A few days ago, I wrote "24 Hours of Training Per Day" - my goal is to gradually build it so that all of my life is spent devoted to the things that are most important and valuable to me.
That doesn't mean having no fun, because fun is important. That doesn't mean no relaxing, because relaxing is important. That doesn't mean no socializing, because socializing is very important.
You know, I don't differentiate between work and play. I think my time is spent in either excellent, good, okay, or bad fashion. If too much of my time is just "okay" or "bad" - I'm doing something wrong.
Creating, enterprising, thinking and planning, and serious exercising and conditioning are all excellent time for me. Socializing, reading, doing maintenance, walking, research, relaxing, and daydreaming are all good. Okay is general-life type stuff or being semi-productive. Bad is submerging my mind entirely - this could be being stuck in a commute/transit without anything I find worth doing (doing business, socializing, listening to audio, or reading while commuting would move the category to excel, good, or okay) - and bad time is giving in to distraction against my will.
Again, that doesn't mean all work and no play. Consciously choosing to play games or socialize or relax isn't distraction, consciously choosing to watch a good movie or program and enjoy it isn't distraction. Giving in to low level crap is distraction. I've got a copy of Conrad's Heart of Darkness in my Kindle for PC reader - choosing and reading that isn't distraction. Researching a new investment (I bought HP stock a few days ago, I think the stock price is under the liquidation price of the assets + patents of the company... disclaimer: don't listen to me about investing because I don't know what the hell I'm talking about, do your own research, etc, etc.) isn't distraction. Surfing the net mindlessly, without choosing to do - distraction. Bad time.
Choosing to do so would be okay, if that was what I wanted to do. But I'd rather go for a walk, call an old friend on the phone, read a book, or go lay in the grass in a park than surf the net blindly. Thus, I want to eliminate that blind unconscious unchosen set of behavior. 24 hours per day alive, every day, constant training, savor every breath, memento mori, celerity, etc, etc.
That's the ideal, of course. Reaching it can be trickier.
Thus, I'm experimenting with a theory of "Cycles" - I think if my day is roughly divided into four cycles, I can use that to live a lot more, live better, do better.
The four cycles would be like this -
CYCLE 1 - Expansion
CYCLE 2 - Maintenance
CYCLE 3 - World
CYCLE 4 - Sleep
My general observation is that expansion-type activities - creative work, enterprising, and high level thinking/planning are difficult to do if they're done first thing. Most obligations can be squeezed out in 15 or 20 minute chunks, but expansionary activities need their own dedicated time and they need it at the start of the day when everything is fresh.
Thus, I'm working really hard to start every day with expansion. I've scheduled breakfasts with a friend and colleague of mine every single morning for the forseeable future, so we can start the day on the same note. I also have an asset-building planning session with another enterprising friend once per week, where we analyze objectives. These should help stay on track with Cycle 1.
It's hard to do more than 3 hours per day of Expansion. Quite hard. If you can do 2+ per day, you're going to absolutely be great at life. My end goal is to be doing six per day on a normal day. I don't know how long it'll take me to get there, but I think that's a good target. I don't think I'd want to go over six hours per day on normal days... sure, you might wind up with an 18-hour-per-day deathmarch occasionally for a few days, but those are unsustainable. You don't want to fuck around with burnout. I've gotten burnout before and it's not pretty. It's penny wise and pound foolish to run your body faster than you can get recovery for extended periods of time. I think six hours per day, every day, on high level art, commerce, planning, and other creativity and enterprising is about right.
After that, a maintenance cycle. This is where life is cleaned and cleared up. This is where general fulfillment work that's straightforward is completed, this is where laundry gets done, credit cards get paid, email gets answered, and so on. 3-6 hours in this cycle seems about right... I've been able to put up 10+ hours per day of maintenance in the past without too much difficulty if I don't focus on expansion, and that'll be necessary sometimes. But too much maintenance means not enough expansion - so, four to six hours seems about right on a normal day.
Finally, I've got a target "World" cycle - I want to be getting out and doing something in the world almost every day. At least 300 days out of the year. If I'm running Expansion and Maintenance cycles correctly, then I'm done with everything for the day between 9 and 12 hours after waking up.
That means I've got between 6 and 9 hours free before bedtime. Every day, I want to go walk around, go hang out with friends, go to museums, go shopping, go get a massage, go hit the gym, go to a class, go to touristy things, go look at architecture, go listen to music... whatever, but I want to be getting out into the world and doing something almost every day. Like, at least 300 days out of the year, with whatever time is left.
I realized I don't do enough of this, but I'm much better off when I do. See, a lot of the time I'll sit down and try to work/produce 12-18 hours per day, which is stupid. My mind rebels against that, so I don't work the whole time - much of it is spent in distraction, surfing the net, procrastinating, whatever.
