person. The usual questions follow: Why? What does that actually mean? How?
I’ve written about this many times over but it’s always worth repeating. I want to fulfil my obligations and do what I say I will do. I want to be able to rely on my word.
So actually, maybe let’s scrap the “be a better person” bit, because that’s all moralistic and complicated. I want to achieve a less lofty goal – which is that I want to be able to trust my own word.
I can’t currently trust my own word as much as I’d like. Why? Because I make a lot of promises – both to myself and to other people – and I don’t keep track of them, I don’t keep them.
Ok, let’s start over. The goal is to become a man of my word.
There are two parts to that. The promises I make, and the actions I take to follow up on them.
At the start of the day today, I told myself – I’m going to go to work, clear out my emails, get some writing done. I did go to work, but I didn’t clear out too many emails. Why? I came up with a familiar excuse – that I didn’t have enough of a batch of time to go through all of them at once. In reality I should’ve broken it down into pieces. I really need to use a piece of paper and write things down and cross them out. I have a notebook on my desk at work, I need to start using it.
Then I got home and I hit the gym, which was good, but I lounged around a bit… I have all the details on that in my daily “what happened today” journal, so that’s good. I need to keep doing that. I guess I’m a little frustrated from looking back over the past 5 years of attempts at tracking and modifying my own behavior and feeling like I’ve been going nowhere fast.
Anyway. Now it’s 1:20am. I was hoping to be in bed by 10pm, reading a book as a reward, and falling asleep at 11pm. That option is now long gone. What have I been doing? I’ve been cleaning out my email. Do you see the situation? I’m sort of inefficiently moving around the blocks. I need to get better at being more decisive. Like, okay, I’m not falling off the cliff the way I used to, not as often. I managed to go on a holiday. That was a good thing. I should schedule my next holiday. I managed to hit the gym earlier. That was a good thing. I should hit the gym regularly. I just need to do more of these little things and they’ll accumulate and I will get better at it.
I’m feeling a mild surge of frustration coming a long and I have to let it come and let it pass. It is what it is. I’ve cleaned out most of my emails but there’s still more. I’m tempted to keep going and clean out all my emails. But I’m also writing this vomit. This is the problem with multi-tasking. Trying to do two things at once is almost always a bad idea. I knew this hundreds of vomits ago, which is why I wrote vomits like Monotasking.
So I get to ask a question – why don’t I monotask? Why do I keep switching between tasks? I guess I have some sort of novelty-chasing thing. Or I get bored and curious about something else. So much of my life is about learning to channel these instincts and urges more productivity, about knowing when to hold it in and when to let it go. When to resist and when to flow. In fact that’s pretty much like, the central question, isn’t it? When to say yes and when to say no. When to breathe in and when to breathe out. It’s all connected.
My wife just pointed out to me that, at some point I’ve said that sleep is the most important thing. That will be something to reflect on tomorrow – that I don’t follow a clear Order of Neglect. Should sleep be more important, or cleaning out emails? It should be sleep. Should sleep be more important, or writing a word vomit? It should be sleep. (At this point, there are 200 words to go, so it feels like I should just go ahead and finish it…)
But in the long run, the important variable is sleep. So it’s important to make sure that hey, once it’s 10pm, it’s time to shut everything off, even if I haven’t exactly accomplished everything I’ve set out to do. I need to make this a general principle that I follow.
Got distracted on Twitter for a few minutes. Was that really a distraction? I knew that I was choosing to do it. I knew that there was something interesting going on and I wanted to respond to it. But now it’s 140pm. I don’t have a proper alert/warning system in my head for these things. And hey, I could just as well have done those tweets on my phone while taking a dump.
Okay. The point is not to be angry or frustrated or exasperated or any of those things. Getting better takes time and practice. We’ll do it, we’ll work on it. We’ll publish this vomit now, shower and go to bed, and clean out the rest of the emails tomorrow. We can do this. We are getting better at this.