The Antidote to Nothing Done Last Week


There's an ongoing joke in my family that I'm sure I've mentioned before, along the lines that we're sure my dad won't ever retire because he doesn't know HOW to retire. Unsure what he would do with himself in retirement besides watching television, sleeping, and being yelled at by someone (likely his daughter), and rather than thinking about it too hard, he chooses to keep working.

Unlike my dad who won't retire, I'd be happy to retire, though not in the traditional "let's learn how to golf and square dance" sort of way. Instead, I'd likely keep working while in my retirement. My working would be more like "working" than working: building the things I want to see exist in the world, instead of building things to make other people money. I would (will?) have a giant list of things to build, and a sense of "oh, shit, I have only another 60 years left in this life" urgency to finish them all. That would get my butt in gear.

This past week, during my weekly triage of tasks that bring me closer to accomplishing my life goals, I added only 14 items to my "things to do this week" list. It was a respite from my previous week's 38 items, where I finished 30 of them. I figured, if I had 38 items and was able to finish only 30 of them, having only 14 items on my week's list meant I would have the delightful satisfaction of completing them all.

Did not work out as expected.

Not by a long shot.

Right, so, this weekly triage list. I have four items that go on pretty much every weekly goal list:

1. 10k steps a day
2. Check in on Wednesday
3. Check in on Friday
4. Commit to nothing new today.

The first is the bare minimum to functionally exist health-wise. The second and third make sure I keep on track for finishing my weekly list. The last one ensures that anything that is added to my daily or weekly list is considered carefully and deemed worthy. Work tasks don't count, as that's selling my time to my employer, and those peeps can assign me anything they want for the hours I have agreed to work for them, for the sum of money they provide in return. I have no illusions about that, and no heart to do anything but my best work for them during those hours. Outside of that contracted time, my new tasks are considered carefully.

So, last week, 14 items, 10 of which were actually items that needed to be done. 10 items in 7 days.

Each of the items I put on the weekly list are actionable, doable, well-defined and measurable.

10 items.

I managed 2.

Two tasks.

The previous week I managed to complete 26 tasks. They were also measurable. The 10 from last week were comparable to 40% of the 26 I finished the week before, so even if I had finished all 10, I was still doing only 40% of the work from the previous week.

All this time to do just these tasks and I managed not to do most of them.

So, the lesson I have learned here with this?

Stuff the task list full

I clearly do not thrive in a low-stress environment. I trust myself at the beginning of the week to create the weekly list that moves me closer to my lifetime goals. I make that list because it enables me to focus on the things that matter to me. It enables me to work towards those lifetime goals, the ones that I believe will label me a failure if I do not complete them. Having an overloaded list lets me working efficiently, lets me move from one important task to the next, not stopping to think about things too much since I've already done the thinking. I've invested those couple hours a week to ensure I can focus on what needs to be done, knowing I'll poke my head up in a week to readjust my direction.

So, this week's list is stuffed full. It's overloaded. It has this site being moved over from its beta location to the relaunched URL. It has a number of my investments reviewed. It has a number of expenses cut. It has a bunch of writing planned. And it has social time scheduled into the week. The only way I'll get this list done is to frontload the week, taking advantage of tomorrow's being a holiday, which I fully intend to do.

If things go well, this 31 item list will be fully completed by next week. If things go poorly, well, I'll still have more than two things done, since I managed to do two already. Go me.

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