Continuing with the Principles Daily Challenge today. I almost felt like not doing this today to honest as I’ve worked about a 12 hour day but am glad I chose to as it validates that my approach to improve my discipline through changing my mindset is working. I’ve read somewhere that the brain releases dopamine when doing an enjoyable behavior which is what I hope that repeating this activity daily will eventually do and help me to replace some of my less productive habits. When I feel frustrated or unhappy about something that I can’t control I want to turn that emotion into something productive like exercise, self improvement, or an activity that generally makes the world a better place. Ultimately I know that at some level journaling like this may be a bit self indulgent but sharing it consistently may give others hope that have challenges similar to mine that they can chip away at their shadow self in a productive way and eventually achieve goals in less of a struggle. That said, I’m not sure if this ultimately helps anyone other than myself but if it helps you that’s great, but if not that’s ok too.
Design a Plan
Ray talks about going from a high level plan at first to an incrementally lower level one. He says to go back before you go forward. I agree with this and have had some success in planning but sometimes I overanalyze and try to come up with a perfect plan. Therefore, I think it makes sense to plan to plan so to speak and timebox the planning process. While there may be ideas that come up throughout the planning and maybe even executing process which should be documented for refinement to a current or future plan, avoid getting stuck in the planning phase. That said, sometimes I can get frustrated when planning and in impatience move to execution which is equally problematic because I didn’t consider enough alternatives which may ultimately lead to rework. So, I’m now thinking about coming up with a specific number of alternative solutions (3 is usually a good number – albeit a little arbitrary) and run that plan by a few people who have the skills and experience relevant to what my plan seeks to accomplish. This way I adequately explore possibilities while at the same time converge those possibilities into a set of schedulable and actionable tasks over a timeline. I like the idea of starting at a high level which I haven’t historically done only until recently. I think it is related to the work that I have always done. I’ve had development and architecture roles for essentially my whole career and in those I usually have enough time to focus one a specific activity from start to finish which I could generally accomplish by myself if I want to. The difference now is that I am spread across enough tasks and teams where I have to prioritize, conceptualize at a high level where I have to determine based on priority if an activity needs to be perfect or just good enough for now, and trust that the team members who are involved in the day to day can drive a project to completion with limited guidance from me usually in specific areas for which I need to unblock for them. Therefore, taking a systematic approach where I focus on the process and looking for continuous incremental improvement is really the new way that I operate. I’ve come to realize that separating out activities into 30 minutes and thinking about plan development as a funnel from high level milestones and then each day filling out the steps in between incrementally is really the best way for me to go rather than trying to put everything altogether at once.
Push Through to Completion
Of course planning doesn’t really matter at all if you don’t execute on your plans and complete them (especially when you don’t want to). Ray talks about reliable people as having a well defined to do list which they can check off and I agree. I’ve always been pretty good at doing tasks. My challenge has always been that I didn’t allocate time properly or I was too optimistic about my energy relative to my task. I noticed in the past in a work week I would burn myself out after overscheduling Monday and Tuesday which would leave Wednesday mostly unproductive for Thursday and Friday as somewhat productive as I rebounded. So, now after years of doing it wrong in my estimation I need to plan for rest during my day and ensure that I get enough sleep and maintain an overall healthy lifestyle. It seems sort of obvious to some but for me being discipline and doing what I said may mean staying up all night working; a very sort sighted action as there is usually more work to be done during the day which I mostly couldn’t do because I was too tired. He also talks about having someone else check my execution relative to my plan which is right but has always been difficult for me to do. At times being collaborative in sharing responsibility and being humble enough to accept reality as it is and listen to others feedback has been difficult for me. I always disliked being managed (sometimes with good reason at least from my perspective) and don’t like people telling me what to do. Now at least I’m not argumentative in those situations and take in either peer or managerial feedback. I realize now that you don’t always have to do it but I now feel like I should at least consider it and have a logical well thought out reason why the criticism or feedback won’t get me to where I want to go. Switching topics….regarding daily energy usually regardless of how well I sleep in the afternoon I feel a dip in energy and find it typically difficult to focus on what I need to get done. Therefore, since I know that I am most productive in the morning I want to schedule the most difficult or important tasks in the morning when I am the most alert. Additionally, since I want to start a side business and exercise to lose weight those are the first two activities that I do in the morning before work as I know that I will always accomplish them if there aren’t any interruptions which could mean starting at 4:30 am in most cases – which means I must have discipline to restructure my sleep time and ramp up to 8:30 pm so I can continue to be consistent. Ray also talks about documenting your plans and believes so others can see them holds you accountable to execution (even if no one really cares whether you do it or not). I guess at some level that’s what I’m trying to do here as well…
Well…with all that being said since it is 8:45 pm now I’m falling behind on the execution of my plan already so need to get to sleep. Although I feel like there is an acceptable margin for error as I continue to iterate towards a more perfect plan, I will continue to improve my habits tomorrow and get to bed a bit earlier.