Just wanted to drop a quick line, thanking you for so many interesting posts. I also have a few (hopefully) brief questions for you.
When you have several things to work on, how do you choose between them? I typically go back and forth, thinking that this one or that one is what I actually want to do. The problem is that none of these projects are small. And constantly changing my mind means that nothing gets done.
When you have a wide variety of interests, how do you choose what to spend your time on? Like I said, I go back and forth a lot. I'm only now taking a piano class (my second) because I forced myself to. Making myself take first aid type courses this summer as well, but there are a LOT of things I want to do. Art, more music, more programming (I'm a software developer), writing, and so on.
How can you fit your interests into the day when you have work, trying to find someone to start a family with, trying to keep healthy, and taking time to relax? The only way I can see it is to try to combine as many as you can into each activity. For example, find a job that keeps you active, do a relaxing social activity, and such.
Feel free to take your time if you wish to answer these questions. Just writing them down helps to clear my mind a little bit more. And I'm sure you have plenty of other emails to read and respond to. Have a great day.
Thanks for the kind words, M.E. Two great questions here -
1. When you have a wide variety of interests, how do you choose what to spend your time on?
2. How can you fit your interests into the day when you have work, trying to find someone to start a family with, trying to keep healthy, and taking time to relax?
How do I choose what to work on?
I do a weekly review at the end of every week. Three of the last questions on there -
Any goals, plans, or things to work on next week?
What assets am I building next week?
What do I need to learn next week?
How do I choose what goes on there? A mix of deadlines, upside, planning around travel/external considerations, and things like that. I'd like to eventually have a developed, yet still quick decisionmaking process for what I work on, but that's the basics.
I'll list 3 things max that should get done in a week. Deadlines are great - everything on a deadline always gets done.
Expansion and speculative non-deadline work is a little trickier. Lately, I've been working on stretching my comfort zone with my projects, and I've been underestimating how long things take to finish. I'd say when I mark down three non-deadline tasks to complete, I finish an average of 1.5 of them. That's just because I've been poor at estimating how long things take - I way underestimate.
Really, what I should do it break my projects out into smaller milestones, which is a general good practice. But often times that would look like this:
1. Research what this takes
2. Do whatever my research says I should do
Kind of unhelpful... Also, sometimes I find very concrete answers via research in an hour or two, and sometimes it takes a few days of searching around. Hell, sometimes I don't find an answer on the net, and I have to start calling people I know that might have some insight, or speculatively buying books that might answer the question. That sucks when that happens, and it screws up my schedule for the week. I'm still not very good at estimating how long something will take, which I gather is a common problem.
This actually feeds into your second question -
"How can you fit your interests into the day when you have work, trying to find someone to start a family with, trying to keep healthy, and taking time to relax?"
Something's always out of whack. That's what the weekly review is for. I pay attention to how much I spent total and per day (and on what), how much I slept on average, my calories on average, and my time breakdown for the week.
So I wind up with analysis that looks like this:
Weekly Review: 15 January to 22 January (8 days) (Success)
Total: $315 over 8 days. $39.37 per day. Last week was $52.33 per day, so that's an improvement over that. Previous two weesk in Malaysia were $29.44 per day and $24.50 per day... well, I got lower than last week which is good. This next short week will be comprable to last week, then ideally I can get a lot lower in Vietnam.
EX: 195 + 220 + 000 + 090 + 100 + 190 + 090 + 110 = 995/8 = 124
GD: 435 + 340 + 230 + 390 + 210 + 550 + 335 + 385 = 2875/8 = 359
OK: 030 + 030 + 150 + 120 + 225 + 115 + 130 + 035 = 835/8 = 104
BD: 255 + 225 + 390 + 300 + 090 + 095 + 245 + 150 = 1750/8 = 219
124 minutes day on average excellent.
359 per day average good.
104 per day average okay.
219 per day average bad.
Last week I was ill and didn't really do any tracking, but was way off-track. Two weeks ago, the last week I tracked, I did -
EX 49/GD 612/OK 79/BD 156
So, this week I had more time into excellence, but less time into good and more time into bad... next week, I'd like to keep the excellent numbers up, and get the bad down some - even moving it to just okay time.
