It starts

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.