Thursday, February 18, 2010

Calendar Win: Rapid Course Correction

In November I posted about my calendar-based time management system for generating the habits you want to have, a modified version of the classic Lifehacker/Seinfeld "don't break the chain" system.

Here's why it's awesome.

As a concrete example, I decided I was going to create a complete track, and then promptly stopped working on music at all. It took me two days to notice the connection, and that's with an external reminder system making the fact obvious. In the past, I probably would have struggled with that for two years before I noticed. I'm not even speaking hypothetically here; that's pretty much a real-world example.

Just like with fast-running tests that pass or fail quickly, showing you in real time whether or not your code is any good, the win is immediate response. Since I noticed quickly, it's easy for me to throw away the delay-inducing idea and switch to something new. I had decided I was going to sit down and make a particular type of drum and bass track, in a particular key, with a particular melody, using Archaeopteryx in a particular way. But all that planning now looks counter-productive.

Seeing that the result is across-the-board productivity fail, I'm going to go with something different. My new plan is to develop the next musical idea I like into a complete six-minute track by an arbitrary deadline (Saturday the 27th) and then call it done, one way or another, when that arbitrary deadline arrives. That might work better; if not, I can do another course correction later. In the context of immediate feedback and objective measurement, you can run a lot of experiments. The calendar enables me to catch fail early and modify what I'm doing to eliminate the fail.

For a long time, this would have been very unlike me. I literally just woke up organized one day, after years of being disorganized. Having struggled with scheduling and organization for such a long time, it's downright spooky how easy it's becoming for me. The same is true of my weight loss, but that's a different post. In each case, hypnosis and visualization were a (deliberate) part of the plan, which is where the spooky factor comes in: when you put the subconscious mind on track to make things happen, the things sometimes happen in weird ways that you'd never have thought of. But that's another post, too.