This might look like a lot of work to the casual observer, but it's not. I built it all slowly. I probably spend 15-20 minutes per day total on tracking, and then one hour on a review once every week or so. That time more than pays for itself with improvements to my productivity and quality of life and all sorts of things.
But something's always off-track. I might realize I only exercised one day out of the last week, and then I make a note to exercise more. Last week, I noticed time into the "Bad" category had crept up, so I'll look to spend less time surfing the internet, in transit, and in dead time.
So that's a big part of doing lots of stuff - something is going to be off-track at any given time. To try to stay on top of a variety of interests (social, family, current work, expansive stuff, exercise/health/fitness, hobbies, training, learning, reading, etc) - you're going to need to review. Inevitably, you're going to realize that something is off (in fact, usually something will be off) and correct in that area.
This might well take away from another area, and so you correct again. The idea is, the line never really stops moving. Some stuff becomes burned into you as permanent habits, and then it gets a lot easier to maintain them. But you seem like a motivated and ambitious guy, so you'll always be adding new stuff. That's something you have to pay attention to - there's a lot of neurosis involved in long term habit change, so don't forget to celebrate.
How can you fit your interests into the day?
I'm a strong believer in killing multiple birds with one stone, as many as possible.
One bird killing is bad. Like, working a job you hate for money. That's killing one bird with one stone.
Ideally you should be doing a mix of producing/consuming/learning/connecting with people/etc as much as is possible. Truth be told, I'm not actually so amazingly productive, but I do try to choose activities that help me do a few things at once.
For instance, one of my current projects is collaborative with two good guys I know. I don't know them really well, they're both on the line between acquaintance and friend. Y'know, like, a quite friendly acquaintance?
Well, I wanted to get to know both guys better, and in this case, both of them had mentioned an interest in getting certain kinds of contracts, credentials, and exposure. So I said, "Hey! Cool! I've been meaning to do that too. Want to put our heads together on it?"
I meant to pitch four people - the third is too busy at the moment, the fourth I haven't gotten time to connect with yet, but I've got two yeses. So that means I'm working on this project that should teach me, lend to getting some money, sharpen my skills, and helps me connect socially with some good guys that I respect.
Thus, I'm producing, learning, and connecting with good people. There's also some money in it, and maybe some credentials, and maybe I can get some exposure for the blog too. So that's killing like 3-6 birds with one stone.
I highly recommend social collaborative work like that, even if you're working on different stuff. Being accountable to somebody else, and having some seriously also invested in the process is good. You know, a friend will listen to what you're working on, but a switch definitely flips if someone's working on and going through the same exact thing. They'll be fully there when you talk about it, to a level that a neutral observer couldn't even if they want to.
I've got the same philosophy for consumption - make your consumption productive. If it's relevant, write reviews of books, movies, or places you go to. Take pictures and share them.
When you're producing, can you also learn?
Can you make your consumption productive?
When you exercise, can you also listen to smart audio?
If you're at a business meeting, can you write up notes, formalize them, and send them to everyone who went to the meeting to be extra valuable?
I mean, hell, let's think even more. I travel a lot. Could I research goods that are easy to buy and sell, and mix a tiny little importing/exporting into my travels? (And look, even if the time/money ratio isn't very good on it, it'd be a fun experience and I'd learn, so that's four birds again...)
See, I'm actually doing this right now. You seem like a good guy, M.E., so I'm connecting a bit with you. I'm being forced to think through and evaluate my own systems, so I'll make a couple tweaks on how I decide on projects going forwards after this. I like serving people, so I can both help you here and share this guide with the regular readers. Ideally, if people like it, it'll get spread around on Facebook and Twitter a little, which means more exposure for the site.
Thus, producing/learning/connecting/serving/meeting new people. Five birds. Not bad, eh?
The big two themes from this post -
1. If you do a lot of things, something is going to be off-track. Review and adjust.
2. Try to kill multiple birds with one stone.
Can you go for a walk through an area known for great architecture with your girlfriend, take pictures on the way, and share those pictures online? That'd be exercise, time with girlfriend/family, learning, enjoying, relaxing, and producing.
Instead of a business meeting with a new potential client, could you have them over for dinner at your home? Could you invite a friend you haven't seen for a while who would be a good match for your new client to know? Could you cook your favorite dish and listen to your favorite music during dinner?
Yes, yes, yes. Multiple birds. Always look to get multiple birds with one stone.