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Category Archives: Life Design

I dream of becoming a homesteader. I’m not very close to that – yet – as far as I know – but I still like thinking about it. Before I even begin writing about how to make that happen, I want to record my thoughts on why it’s important. Here’s the first I’ve come up with.

1. We must spend so much time taking care of our homes, vehicles, gardens, tools, electronics and toys anyway.

We spend a lot of time, work and energy taking care of our things – and it’s horribly draining. Why not channel all this effort into a means of living? It would do two things: first, it would lessen the pressure for us to find work in order to live; second, it would take an amount of work we already find ourselves engaged in and make it infinitely more meaningful. Doing work that you know is not returning very much value is draining. Good work makes you feel good. In my experience, it makes me feel stronger, more solid; where doing what I consider to be pointless toil leaves me feeling empty, weak, empty, devoid of substance.  I find myself less solid than the world around me, less able to stand up to it and do what needs to get done.

So there would be a very definite and direct kind of fulfillment, to gradually shift to providing directly for myself, without the intermediary of an economy.

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I’ve been experimenting with all kinds of life_hack, GTD, workflow things since earlier this year. It’s been an ongoing process, as I’ve tried different methods, read various articles (and one book) on the subject, and experimented with different programs and apps. I’d like to begin sharing my experiences with others in an attempt to track my progress, learn from my mistakes and add to the general body of knowledge on the subject.

Today I attempted task batching. It’s a pretty common phrase – you can google it and bring up any number of articles. It means doing tasks of a similar type in one group or ‘batch.’ I have more advanced systems for long-term projects, but for my daily ToDo list, I use a piece of scrap paper and a pen. I generally write tasks out in a logical, chronological sequence, which I generally follow. But I allow myself to pick and choose, and now and then.

Once the idea of batching entered my mind, I began to realize how wasteful it is to change gears. It seems to be a natural fact: doing work makes me want to do work; relaxing makes me want to relax. There is a lot of wriggle room in these behavioral shackles of cause-and-effect – enough to make you think otherwise, in fact – but the fact remains that there is always a little tug. My theory is: maybe it’s all the little tugs that build up into massive resistance later on. Maybe switching between different types of tasks costs a lot more energy than I realize and lowers my sense of flow.

So I wrote up a list last night, before bed. It looked like this [comments in brackets]s:

-eat fish [a small breakfast]

-start making stock [a cooking project for the day]

-2 lessons python studies

-15 minutes of linux command reviews

-2 vim training lessons

-sit zazen

-do kettlebell exercises

-do yoga

-go running

-eat breakfast

-read 40 pages of ‘Twilight in Italy’

-basic cleaning [a group of little chores I do everyday as the bare minimum maintenance]

-process daily workflow [a topic unto itself. I use workflowy.com]

-nap

-write a private blog entry [a different blog I use for more journal-like posts]

-write a wordpress article [self-referential]

So here are some notes about how this went down:

What Worked Well:

Batching all my physical exercises together felt really natural. Doing all the floor exercises before running sent me out there with a lot of relaxed energy. Perfect. Sitting zazen at the beginning helped put me in a focused frame of mind, as well. I’m going to at least keep this task batch in my repertoire, if nothing else.

Batching in the morning gives me a very good feeling in the afternoon. I have not completed my list (and I probably won’t get everything done), but I feel like I spent the day with a lot of focus. I’m definitely going to be doing this again.

That being said, there were some problems and mistakes:

Problem: I woke up about an hour later than I planned [it was the snooze alarm that did me in]. Though this was an extreme example (I usually get up about 20 minutes after the alarm goes off), it’s something I need to work on.

Possible Solution: Keep alarm clock away from the bed. Sleep better [I have a few techniques up my sleeve.]

Problem: My vim training website was down when I was ready to begin my practice. I hesitated for a few moments before moving on to the next thing, which was, unfortunately, in the next batch of tasks.

Possible Solution: Though it’s a bad idea to let the batches get mixed up, I think a little leniency is definitely in order. It would be better to make a quick decision and just move on to the next thing, rather than spend any time hesitating. It’s not ideal, but it’s the most acceptable stop-gap.

Problem: My vim training lesson (whose website began working again after zazen), was structured in a confusing way that forced me to figure out how to navigate certain websites and certain directories in my system folder in order to complete it. Although this was educational in itself, it took up way more time that I had planned.

Possible Solution: Take a little more time to A. Set time limits on possibly open-ended tasks and B. Pay attention to any materials I might be using to make sure they fit within those parameters. Also, getting frustrated by this took some time. Once again, it would have been better to simply continue, rather than worry about the flow being disrupted.

Problem: Some tasks involved going outside – where I might get waylaid by neighbors who, thankfully, like me and want to talk to me, but who might take up time. Feeling uncomfortable about this prevented me from doing my outside chores for a while.

Possible Solution: I’m noticing a theme, where, in retrospect, allowing the interruption to happen is always a better decision than trying to prevent it. Though it might take some deeper work into how I relate to people, I think it would be very simple to just remind myself to do what I need to do and talk to the people I like, not look at myself as I total machine. It’s the anxiety and fogginess in my mind that eats up my time, not valuable time spent with friends. I can always clearly and kindly say that I’m busy, if I want to. It doesn’t have to be a big deal.

Problem: This list takes up most of my day.

Possible Solution: Another problem I really just need to not worry about. It’s better in the long run if I try batching and see if it works. Organizing my time this way puts everything I plan to do in the clearest perspective possible; if I get better at doing things this way, I’ll be all the more clearer about what to keep and what not to.

So I feel pretty good about this. I probably won’t have time to complete a full load of task batching until the new year, but I’m excited about trying it again: this could possibly be the most productive I’ve felt since I began studying all of this time management stuff. Go batching.