Peace and planning in 2020

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Hiking at the Pinnacles, Dec 2020

A few weeks back I re-read Getting Things Done. It’s a classic of productivity, and I’d been feeling overwhelmed: not by big things, which happily have settled down, but by daily life’s minutia. I needed to wrangle things into place, and make space to move forward.

Getting Things Done is interesting. The core idea involves capturing all the things, getting them out of your head and into some other system so you can free up your brain for other tasks. This resonates with me. I tend to shy away from looking at what I’ve signed up for – I just don’t want to know. But really, I do know, and that knowing drags at me.

As I made my list, beginning to clear the clutter in my head (and make things actionable: it’s not “clean up office,” it’s “put away shoes & makeup”), I started to think about how similar the ideas are to other practices of mental clarity. From Marie Kondo’s “does this spark joy?”, to the early Arts & Crafts movement & William Morris’ “have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful,” to traditional rhythms of spring cleaning or breaking or burning possessions at various celestial or cultural milestones, to cleaning up one’s desk before beginning work – the notion of streamlining, getting things in order, creating a fresh start by creating a fresh sense of place is fundamental. As humans, we tell ourselves this story, these instructions, over and over again.

And so. It’s New Year’s. I don’t have New Year’s resolutions; I’ve learned I don’t think in years. Instead, I have a short list of goals for January and some habits I’m banking on to get me there. I’ve cleaned out my closet and the pantry, and detailed out the spreadsheet that tracks the house remodel. Tonight I’ll celebrate with hot cider and fairy lights on a rosemary tree, and watch my breath steam up in the outdoor cold.

What does your fresh start look like?

Once again I feel the need to overhaul my calendar

Huzzah! Doing this right now was inspired by an episode of Before Breakfast

Every so often it happens: I come up for air, like a seal or a swimmer suddenly popping up to survey the coastline and check how far they are from shore, and suddenly realize I Must Reschedule All The Things.

And so, this time: day six of vacation, week four of meditation (twice daily! but that’s a subject for another post), and I found myself neatly laying out days in a notebook, Monday to Sunday, and blocking in my Ideal Realistic Week.

Here it is:

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The exact layout was inspired partially by realizing that once the Horrible House Remodel is complete, there’s no reason I can’t occasionally work from home in the morning, then stop by the nearby Barre3 studio for a class on my way in to work in the afternoon. I’ve also been thinking about how to minimize context-switching, whether between 30-minute, back-to-back meetings, or between those meetings, email, and strategy or deeper work. And I wanted to figure out when to write – I have this nagging urge to do so, but I’ve never found a time or a rhythm that feels comfortable, and increasingly I feel that I had better do this now – and how to make better use of my Friday evenings (I know, I know – Friday evenings shouldn’t be hard, but whatever – for me, a person largely allergic to planning ahead, they are).

And so, the ideal.

Of course, an ideal is only an ideal. Weeks vary; constraints change (oh, how I wish I could control all the meetings at work! and never need to go to the dentist; or have the car break down); but it was useful to lay this out. I realized I need just as much time for email & followups as I do for actual strategic work; that I wanted time for work-related reading; that if I’m not doing something social on a Friday night, going for a walk and then doing some writing might be a good alternative. And I set up my work days as basically having two halves, one morning, one afternoon, and putting meetings in only one half each.

This week is vacation, so for the weekdays, I have no intention of following my plan 🙂 For the weekend and next week… I just might.

A few thoughts

  1. Planning is just planning. It isn’t doing. It can be weirdly easy to mix this up.
  2. Spring!
  3. The third book of Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations, the Hays translation, is really worthwhile.
  4. It’s a lot easier to consider sunk costs sunk intellectually than emotionally.
  5. Any house purchase or remodel will likely have lots of sunk costs.

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