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how do

Started by droqen, September 30, 2022, 07:21:52 PM

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suppose my goal is to write a complete expansive exploration of how anyone gets anything done ever - would that help me get things done when i don't want to do things? let's find out. here's a rough outline.

1. my brain sometimes is broken, but i assume it's kinda like other people's brains only more prone to distraction. that is, everyone is susceptible to some degree. i just feel it more keenly.

2. 'to-do lists' are terrible because they don't respect scope. we need better words.

3. break down various types of tasks. 'to-plan'. 'to-achieve-someday'. 'to-forget-about'. 'to-start-and-finish-in-the-same-[minute/hour/day]'. 'to-start'.

4. 'to do tomorrow' is only valuable if it turns into 'to do today' which is only valuable if it turns into 'to do right now'.

5. ???


4. 'to do tomorrow' is only valuable if it turns into 'to do today' which is only valuable if it turns into 'to do right now'.

Imagine you have a task you want to write into tomorrow's to-do list. For that task to get finished, when tomorrow comes you have to actually do it. When writing a task into a future to-do list imagine doing it right now; what's stopping you? Feel the task deeply and consider what it would be like to decide that you should stop writing your to-do list right now and instead do this task.

Do you feel yourself falling forward into it easily, a great gaping hole which threatens to consume your being? Do you see the beginning and the middle and the end of it? If you don't, you need a better to-do list item.

With an exception: If there's something getting in the way of doing it right now, make sure it's something that will not be in the way by the time you have to do it. If you have to have a conversation with someone who is not available right now but will be available tomorrow, that's OK. But imagine they were there: would something be in your way?

As an example, I have had to call ebay customer support for the past few days but I keep forgetting or putting it off. Shit. Of course, I can add it to my to-do-tomorrow list and forget about it. The excuse is that I literally can't do it right now, the customer service offices are closed. But if I close my eyes and imagine it's tomorrow and I have to make that call... what's stopping me from doing it?

If my to-do list item is "Call ebay" I'll need to muster up the mental energy to remember why I'm calling them, what information I need handy, what I'm going to say. Maybe this makes me sound like a stupid baby who can't put his brain together (which, like, yeah, that's me on a bad or even mediocre day, but isn't it you, sometimes, too?). But it helps. If I'm preparing, truly preparing, to make this call tomorrow, what can I do to make this task a "falling into a hole" easy task? I can prepare myself a list of links to click on, things to say and do. Tomorrow when the task comes around if everything is ready for me I will absolutely do it because I've closed my eyes and asked myself, "Is doing this task truly irresistible? And if not, how can I make it so?"

This will produce a true to-do list item.


2. 'to-do lists' are terrible because they don't respect scope. we need better words.

What goes on a to-do list? Anything and everything. The basic idea of a to-do list doesn't represent or respect scope; I might put "do five jumping jacks" next to "get back together with my girlfriend" and the next day wonder why only one of them got done.

[here I decided to merge this point with 3. break down various types of tasks. 'to-plan'. 'to-achieve-someday'. 'to-forget-about'. 'to-start-and-finish-in-the-same-[minute/hour/day]'. 'to-start'.]

We need a better taxonomy to understand what the problem is. Some tasks are truly 'TO-DO': things that need only be done. But many more are things that could be broken down further. We might call these 'TO-PLAN' items, aggregates of multiple undefined 'TO-DO' items. For example, suppose I write "Bake a cake" on my to-do list. When it comes time to do it, I may have to break it down mentally into multiple steps: (1) Check my cake recipe and my pantry and write a grocery list of everything I'm missing (2, only if needed) Go to the grocery store and purchase all the needed items (3) Bake a cake.

(Of course, "Bake a cake" might be broken down further into the recipe, but we already have a to-do list given for that, so it would be redundant; like with the grocery list, it is a to-do list within a to-do list.)

Some items are not even 'TO-PLAN' items: these are the far-off items that contain unknowns. I might decide I want to "Earn $1000 by selling videogames in the next month." This isn't something that can simply be done, or even broken down into a reasonable plan! We might call this type of item a 'TO-STRIVE' item, or being less charitable, a 'TO-HOPE' item. Of course, we can still make a plan, but it's not the same sort of breakdown as 'TO-PLAN' to individual 'TO-DO' items. I can perhaps plan to make a videogame and put it out for sale, to market it, etc. But some aspect of this item is not directly achievable (unless of course you really know what you're doing when it comes to selling/marketing things and you have the data! I, however, do not).

Now, getting a little heavy, there are also those items that I suppose a person says that they want to do, but they really only think so far as wanting to say they want to do it. These items, I think, fuel procrastination. [next slide]


1. my brain sometimes is broken, but i assume it's kinda like other people's brains only more prone to distraction. that is, everyone is susceptible to some degree. i just feel it more keenly.

Hello. I am droqen. Sometimes I think my brain is a little broken -- there are days when it feels like I can bring myself to do absolutely nothing. (That's never quite true; there are plenty of extremely easy tasks that I can generally do, like... watching a movie, or playing a very familiar videogame. But let's stick with this thread for now.)

Even if people tell me that they feel similarly sometimes, I think that I am alone in my brokenness, or at least that I am more extreme along this axis than some people. But. Even when I think this way, I try to remind myself that I am still a human being, that my brain is not functioning in a qualitatively distinct way, but rather a quantitatively distinct way. That is, if I swing from 0% to 100%, someone else might swing from 50% to 100%. But they still respond to the same brain-inputs positively and negatively, generally speaking.

With that in mind, I'd like to talk about to-do lists and how they affect me, supposing that if something affects me it will also affect you and other people I know -- just, my examples may seem a little extreme! I will say, "When [THIS] happens, I literally cannot do the task," and you might think, "Well hold on, when [THAT] happens I can do the task just fine!"

That may be so. But I can only operate under the assumption that the brokenness of my brain is having an extremely strong impact on my ability to do a task (100% -> 0%) while it has a lesser but still present impact on your ability to do a task (100% -> 50%). Rest assured, when I feel mildly demotivated (50%) I can certainly bring myself to do something. I am capable of bridging that gap. But, although for me it may be a matter of night and day and for you it may be a matter of a minor loss of motivation, I am writing this with the thought that even defeating a minor loss of motivation may be, somehow, valuable to you.

I have paid very close attention to hits to my motivation because they tend to impact me strongly. I believe that other people don't necessarily pay as close attention because they do not have to, but I think it still costs you: to force yourself to do something when you are at 50% expends energy and perhaps creates stress over time, even if you do not have to face it as directly as I do in my day-to-day life.

That is my assumption.


that was fun. but! i'm also in a particularly manic and productive mood right now. would i have been able to write that straight through? i probably would have gotten lost and a little listless along the way. i bet that's what would have happened. i enjoyed breaking that little essay-writing task into four chunks to be written one at a time. started and finished. i made myself a nice to-do list! though like all to-do lists, the atomization of items may need to be more or less on any given day.

my favourite part of the above is the first chunk i wrote, the part about "Imagining a task that is truly irresistible." it's a very appealing task in itself -- perhaps even a little irresistible :)

i'm going to go write myself an IRRESISTIBLE TO-DO item for my ebay customer support call now.


as a nice bonus to writing the IRRESISTIBLE TO-DO list for myself i ended up doing the task because they are actually open this late ha ha ha ha ha


in preparing to write this i found this piece entitled 10 Ways to Do What You Don't Want to Do but it felt off-target for me. It says "Do a little, then get up." But, you know what, I want to know what that little is. How do I do a little? How do I do a little that helps me get it done?

I'm sure it helps, but I wanted to get more precise. Perhaps that is my downfall.