by John Moser
So it does.
I’ve decided to write this blog to keep my thoughts over time available. I should really work on my economics paper—an independent affair covering essentially the labor theory of the wealth of nations, rather than the classical mode of a theory of value—but this keeps me writing something, and gives me a place to put unstructured thoughts.
I’m currently attempting to develop a few simple habits, building up slowly. To start with, simple time management, largely from Jan Johnston-Tyler’s book; and meditation for 10 minutes each night. While I find Jan’s book a general mess, the time management technique given justifies the entire $12 cost. In brief, it consists of a few components:
- Identify the seven major priorities in your week—studying, job-hunting, housework, the like. Relaxation and entertainment fall into the category of major priorities.
- Break those down into their component tasks—homework, laundry, general cleaning, and so forth.
- Identify how much time you should spend on each of your main priorities each week.
- Identify how much time you actually spend on each of your priorities each week.
- Use a calendar to schedule your day around your priorities.
I found one large flaw: it takes a measured amount of mental energy—of willpower—to actually create, manage, and adhere to such a schedule. This means rapid and guaranteed failure.
There are three ways to handle willpower:
- Expand it by techniques such as meditation or executive function training.
- Reduce the amount required by reframing and creating motivation.
- Eliminate the need by establishing habits.
The best technique is all of them.
At the moment, I am building the firm habit of using and maintaining my time management schedule. Each morning, I examine my schedule for the day; each week, I do a full work-up, examining the schedule for the week and making any adjustments. Weekly habits are more difficult to build than daily habits: building a daily habit is as easy as not skipping it twice in a row, and not skipping for a firm and recognized reason; building a weekly habit carries more disconnection, and faces more disruption. The daily habit actually makes integration of the habit easier, although it will take months.
Once you’ve integrated a habitual behavior, it occurs because it’s supposed to. Stopping that behavior can break down the habit; maintaining the habit requires approximately zero willpower. That frees up your mental energy for the next one. Extending your mental energy reserves or reducing the cost of a behavior by reframing and motivation always helps, too—hence the meditation.
My first try included everything in my schedule. I’ve put that aside; now I have two things: time management itself and my daily meditation. Once those are compulsive behaviors, I’ll add more.