I intend to work harder and work faster during the Expansion and Maintenance cycles, and then actually go out and really live life. More scubadiving, more snowboarding, more hiking, more laying in the grass reading a book, more time at a nightclub with good electronic music or listening to piano and having coffee at a nice hotel. Seeing more temples and churches, shrines, museums, galleries. Meeting more people, doing more things.
That's the real tragedy of stupid workaholism - less gets done. Thus - clear, hard, focused work during the first two cycles of the day, and then more relaxation and exploration and enjoyment in the last third of my waking time.
I'll be honest with you - this is hard to implement, it's requiring a shift of all my patterns. Unfortunately, it's a vigilance based habit - it means you've got to be constantly aware and vigilant to stay on track. Ironically, it also requires slowing down a little bit and increasing awareness.
It's tricky. It requires a lot of different skills and habits to fire on all cylinders, but that's all the more reason to work at it. I anticipate it's going to take 2-6 months to fully acclimate to this new pattern of doing things and to mostly master it, and I anticipate a lot of frustration in the process when days get off-track. I'll also have to make some practical decisions about what to do if it's very late in the day and the expansion cycle didn't happen, what to do if I've got morning appointments that are kind of trivial (I really try to avoid this if possible since peak alertness time is precious, but sometimes it's required), and so on.
The details will come later, it will be frustrating at times, but I think this is going to lead to a much richer life. More great work, more good work, and more play. Less stress... a little bit more structure, but then a lot more freedom.
I'll keep you updated, of course. I really think this one is going to be challenging and take a while to habituate. But I'm as excited for this as anything - I think life is going to be improving a lot.
"My general observation is that expansion-type activities – creative work, enterprising, and high level thinking/planning are difficult to do if they’re done first thing."
do you mean _not_ done first thing?
Typo: My general observation is that expansion-type activities – creative work, enterprising, and high level thinking/planning are difficult to do if they’re done first thing
I believe you mean they must be done first thing to be done at all, and I agree. I am going to experiment with cycles as well. I am quite taken with the idea.
can't help but feel you're trying to impose a cycle rather than feeling out the natural cycle of your mind/body which naturally means less resistance and then more productivity
The program "Wake up Productive" by Eben Pagan roughly follows your ideal model of cycles. He calls them "focused blocks of uninterrupted work" with scheduled mandatory downtime in the middle.
You might also like the book "The Power of Full Engagement" for more inspiration and ideas on how to be fully present in your productivity but also fully present in your relaxation and recharging. They call the area in the middle, "The Grey Zone."
Ladies and gentlemen,
Well, hello there. I've amended my time tracking twice recently.
Here's the old version, v5 -
——————————————- START OF DAY ROUTINE: Time awake: Total sleep (hours/minutes): Appointments today: Other time-sensitive things: Key habit today: What assets could I build/improve/acquire today: Planning: ——————————————- DO BEFORE GOING ONLINE: Vitamins (C, Fish oil, Calcium/D): Stretching: Situps: Brush/floss: Breathe: Borderlands (+Solo): Gratitude: Review Life Goals: Review “Current Targets”: Reach out: Help someone: ——————————————- DO SOMETIME DURING THE DAY: Exercise (walk/run/other): Listen to audio: Blog post: Email in box, start: Empty inbox completely: Organize/cleanup/etc: Look at to-do List: Do one thing on to-do list: ——————————————- TIME TRACKING:
Right now I'm waiting to start a video interview. I called in early, but my friend who is doing the interview wasn't ready, so I've got five or ten minutes to kill before we get started. My first inclination was to catch up on email. I only had a couple to write, so I finished them quickly. Still some time to kill. I took a look at a SETT bug that's high priority, but the solution wasn't the obvious one that I thought it might be. I'll have to take a deeper look when I have more time. Still have a few minutes before we start. May as well write a blog post.
I think that there are two basic modes that a productive person's mind can be in. There's that mode where you're going to get your work done, but you'll fight yourself every step of the way. When you're in that mode, your reticular activation system, the part of your brain that is constantly scanning, looks for non-work things to do. Ooh, five minutes before the call-- why don't you browse Facebook? I call this the distraction-first mode.
I've been in distraction-first mode plenty of times, probably spent most of my life there, but today I'm not, so when I have a few minutes of downtime, my default is to find something productive to do. Email, SETT, blog post. Productivity-first mode. It's not that I force myself to fill these minutes with something productive, it's that it's what I actually want to do. That's the magic of it.
Being in productivity-first mode is beautiful. It's like living your life in a flow state, executing task after task without the mental toll of having to cheerlead yourself into doing. Emails finished, open up my code editor with no hesistation and start poring through the source code. Determine that it needs more time than I have, and before I can even think, I'm two sentences into this blog post.