March 26, 2005

Behavior refinement

I've been reading the 43 Folders mailing list (spawned by Merlin Mann's 43 Folders blog which has also now spawned a 43 Folders wiki). 43 Folders refers to the number of file folders needed to make a tickler file (12 for the months of the year, 31 for the potential days of each month) as described in David Allen's book Getting Things Done. The list (and blog and wiki) are for exploring the kinds of personal productivity hacks that the tickler exemplifies.

A recent post on the list by Joshua Newman talked about using checklists to organize commonly performed tasks, and also to control certain procrastination behaviors. What he said about the procrastination avoidance matched up precisely with what I've been reading in The Now Habit by Neil Fiore. The tactic in question is scheduling time to partake of your most pernicious procrastination practices, and giving it priority. The idea is that if you know that your schedule includes time specifically reserved for reading blogs (to pick an example completely at random), then you will be less likely to try to steal blog reading time from the other tasks on your list.

The other thing Newman was advocating was putting even the minor things on your checklist since even though things like brushing your teeth are seemingly obvious and tiny, it still takes a finite amount of mental attention to ensure you don't forget about them. If they're on the list then they're off your mind.

All of this theory sprang to mind the other morning when I was trying to get out of the house. Every day, despite the utterly routine tasks involved, I find myself in a morning haze taking endless circles through the house gathering the various thingies and performing the various small tasks that must be done before I can leave for work. Somehow through the fog a light came on and I realized I was living through a prime example of where a checklist would be of great value. Once I'd gotten myself to the bus stop and had nothing to do until the bus arrived, I pulled out my Palm and started a list. So far my list of morning actions has 41 items on it. No wonder I'm such a mess in the morning!

Almost a quarter of those items are things that go into my bag or my pockets that have to be gathered up each morning. This reminded me of another 43 Folders thread, this time pointing to a Flickr tag called whatsinyourbag where people post annotated pictures of the contents of the bag they schlep around with them. Becky can attest that I have spent an embarassing amount of time looking at pages and pages of pictures of the contents of other people's bags. So I've added mine.

The other tangentially related thing is the 43 Things site. 43 things (no relation to 43 folders, believe it or not) is a place where folks can define life goals and give and receive support in working towards them from and to the other people on the site. I'd seen a bunch of people referring to it, but then I saw that Tara had a list there so I had to go make a list of my own. I'm still deciding how (and if) I'm going to use it, but one of my things is "make my morning routine more efficient" so there's your connection to the rest of this post.

I'm pretty sure this post has more links in it than any other post in the history of my blog.

Posted by jeffy at March 26, 2005 05:42 PM